Saturday, May 31, 2014

It is time to make UK Overseas Aid contingent on religious liberty

His Grace raised the appalling plight of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim a fortnight ago, and it is heartening to see that The Times and the Prime Minister have caught up with it.

Mr Cameron says the death sentence imposed for apostasy is "barbaric", not least because one can hardly be guilty of apostasy if one was never a Muslim in the first place.

Meriam Ibrahim's father was Muslim, but she was raised by her Christian mother as a Christian, and she married another Christian in 2011. However, the Sudanese courts have decreed that religious belief is heritable through the paternal line; that the father's faith determines that of the children. And so Meriam Ibrahim was a Muslim all along, but she just never knew. So her Christian marriage was annulled and she was sentenced to 100 lashes for adultery and to be hanged for renouncing Islam.

Which she never renounced because she she never embraced it in the first place.

Since His Grace reported on this story, Dr Ibrahim has given birth to a daughter. Here she is with the proud father, who looks a shadow of his former self. The mother's legs were shackled and she remained in prison for the duration of the birth.

Funny, isn't it, how it takes the mainstream media to report on the Islamic persecution of a pregnant Christian woman to elicit substantive responses from David Cameron, Hillary Clinton and a host of celebrities. They tend not to be overly concerned with the persecution of Christian men.

A fortnight ago, all we had from Her Majesty's Government on this case was an expression of "deep concern". Now that The Times, BBC and Hillary Clinton are on board, the Prime Minister is rather more trenchant: "The way she is being treated is barbaric and has no place in today's world," he told the Times. "I urge the government of Sudan to overturn the sentence and immediately provide appropriate support and medical care for her and her children...The UK will continue to press the government of Sudan to act."

The thing is, HM Government (ie UK taxpayers) are giving aid money to Sudan. According to the YouTube news report above, it appears that we don't donate directly, but we do give. His Grace is of the view that a government which is bold enough to make overseas aid contingent on a nation's promotion of gay rights ought equally to ensure that the aid budget is used to promote religious liberty.

If we are truly pursuing equality in international development, why do we penalise those regimes which hang gay teenagers but permit those who behead Christians to continue with impunity? Are Islamic blasphemy laws any less repressive than anti-gay laws? Why are we subsidising the torture and systematic slaughter of our brothers and sisters in Christ?

We have exchanged the eternal Gospel of Salvation for the ephemeral creed of political correctness. We have supplanted the Good News of Christ with universal gay rights. While we are actively bribing developing nations to embrace gay equality, we convey to the world that the life of a Christian is worth less than the life of a homosexual.

Foreign aid is the national expression of love for our neighbour. Love is unintelligible except as a participation in the life of the One who reveals Himself to us. It comes after faith and hope, but it is the greatest and most transformational. David Cameron is right to condemn the death sentence imposed upon Meriam Ibrahim as "barbaric", but he appears not to know that our neighbour is not only the gay man or woman in Uganda, Ghana or Malawi, but also the persecuted Christians in Sudan, North Korea, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Iran, Maldives, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Eritrea, Laos, Northern Nigeria, Mauritania, Egypt, Bhutan, Turkmenistan, Vietnam, Chechnya, China, Qatar, Algeria, Comoros, Azerbaijan, Libya, Oman, Brunei, Morocco, Kuwait, Turkey, India, Myanmar, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Jordan, Cuba, Belarus, Indonesia, Palestinian Territories, Kazakhstan, Bahrain, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh, Malaysia...

It really is time that our donations of Overseas Aid were made contingent on the recipients' record on religious liberty and their tolerance of 'the other' - and of Christians in particular. Perhaps if the churches were to speak out more forcefully on this global martyrdom - instead of singling out Israel, where Christians live in freedom, for their campaigns of condemnation and divestment - the world's democratic leaders wouldn't have to wait for the Times, the BBC and sundry celebrities to force a change of policy.

