Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Persecuted or marginalised?

There is considerable discussion at the moment  as to whether Christians in modern Britain (or in the West generally) are being subjected to what amounts to persecution because of their faith. Words, of course, can mean different things to different people and to an extent depend upon the context in which they are being used. Very clearly, we are not undergoing the kind of violent (but in the west, still largely under-reported) persecution our brothers and sisters in the faith have been experiencing at the hands of Muslim extremists in those countries where militant political Islam is in the ascendant.So far at least, our prisons are not crowded with those whose conscience compels them to resist the overweening ambition of the modern liberal State.
Yet equally clearly, an attempt is being made (aided and abetted both by public indifference to things religious and the Church's own doctrinal and ethical confusion) to push the Christian faith to the margins of national life, religious institutions are being badly squeezed by the equality and inclusion agenda and the industry it has spawned and to which it seems all mainstream political parties - even those calling themselves 'Conservative' - have now signed up, and the climate is such that in mainstream academic or political circles a strong Christian belief (as opposed to a vague championing of Christian 'values') is something which is best kept under wraps by anyone harbouring personal ambition. Persecution or marginalisation, the effect is similar in terms of the gradual disappearance of the presence of the Christian faith in the public square.

There was a very revealing discussion on the subject of  faith and doubt  [here] on the radio at the beginning of the week. Among others, it featured Karen Armstrong, the former Roman Catholic nun, and Richard Holloway, the former Anglican Bishop of Edinburgh, both of whom have for a while now taken leave of any kind of recognisable religious belief. It was important, Richard Holloway stated, to general approval, that religion should be enabled to change in "appropriate" ways. There being no one there to represent religious orthodoxy (portrayed for the purposes of the programme as an extreme position, the opposite side of the coin to militant atheism) the phrase was left unchallenged. But by what a priori standard is it possible to define what is 'appropriate' change? Again we are back to that dangerous but all-pervasive contemporary myth that secular rationalist philosophy is an wholly independent and unbiased arbiter somehow raised above the conflict.

Which leads me to another question, one related to the final playing out of the tragedy which has befallen modern Anglicanism. Despite the political noises off at present, we know very well that the marginalisation of the Christian faith in western society is likely to continue. What resistance, if any, to that can we expect from the radicals who already control the agenda of the Anglican provinces of the British Isles and will soon be in positions of undisputed authority? I only raise the question because their own a priori philosophical assumptions (clearly already on display in the relentlessly wooden-headed advocacy of women's ordination and now in the 'repositioning' obviously going on relating to the proposed radical change in the nature of marriage in order to accommodate society's very small but highly vocal and media-visible homosexual minority) are those which are essentially shared with the agnostics, atheists and secularists who are so intent on a further massive reduction in the public influence of the Christian religion.
Actually, it won't much matter, as the public face of faith will already have been changed in 'appropriate' ways from the inside due to the trahison des clercs of the soixante-huitardists, the 'Woodstock generation', and their ecclesial protégés. But even if there were a will to resist any further encroachments of liberal statist secularism (and undoubtedly issues surrounding the sanctity of human life - euthanasia and now even infanticide - will be to the fore), the new Anglican church order will lack the theological, philosophical and historical tools to do the job; they have already sold the pass.

Yes, I know, it's another doom-laden prediction, but let's revisit this in twenty years - if, as they used to say in my first parish, we are spared - and see who is right.

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