Sunday, 20 March 2005

religion and politics

Rowan Williams expresses his opinion on abortion today in the Sunday Times: People are starting to realise we can’t go on as we are and a related news story is Williams calls for abortion review.

There is also a BBC report about this Williams urges debate on abortion. The original article begins:

For a large majority of Christians — not only Roman Catholics, and including this writer — it is impossible to regard abortion as anything other than the deliberate termination of a human life. Whatever other issues enter into the often anguished decisions concerning particular cases, they want this dimension to be taken seriously.

Equally, though, for a large majority of Christians this is a view which they know they have to persuade others about, and recognise is not taken for granted in our society. The idea that raising the issues here is the first step towards a theocratic tyranny or a capitulation to some neanderthal Christian right is alarmist nonsense.

One of the confusions that has arisen in the past week is the idea that we are somehow going to be swept up into a British rerun of the US election of 2004, with a moral conservative panic dictating votes. It’s far from clear that this is what happened in America; and even if it were, we are a long way from any comparable situation here…

Last Friday in the Guardian Giles Fraser and William Whyte wrote Don’t hand religion to the right.

For decades, the political class on this side of the Atlantic has prided itself on the absence of religious culture wars. The obsession with abortion, gay marriage and obscenity, the alliance between the secular and religious right - these are peculiarly American pathologies. It couldn’t happen here. After all, we’re just not religious enough.

Except it does seem to be happening here. In making abortion an election issue, Michael Howard has prompted the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, pointedly to warn against assuming “that Catholics would be more in support of the Labour party”. Elsewhere, the Christian right targets the BBC, and the Church of England is being colonised by homophobic evangelicals with broad smiles and loads of PR savvy. No wonder the cogs are whirring at Conservative central office on how best to exploit the voting power of religion…

The Observer today has a Focus: The religious right feature which includes this article by Jamie Doward and Gaby Hinsliff Who would Jesus vote for? with the strapline:

As abortion and religious censorship move up the pre-election agenda, evangelical pressure groups are seizing the chance to exercise increasing influence over mainstream British politics

Related news story Blair seeks the Christian vote

And yesterday the Independent carried a report about Tony Blair, Blair: ‘Within my milieu, being gay was not a problem’ and an accompanying news story First the grey vote, now the gay vote which includes this:

The Prime Minister insists there is no conflict between his religious views and his pro-gay stance. Urging the Church of England to resolve its differences over homosexual bishops, he says many people in the Church share his view that the fundamental Christian principle is one of equality. “But there are those that passionately disagree,” he says.

Posted by Simon Sarmiento on Sunday, 20 March 2005 at 8:12am GMT | TrackBack
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Categorised as: Opinion
Comments

We need to take seriously the cautions of Bp Wright and others against the stereotyping of Christians into 'right' and 'left'.

That is not the real world. And in any case, whom would one listen to more: stereotypers who deal in cliches and rhetoric, or those who take a nuanced view that recognises complexities?

Rowan Williams himself is 'right' on some issues and 'left' on others.

To believe in the protection of the innocent is to be 'right' on abortion and 'left' on war matters (broadly speaking).

It is arguable that the majority of Christians would be 'right' on family morals and 'left' on social/egalitarian issues (in the tradition of William Temple and David Sheppard). At least, this is how N.T. ethics seem to this particular NT scholar, & to countless others.

No wonder Christians don't identify with any current British political party. It could happen - but it wont happen while the parties are as they are now.

I'd urge Dr Fraser and others to take this into account in the interests of intelligent debate.

Posted by: Christopher Shell on Sunday, 20 March 2005 at 12:39pm GMT

Perhaps the best summary of the current state of the Anglican communion --

Things fall appart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand ...

Posted by: anonymous on Sunday, 20 March 2005 at 10:39pm GMT

When I read the Fraser/Whyte piece, what immediately struck me was that, while they deplore the American "religious right" phenomenon, they seem to share with its adherents a belief that there is a natural connexion between theological conservatism and the right and between theological liberalism and the left.

I'm an old-fashioned Anglo-Catholic who chooses to worship in churches which do not accept the sacerdotal ministry of women. I'm also sufficiently left-wing to have resigned from the Labour Party as long ago as 1992. (I was a shop-steward in Coventry, and the reason was the expulsion of Dave Nellist.) I'm still a union activist, currently resisting my own redundancy, among others, as co-president of the lecturers' union in my workplace.

I have no doubt that in secular politics I would find myself on the same side as Dr Fraser, albeit somewhat to his left, but I have no sympathey with his theological liberalism.

Posted by: Alan Harrison on Monday, 21 March 2005 at 3:37pm GMT

Since you (implicitly) asked, Alan (why the equation of political/theological conservatism):

your position is incoherent.

You seem to believe (I'm guessing) that God made *man* equal (a day's pay for a day's work, regardless of the nature of the work? I agree, BTW) . . . but not women (or those women-like men who like other men).

Women are not, in your view (again, I'm guessing) *sufficiently* made in the Image of God, to be an Alter Christus at the altar.

I'm all for unions, but the fact remains that unions have often (both in the UK and US) been dragged kicking and screaming to recognize racial and gender equality. You, Alan, seem to be similarly unreconstructed.

In all humility (from me, wretched sinner), may I suggest you open yourself to the non-stop re-creation of the Holy Spirit? A mass sung in soprano can be a *gorgeous* thing, and the Sacraments consecrated thereto *every bit as efficacious* (And a vicar's same-sex spouse, every bit as beneficial . . . OR detrimental, as the reverse! *g*)

Posted by: J. C. Fisher on Tuesday, 22 March 2005 at 12:55am GMT
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