Friday, May 30, 2014

EUpiscopal dialogue

His Grace was in dialogue yesterday with Bishop Pete Broadbent of Willesden on the vexatious matter of the European Union. The conversation is pieced together below. Please don't be rude about the Bishop; he has at least had the courtesy and inclination to engage with His Grace on some of the important issues raised.

The documents to which Bishop Pete linked may be read HERE, HERE and HERE. Please read them for yourselves, for His Grace has read them (twice - and one is of a thoroughly tedious length) and he cannot see any "small print" which in any sense questions the foundational tenets or political presuppositions of the EU. Indeed, these 'critiques' appear to affirm His Grace's view that the Church of England is institutionally europhile, and the entire Episcopate is, to a man (or, imminently, woman), fervently pro-EU, which is, in their understanding, synonymous with and inseparable from 'Europe'.

Do, please, feel free to shed some light on Bishop Pete's distinction between episcopal scrutiny of policy but of manifestos and programmes "not at all", for His Grace still finds this assertion somewhat incredible in light of remarks about Ukip (which, at the moment, has no manifesto beyond the stated policy of EU secession).

Do the following tweets constitute the scrutiny or critique of policy, or are they a purposeful intervention in the democratic process essentially guiding the electorate toward the view that Ukip is, in effect, anti-Christian?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bishop Nick Baines joins the Euro-fray

Now Bishop Nick has joined Bishop Pete in the vacuum that exists in the Great Anglican-EU Debate. But while Bishop Pete hurled insults at Ukip (members/voters?) with terse tweets and displayed no inclination at all to engage with the complex issues in any depth, Bishop Nick is characteristically measured, intelligent and thoughtful.

Bishop Nick Baines was formerly Bishop of Bradford and is now the Bishop-designate of Leeds. He is one of the few in the episcopal hierarchy who understands the modern media and actively engages with it for the purpose of mission, even to the point of running a 'real' blog (ie one upon which people may leave comments, to which he very often responds). Bishop Nick's portfolio of responsibilities includes membership of the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel (they issue the occasional report), which is probably what stimulated him to write on the matter.

