Sunday, March 7, 2010

Britain's First Post-Christian Government in Its Last Days

Here is an outstanding article in yesterday's Daily Telegraph by Damian Thompson entitled: "Gay Church Blessings and a Crisis of Faith." This article speaks of the Brown government as Britain's first post Christian government. I remember reading something by Jim Wallis around the time Brown took office gushing about how committed to Christian social ethics Brown was. So it would appear Jim Wallis seems to think that a post-Christian socialist government is more Christian than a Christian one. I guess that make sense in a bizarre sort of way.

My comments in [bold and square brackets].

"Eighty years ago a Scottish shepherd's boy won a place at St Andrew's University. A graduate of Divinity, John Ebenezer Brown went on to become a minister in Kirkcaldy, Fife. He was much loved by his flock – not least because he never let himself get angry. "I keep thinking of my father and how he never raised his voice," said the Prime Minister, in an interview with this newspaper a week ago.

Even so, one can't help wondering how the Rev Mr Brown would have reacted if a gay couple had asked him to allow their "wedding" to be performed in his church – and then, when he demurred, threatened to take him to court. And how would he have felt, knowing that this was happening entirely as a result of the steely secularist agenda of the government led by his own son? [Despite the frequent references in some quarters to Gordon Brown being a son of the manse, it is a long way from church to today's Labour Party - as we shall see.]

On Tuesday night, the House of Lords passed an amendment to the Equality Bill tabled by the gay Labour peer Lord Alli. [One of the truly weird aspects of having a state church is the spectacle of a non-Christian ruling the Church. I suppose Brits should get used to it since Queen Elizabeth (may she live forever) won't be succeeded on the throne by a Christian.] As a result, the Bill now removes the ban on civil partnership ceremonies being held in places of worship. If passed in its current form, the doors of churches will be thrown open to what are effectively gay weddings – not as a result of a narrow and bitter vote in a Church Synod, but by political fiat.[Get that? Caesar implements homosexual weddings! Will that make the left wing Anabaptists happy or sad?]

And if they refuse to comply? The front page of Thursday's Daily Telegraph spelled it out: "Vicars to be sued over gay weddings". And not just vicars, but Catholic priests, rabbis, imams, ministers of the (gay-unfriendly) Church of Scientology – to say nothing of soft-voiced ministers of the Kirk.

This was not a headline the Government wanted to read, just weeks before a general election. [Because they like to sneak things like this through when no one is looking.] Indeed, it seems as if the Cabinet had not been expecting, and didn't welcome, Lord Alli's amendment. Harriet Harman's Equality Bill was already controversial enough, without forcing stony-faced rectors to marry male couples.

Cue squeaks of panic from Government sources. The Equality Minister "will decide with Cabinet colleagues" whether to allow Alli's amendment to stand when the Bill reaches the Commons next week, we learned yesterday. In the words of a Labour MP who has championed the Bill: "Brown's gone wobbly on this. And some of us feel very let down that Harriet is caving in under pressure."[So the Christian vote is not down to zero just yet.]

The problem for the Government is that this Equality Bill was not supposed to provoke a showdown with the Churches or other religions. [But it was supposed to advance homosexual rights at the expense of Christian rights.] The legislation was presented as a "clarification" of the law, consolidating existing anti-discrimination regulations into a single Act. That should have been easy enough to slip past Church leaders, for whom discrimination is a mortal sin. [with 'slip past' being the operative words]

But not so fast. The Church of England is caught up in a worldwide Anglican civil war over homosexuality. Britain's fastest-growing congregations, both inside and outside the C of E, are evangelical: they regard the whole concept of gay weddings as gravely sinful. Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is privately sympathetic to homosexuals who want to get marred, but dare not say so in public. [He is a man of such strong convictions that he has some on both sides of the issue.] His fellow bishops are all over the place on the subject – but they agree on one thing: they don't want to be pushed by the Government into gay church blessings. [Unless the government really, really wants to do so in which case OK.]

Until last month, they were in a similar stew about an amendment to the Equality Bill which was tabled by Harriet Harman. It reminded Churches that, since 2003, they have no longer had the right to refuse employment to atheists or homosexuals applying for lay positions. [This would make Americans reach for their guns - the government telling churches who they could hire and who they could not. Which, when you think about it, is a serious argument for the right to bear arms and the independent attitude it cultivates.] Anglican bishops managed to defeat this amendment in the Lords, but there was little doubt that Harman would reintroduce it – that is, until Pope Benedict XVI, no less, intervened. Speaking to English and Welsh bishops in Rome, he described the bits of the Equality Bill as "as assault on natural law", which imposed "unjust limitations on the freedom of religious communities to act in accordance with their beliefs."

On February 2, when the Pope's address was made public, Harriet Harman stood her ground. The next day, however, she dropped her plan to reintroduce the amendment forcing Churches to comply with secular employment law. The Government had been ready to ignore the hand-wringing of bishops in the Lords, but had lost its nerve after a savage ticking-off from "a bloke in a dress", as one Labour MP described the Pope. [So the Pope has to defend religious liberty in Britain! One can see why the Church of England is thought of as redundant.]