Having dissected Bishop Pete's tweets yesterday, His Grace is of the view that Bishop Nick's blogpost merits a thoughtful fisking by Archbishop Tom today:
It's interesting to watch the political parties responding like headless chickens to the Euro-elections. Short-term reaction again, or taking a long-term view of future threats and opportunities? I guess time will tell.
This is absolutely right: the immediate responses have been trivial and ephemeral. But that, of course, is essentially the nature of political discourse in a representative democracy that runs in 4/5-year cycles and is attuned to churning out soundbites for the latest grievance du jour. And yet, from the outset, it appears that in talking about 'political parties', Bishop Nick is excluding Ukip from his thinking, since their grasp of "future threats and opportunities" is rather more coherent and consistent than that of the 'main' parties: the "headless chickens" are manifestly those who are baffled by Ukip's rise and flail about without a clue what to do about it. While the cocks wonder what happened to their cock-a-doodle-doo, Nigel Farage is strutting about like a peacock, head firmly fixed on shoulders.
What interests me in all this is less the dramatic interpretations of the immediate and more the question that lies at the heart of the current debate: what sort of Europe do we wish to create?
Here we go to the nub of the matter, and the division in respective "what sort of" visions is stark, to the point of being mutually exclusive. There are those who talk about a trade area or customs union - which is what we thought we joined in 1973 and affirmed by referendum in 1975, and which involves no erosion of "essential national sovereignty", as Ted Heath assured. And there are those who talk about a social Europe, a political union, an economic governance leading to a United States of Europe, which is actually what we have, and which most certainly involves the erosion if not the eradication of vast swathes of "essential national sovereignty".   
Go to young countries like Kazakhstan and you can't help but be struck by the constructive optimism of young people. Yes, there are problems and there are serious questions about power and corruption; but the young people believe they are building something better than what they had in the past. Come back to Europe and it feels like we are tired, cynical and trying to justify hanging on to something we have inherited.
His Grace will bow to your superior knowledge of Kazakhstan. But it isn't clear at all how one can even begin to compare the hopes and aspirations of a 20-year-old nation emerging out of the Russian Empire and the oppressions of the Soviet Union with those of a nation which has a thousand years of evolved cultural mores, political traditions and a cohesive religion. If Britain were liberating itself from the yoke of dictatorship, yes, the European Union might offer a relative freedom. But we are not: the British have been free by increments for centuries - certainly coming to some minority groups later than others - but while the people of Kazakhstan may be persuaded that they are building something better than Communist uniformity, Soviet famine and religious eradication, the people of Britain are increasingly persuaded they are being absorbed into something far worse than what they had in the past.      
And this has less to do with European institutions than it does with a European narrative of identity and purpose. We can easily re-shape institutions without properly addressing the core question of meaning. Who and what is Europe for?
We can agree on the first sentence, for the whole UK-EU debate is really one of identity and purpose. But the second sentence belies a certain naïveté, for the bold assertion that "we can easily re-shape institutions" is fundamentally nullified by the reality of European Council unanimity, Commission exclusivity and an insurmountable QMV boundary.  
I was interested in Archbishop Cranmer's piece on Europe. He claims that the bishops of the Church of England are uncritical europhiles. He further claims that they/we accept Europe as it is. Neither is actually true.
This two-sentence summary is something of a caricature, if not a touch of convenient misinformation (but thanks for the link so your readers can assess for themselves what His Grace actually wrote). It is curious that you say His Grace claimed the bishops are "uncritical europhiles", when he specifically wrote: "They may quibble about aspects of its functioning or raise scruples over its institutional aloofness.." It is plain to anyone that Church of England bishops are not uncritical of the EU (eg HERE), but you are, nonetheless, as His Grace wrote, "fervent supporters of Britain's membership of the European Union", and His Grace explained that this is undoubtedly because you "are all persuaded that a divided continent is a tragedy for the Church; that mission is best served by a unified polity with a strong social dimension..". You are all 'pro-Europe'; just not pro the kind of 'Europe' we have. But that is the only one on offer, which has been our national destiny ever since we subscribed to "ever closer union".  
I have written before about the need for a new guiding narrative in Europe if a younger generation is to be engaged in any way. I made this point at a round table discussion with Herman van Rompuy in Brussels a couple of years ago. I made it again at a meeting of the House of Bishops recently. I continue to ask how we can establish a process that explores a new narrative without getting bogged down in arguments about institutions alone.
The linked article is highly informative, not least because it essentially calls for a "guiding narrative" toward "ever closer union". There is no apparent awareness of subsidiarity or any appreciation of the limitations of anti-democratic supranational engagement. What is this "guiding narrative" to consist of when the demos is diffused by a myriad of historical national 'myths'? How is it to be inculcated? And why should it be? Again, even in the philosophical debates around identity, you actually prove His Grace's point: all the bishops are 'pro-Europe' because it is seen to be the enlightened thing to be. His Grace, too, is 'pro-Europe', but he doesn't want to be governed by an unaccountable elite, which is the EU, which is, for the House of Bishops, synonymous with 'Europe'.  
The House of Bishops Europe Panel, of which I have been a member, was not set up to defend the European Union. It was set up to take seriously the nature of European identity, and to consider our European ecumenical relationships in the light of wider European political and cultural contexts.
Uh-huh. How many members of  the House of Bishops Europe Panel favour UK secession from the EU? If none (which is the case), how can you justify this political imbalance on a parliamentary committee when Parliament is manifestly divided on the issue? You have said the Union is run by a distant elite with an opaque bureaucracy which is antithetical to democracy, but no one took any notice of your considered report. How long do you go on issuing diagnostic reports before prescribing a remedy? What are the limits of that remedy? 
And here lies a further challenge. The post-war ecumenical project arose from the blood of European conflict and the resolve to establish relationships that would make war impossible in the future. It mirrored (and sometimes led) the political drive towards closer relationships. But, just as the ecumenical generation is ageing, so is the generation of those who grew up with the political project.
Yes, indeed. The community of brotherhood forged out of Christian ecumenism is the theological equivalent of the European Coal and Steel Community. But European conflict has not been eradicated by the "political drive towards closer relationships". Indeed, the very 'Soul of Europe' that sometimes led the political drive has been subsumed to a kind of Euro nationalism which is now fomenting discord and exacerbating fascistic nationalisms across the Union. This isn't about institutions; it is about cultural identity, fear, resentment and (in many countries, most notably Greece and Spain) severe economic pain and acute social desperation. What kind of Christian leadership is it that helps perpetuate unemployment, recession, inflation and poverty? How can you support a political project which causes hardship, depression, homelessness and repossession? The total number of suicides, heart attacks, divorces and mental breakdowns will never be known. What monumental inhumanity.   
Both need a new narrative – one that can be created by and engage the imagination of my children's generation and younger. Only then will they know what they are building, and why. Creating something generates energy and vision; hanging on to something inherited does not necessarily do the same job.
Again, the teleological presupposition is that the construction of the House of Europe must continue, and this is simply contingent on finding a "new narrative", something a bit more postmodern - Cool Europa, if you will. 
That's the challenge. I am interested to explore how we begin that sort of conversation – one that goes beyond, and is not captivated by, the institutions that should reflect our purpose.
It is heartening and profoundly encouraging that you are interested, and His Grace is sincerely appreciative of an Anglican reflection which goes beyond Bishop Pete's rather condensed analysis. But the answer to the present Euro-crisis is not 'more Europe with a new narrative', for the people won't be inclined to swallow that. As you observe, the Church of England must return to the beginning and ask "Who and what is Europe for?" If the House of Bishops' sub-committee were to meet and prayerfully consider that fundamental question, the Holy Spirit might just open your eyes to the irrefutable truth that the Europe we currently have is for the self-perpetuating elite, and they are resolutely still seeking to address the concerns of two generations ago.   

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Bishop: "UKIP are vacuous. An annoying prejudiced blot on the political landscape"

His Grace was pootling about on Facebook a few days ago, pondering how to integrate his brand spanking new blog (which is imminent) with other social media, and he came across a comment by a well-known Church of England cleric and prominent academic who shops in Asda and is responsible - almost single-handedly - for teaching the next generation of clergy in the way they should go. It was a fairly derogatory comment toward Ukip representatives, concerning their mental (in)capacity. So irked was His Grace that he tweeted it out (anonymised, of course, for the comment was made in a relatively private forum). He thought nothing more of it, until the Bishop of Willesden waded in yesterday with his own assessment of the party that stormed to victory in the Euro-elections.

As Bishop of the Blogosphere, His Grace endeavours to be balanced, reasonable and respectful in his daily homilies. He tries to be mature in reflection and grown-up in debate. Sometimes he gets it wrong, and, when he does, a swarm of correctors and rebukers duly descend upon the comment threads to lovingly inform him of his error. Perhaps terrestrial bishops are not so well served, for Bishop Pete's tone is more than a little patronising, and his reasoning is.. well.. there isn't any. His opinion is stark: "Ukip are vacuous. An annoying blot on the political landscape."

He didn't use the words 'loonies' or 'fruitcakes', but he did refer in an earlier tweet to "Nutty Nigel", which amounts to the same thing. And he is in no doubt at all that Ukip are racist. He is eager to insist that he refers only to Ukip, not to those four million and more who voted for them. But who is Ukip, if it is not those who support the party?

Is it its leadership - that is, "Nutty Nigel" and his cohorts? Is it all of its appointed and elected representatives? That is, 24 MEPs and (now) around 400 councillors? Is it its membership, which is fast approaching 40,000? Is Bishop Pete Broadbent calling 40,000 people racist, vacuous, annoying and prejudiced?

And aren't those who vote for them at least in sympathy with their objectives?

Surely Bishop Pete would agree that those who vote Labour tend to incline toward social justice, equality and fairness; and those who vote Conservative tend to be greedy, selfish, monetarist and materialistic? Surely if you voted for Thatcher you had sympathies for her -ism?