So now we have two climbdowns in a row: one over employing gays and atheists, and – if Harman's disavowal of Alli's amendment is taken seriously – the other over homosexual "weddings" in churches. On the face of it, then, the Churches and their conservative religious allies, such as Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, are winning their fight with Downing Street.

But the reality is quite different. These small victories obscure the bigger picture. The unique feature of Gordon Brown's government is not its economic incompetence. Rather, it is doctrinaire secularism. [Secularism, as it is used here does not mean freedom of religion for religious people and freedom of atheism for atheists. Rather, it means that atheist beliefs are privileged and Christians' beliefs are trampled. Secularism is the proposition that religion should be eliminated altogether and failing that at least scrubbed out of public sight.] For the first time in British history, no one sitting around the Cabinet table holds traditional Christian views that defy the liberal consensus on social issues or sexual morality. [Note: for the first time in British history. We are in uncharted territory here.] In May 2008, the Catholic Cabinet members Ruth Kelly, Des Browne and Paul Murphy voted for a sharp cut in the upper abortion limit to 12 weeks. All three have since left or been pushed out of government. [Also note: the Catholics were the last believing Christians in this government. What do they keep the C of E around for?]

As a result, devout Catholic Labour MPs of Irish descent – represented, albeit ingloriously, by the former Speaker Michael Martin – no longer exert any influence on the Government. The same goes for Labour Nonconformism. Jim Callaghan liked to quote the old saying that there was more Methodism than Marxism in the Labour Party. Now they have both gone, replaced by an ideology of human rights rooted in European secularism. [Great, now Britain had joined Europe in its nihilistic suicide pact.]

Just as Britain escaped revolution, so it never succumbed to French- or Italian-style anticlericalism. In its early years, neither did the Common Market, which was founded by Catholics. But the mood in both Brussels and Strasbourg (home of the European Court of Human Rights) has moved sharply against Christianity – thanks in part to the Catholic Church's own wretched sex scandals, And that shift nicely matches the anti-religious prejudices of Harriet Harman, Ed Balls and Alan Johnson, to name three of the most dogmatic unbelievers in the Cabinet.

Also, secularist politicians have a secret weapon, which they are careful not to advertise: many of the leaders and most of the bureaucracy of the Anglican and Catholic Churches in Britain are rooting for Labour in the culture wars. [Let's face it: the leftist infiltration of the Church and the woolly-headed socialism embraced by well-meaning but not overly bright clergymen (and women) has weakened the Church from within in every Western country and left the flock exposed to the predations of secuarists.]

The Catholic Education Service, for example, has rolled over in the face of a sex education Bill that will force all state primary schools to teach pupils about sexual intercourse. Meanwhile, Ed Balls insists that Catholic schools provide information about where to "access" abortion. And what was the response from the Catholic authorities and their Left-leaning advisers? Silence, apparently in return for an amendment to the Bill that allows faith schools to teach their own doctrines in addition to compulsory advice on condoms and abortion. [If only the Catholic bishops of England had the faith of Pope Benedict XVI.] The amendment is worthless. "We've been sold a pup," says a leading Catholic peer.

It remains to be seen how much aggressive legislation Labour can push through before the election. The likelihood of a change of government, coupled with the fact that this administration has apparently climbed down on a couple of sensitive issues, has persuaded some conservative Christians that they can recover ground. But before they repose too much hope in the Tories, perhaps they should read the Telegraph blog post that Lord Tebbit filed yesterday morning.

In it, Tebbit described how he and Lord Waddington fought against Lord Alli's "gay wedding" amendment in the House of Lords on Tuesday. "The result was a rout rather than a defeat for us," he wrote. "We lost by 95 to 23. Neither the Government nor the Conservative official spokesman who had both argued against the amendment voted with us. That does not enhance the reputation of politicians."

Maybe not; but it does suggest that we are moving towards a fundamental change in the relationship between politicians and Britain's enfeebled Churches. Although Labour may not want to push the cause of gay weddings this side of the election, it heartily embraces the principle that religious teachings with social implications must be subordinated to political definitions of equality. Do the Tories think the same way? That may depend on who is sitting on David Cameron's sofa when he has to make up his mind on a delicate issue. Conservative sources say he has already come within a whisker of formally endorsing gay marriage. [It never fails to astonish me what passes for "conservative" in modern day Britain. Cameron sounds to me like a Clintonesque middle of the Democratic Party politician.]

But it is not the Conservatives who initiated this historic change, next to which arguments about disestablishment seem like a sideshow. It was Britain's first post-Christian government, presided over by Gordon Brown, a man whose ideological allies not only exude contempt for the Church but also know how to manipulate public opinion and European legislation to accelerate its decline. And so a thousand-year contract between government and religious believers begins to fall in on itself like the roof of a redundant church." [Make no mistake, even if we acknowledge all the weaknesses and failings of the Church and her shepherds, the aggressive and manipulative acts of secularists are accelerating the decline of Christianity in Europe. There is a battle to be fought if there only were any courage left in the Church leadership. This is an outstanding article with good analysis, clear thinking and brutally honest assessment of the situation.]

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