Bishop Pete of Willesden is an intelligent and discerning cleric. He may vote Labour, support Spurs and favour ditching the Queen as Head of State, but theologically and missiologically he is one of the good guys - a loyal servant of the Lord (if not of Her Majesty).

The error he makes with his crass Ukip assessment is typical of the CofE leadership. It comes straight from the pages of The Guardian via the BBC. There is a postmodern cultural political shift to which they appear oblivious. And, without any reasoning, or any particular Christian presuppositions at all, they write off Ukip with epithets of contempt.

By doing so, of course, they insult and offend all those who support and vote for them.

If the Church is concerned with love of neighbour, that might include the odd Ukip member, just as it might the odd Tory. You don't have to agree with their politics to love them, but it certainly helps to try to understand why they think and vote the way they do.

The United Kingdom Independence Party has only one objective - to effect the secession of the UK from the political construct known as the EU. There is not one bishop in the Church of England (or the Roman Catholic Church) who seems to agree with this. So, they aver, Ukip is vacuous, xenophobic, racist and, in the last analysis, anti-Christian.

Which is interesting, because many Christians support Ukip precisely because it coheres with their theological worldview more than any of the 'mainstream' parties, who seem to have abandoned the old paths. Bishop Pete may find Ukip an annoying and prejudiced blot on the landscape, but he probably thinks the same about the DUP, the Protestant Truth Society - and even of His Grace.

These things are all blots on the liberal landscape. They are unintelligent, vacuous, and their utterances invariably inappropriate if not unnatural. Bishop Pete has probably never bothered to discuss anything with a Kipper; he is steeped in his mission: "busy being prayerfully involved in the life of (his) wonderful multicultural community". If he were to spy Nigel Farage, he would probably cross by on the other side of the road.

Which is what the entire CofE leadership do when they smell a Kipper.

And quite a few do when they see a Tory.

Ukip represent a threat to the liberal order: they are 'right-wing' and 'extremist'. Bishop Pete views Ukip not as a valid political player, but as an intruder, a meddler, a spoiler, a blot on the political playing field. Ukip are not engaged in legitimate politics; they are a sickness to be treated, and, should there be no cure, they must be euthanised.

Consider this tweet, juxtaposing the rise of Le Pen in France with Ukip in the UK. To Bishop Pete, both are xenophobic and racist, if not anti-Semitic and islamophobic. He has no grasp that the rise of both hinges more on the people's legitimate concerns with uncontrolled and uncontrollable immigration, an aloof European Union and an out-of-touch political elite.   

Ukip have arisen because of a conspiracy of political uniformity among the 'main' parties on so many issues of policy. They were once outsiders and outliers; now they have become integral and mainstream. They are not a blot on the political landscape; they are part of that landscape because the insurrection and rebellion are deemed by millions of voters to be wholly necessary. The cry is for revolution and reformation. The sooner the aloof heads in the CofE recognise that, instead of hurling puerile insults and denigrating the mutineers, the better.

Monday, May 26, 2014

The Church must now reconsider its europhile bent

A few years ago, the Church of England’s ‘Europe Spokesman' in the House of Lords was highly critical of David Cameron's terse negotiating style in the European Council, calling it "disastrous". The then Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Christopher Hill (now Clerk of the Closet), who chaired the House of Bishops’ Europe Panel, said: “In the long term, it will be disastrous if we were actually isolated from the rest of Europe, economically and in terms of international relations... We are part of Europe, culturally and historically.”

We are, to coin a phrase, associated with Europe but not absorbed. The problem the Church of England has is that all of its bishops - including both the archbishops of Canterbury and York - are fervent supporters of Britain's membership of the European Union. They may quibble about aspects of its functioning or raise scruples over its institutional aloofness, but they are all persuaded that a divided continent is a tragedy for the Church; that mission is best served by a unified polity with a strong social dimension which is not subject to the inconveniences and whims of democracy.

Britain out of the EU would not be "isolated from the rest of Europe", not least because Europe is not the EU. Historically, Britain's economic might and global influence came as a direct consequence of the Reformation: it was the Protestant faith and a Reformed Church which permitted England to run her affairs, without recourse to Rome. Thomas Cromwell drafted the fairly decisive Statute of Appeals which established this: "An Act that the appeals in such cases as have been used to be pursued to the See of Rome shall not be from henceforth had nor used but within this realm."

We are undoubtedly "part of Europe, culturally and historically", and yet we are apart. The Supreme Governor of the Church of England wears the Crown of the United Kingdom, and Parliament governs in her name. Of course, by virtue of her EU citizenship, she is subject to foreign courts and so no longer sovereign. But what Parliament can give away, it can reassert.

It is true that the European structures were "created for peace" after the major wars in the 20th century. But the structures need reform for greater accountability. We have learned after 40 years that this is not possible - not least because they were never designed to be accountable to the people - and there comes a point where you have to say enough is enough.

There is something spiritually, economically and politically naive about the belief that the the answer to all our problems is "more Europe", which will doubtless be the pan-European response to these elections. For our bishops and archbishops, it is as though Europe is the supranational way, truth and life: all things were made by it, and without it was not anything made which was made.

Both the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church are pathologically predisposed to bouts of Europhilia, sometimes verging on Eurotica. They’ve got Europe Panels, Europe spokesmen and Bishops' Conferences, all ostensibly concerned with the ‘Soul of Europe’ to ‘encourage the religious communities to present projects meetings, seminars social activities...; to contribute to the recognition and understanding of the ethical and spiritual dimension of European unification and Politics’.

Daniel Hannan MEP observed a few years ago:
As regular readers of this blog will know, one of my own recurrent themes is that the EU always pits the top brass against the Poor Bloody Infantry. This is true of the CBI, the TUC, the NFU, most political parties and, for that matter, most churches. I'll never forget walking past my local parish church in 1992 and seeing, among the prayers being posted, one for "the Maastricht Treaty and peace in Europe".
Let us by all means continue to pray for peace in Europe, but the EU's "ever closer union" is fast becoming a grievous cause of civil unrest and rising fascism. When it comes to 'Europe', there is an epistemic distance between the laity and the episcopacy. It is time for lay members of both the churches of England and Rome to object to this obsessive europhiliac nonsense, and to do so at the highest levels. God Himself instituted the separate nation states, and He appoints their kings, parliaments and legislatures. Britain would not be "isolated" if we were to leave the EU: secession would not be "disastrous".

It is not for the Shepherds of the Church to instil fear into their flocks. And neither is it their task to help re-create a political empire under the guise of missiological imperative. Jesus never aligned himself with the political ideology or objectives of the pagan Roman Empire: his modern representatives on earth ought to have no truck with its secular and increasingly anti-Christian successor.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Australian Army: "Catholics need not apply"

Presumably, there are no Muslims serving in the Australian Army.

Or are they exempt from mandatory attendance at the Mardi Gras?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Preaching hell is 'hate speech'

The police are investigating Attleborough Baptist Church in Norfolk for an apparent 'hate' crime by displaying this poster. There had been just one complaint. You can read the full story HERE.

Unusually, His Grace has nothing at all to add.

Except to say that had he been the minister in charge of this church, he'd have refused to take down the poster and told the police to go to hell.

He'd have then invited the complainant in for a nice cup of tea, and given him a brief lesson on the origins, significance and importance of religious liberty.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Ukip's earthquake belies a tsunami of indifference

As the first tremors of Ukip's "political earthquake" are felt throughout the land, representatives of all the 'mainstream' parties are scrambling to spin these election results as some sort of victory for their own side. Labour has gained councils from the Conservatives, including the highly-prized and much favoured Hammersmith and Fulham Borough, and the Conservatives have gained Kingston-upon-Thames from the Liberal Democrats. Even the almost-extinct LibDems are managing to find chinks of light in the cavernous darkness which is slowly descending upon them, with Simon Hughes cheering any council they manage to hold (like Sutton), and positively wetting himself over Ukip's poor showing in London which, he avers, is evidence that Nigel Farage leads "a pretty unpleasant party" and this is "not what a multicultural city needs". They're all touring the TV studios, tediously restating their core beliefs, talking endlessly about their policies and preaching to persuade the electorate that they have the answers to the anger, cynicism and frustrations of the people. They're all making their shallow promises "to learn" from these "disappointing results".

But they never do.

We must congratulate Nigel Farage and Ukip, as readers of this blog will leap to do. Many millions of voters supported Ukip because they represent clarity on the most important political issue of the age: 'Who governs Britain?' But an awful lot have supported Ukip as the preferred depository of protest: if you're sick of the patronising aloof indifference of the governing elite, vote for 'The People's Army'; the successors to James Goldsmith's 'Rabble Army'; the descendants and heirs of those of have protested for centuries against the historic priestly cabals and political cliques of Europe, which live on today in the bureaucratic, unaccountable and unresponsive institutions of the European Union and the ruling elites who govern us as omnipotent philosopher-kings.

But the turnout for these elections seems to be around 36%: two thirds of the electorate are either indifferent to "the most important political issue of the age", or feel impotent to do anything about it. The vast majority shout "racist", "liar", "cheat", "hypocrite" and stick two fingers up to all our political leaders. As Polly Toynbee observes: "At the last election 76% of over-65s voted, compared with 44% of under-24s – a 32-point difference." And she refers to the "angry alienated" who are completely disenfranchised economically, politically and (most often) spiritually. When you feel that your government doesn't care and your political system conspires against you, it is easy to believe that God is dead. And if not dead, as aloof and indifferent as those who purport to govern on His behalf.

Many of you expressed dismay and disappointment at the way His Grace voted in this elections. You feel that he is naive, blindly tribal or as aloof as the cabal at Westminster which currently holds power. One of you even absurdly suggested that he's toeing the Tory Party line in the hope and expectation of some favour or sinecure. Your judgments are unfair: you can have absolutely no idea of the politics or any understanding of the theological motive or reasoning for his decision, which was not taken lightly: it was a vote cast with great anguish. When the appointed hour came, His Grace might even have stepped up to the voting booth, lifted his eyes to the heavens, and recanted..

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ukip if you want to, but only Conservatives can deliver change

As we prepare to cast our votes in the Euro Elections of 2014, there is no doubt that this has been the most fractious, fraught and fascinating campaign probably in the whole (brief) history of elections to the European Parliament. Most polls have Ukip poised to win a stunning victory, reflecting (according to Ukip), a general discontent with the aloof and unaccountable oligarchical governance to which we are routinely subject, and which we are powerless to affect. While that's undoubtedly part of the 'Farage against the Machine' appeal, the reasons for Ukip's surge are actually more complex and nuanced, seemingly reflecting a general cynicism and deeper discontent with our institutions of state if not the whole political system which has ceased to be responsive to the concerns of the British people.

The European Union is bureaucratic, opaque, inefficient, incompetent, corrupt and anti-democratic. Peter Oborne of The Telegraph goes further, calling it a "criminal organisation". In response, the 'mainstream' parties advocate engagement to effect change; Ukip sees the whole project as completely unreformable, and we would quite simply be better off out.

After 40 years in the euro wilderness, you'd think the cartel of corruption would be self-evident to all who have eyes to see. It is perplexing and intensely frustrating when people do not see the world quite as we do, but diatribes of irritation and patronising abuse persuade no one. And, regretfully, there's too much of that from both sides.

The rise of Ukip is entirely the fault of the establishment parties: they long ago ceased to offer real choice in their mainfestos, and the people are increasingly discontent with the interminable tinkering at the peripheries of politics. And when it comes to the EU, all rivalries are invariably set aside to rig whatever votes are necessary to ensure that the juggernaut merrily rolls on to its pre-ordained end. The teleology of "ever closer union" is immutable: to believe in it with all one's heart, soul and mind is to have reached the seventh circle of enlightenment; to have attained the superior knowledge and insight of the political elite who have moulded the political parties in their image, and who rule the hollow corridors of our perishing democracy.

You may think that Nigel Farage - fag between fingers and pint in hand - is more in touch with your concerns and the pressing needs of wider society. You may believe that Ukip is pursing a purer form of politics and restoring meaning to democracy. It is certainly true that Ukip membership grows while the other parties are being deserted in droves. But it would be a profound error to conflate popularity with righteousness, or mistake arty sophistry for wisdom.

Ukip can no more change policy in the EU than the Conservatives: the PR system of election and QMV system of voting are designed to ensure that the Union will achieve its ends, whatever the expressed discontent of the people. And should those pesky national populations become recalcitrant, the Oligarchy nullifies democracy and appoints regional governors to bypass national democracy and ensure compliance, as we have seen in Italy and Greece. In that sense, it really doesn't matter who you vote for: British MEPs are just actors in a political façade designed to ape the parliamentary process and delude the electorate into believing that democracy matters. It doesn't, and it was never designed to from its very Monnet-Schuman inception. What do the people know about the economy? How can they possibly make sound judgments on social policy? What do they understand of justice? How can they grasp the imperatives of immigration and supranationalism?

No, in all these areas and more, policy must be left to the guardians and philosopher-kings. As Harold Macmillan prophesied, we have overthrown the divine right of kings to fall down for the divine right of experts. And these anti-democratic guardians and philosopher-kings are anonymous, unaccountable and immovable. You may justifiably hold them in contempt, but voting Ukip will not make them known, or accountable, or unfix them from their castles and courts.

David Cameron leads a Conservative Party which is pledged to offer the first referendum on Britain's EU membership in a generation. Of course, the outcome of this Euro Election has no direct bearing on that, except to say that any weakening of the Conservative Party is more likely to put Ed Miliband into No10, and he is not offering an In/Out referendum. We know that Cameron has his flaws and himself inclines to support EU membership, but, in Augustianian terms, he is the lesser evil of all the base and nefarious powers which seek to exert themselves. Yes, like his MEPs, he is himself impotent to effect change, but he and only he is offering an opportunity for us to deliver change. He did, after all, fulfil his pledge to withdraw Conservative MEPs from the federalist EPP, for which he still endures shame and ridicule.

You may think he's a pathological liar and the Conservative Party simply cannot be trusted. Well, His Grace has suffered the deceit and poisonous slanders of both, and yet he can still see that the only way to escape the malign Euro-morass is to pinch his nose and support the only party which is offering a solution. Compromise often grates on the conscience, but, in the absence of righteous governance and pure motive, it is a necessary part of the human social contract.

Certain people are saying that no Christian can support Ukip. Those who are propagating this lie tend to belong to the religious or political elites who are directly responsible for the perpetuation of the whole artificial construct, and who somehow benefit from its existence (or hope to). The greater truth is that no democrat can support the European Union. Those who have come to understand this fact appreciate how urgent it is for Britain to reclaim its liberty, revive its Parliament and restore its democracy.

This is not a partisan feud or a trivial left-right squabble. It transcends tribal allegiances because it cuts to the heart of what it means to be free. You are free to vote Ukip, and that is your democratic right. But, for as long as we are in the EU, that freedom is an illusion and that democratic right a pretence. Ukip cannot hasten UK secession because they will never form a government and Nigel Farage will never be prime minister. You can make David Cameron squirm and sweat, and you can enjoy his embarrassment and discomfort, but that infantile pleasure is ephemeral and risks damning the nation to an eternity of EU decrees, binding diktats and unaccountable political lobbying, leading ultimately to our inescapable abasement in a United States of Europe.
"Our constitution cannot be reduced to a mere treaty for co-operation between governments. Anyone who has not yet grasped this fact deserves to wear the dunce's cap."
(Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, President of the European Convention, 29th May 2003).

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Are Islamists infiltrating the Conservatives?

The parties are canvassing and campaigning hard all over the country. The euro-polling is inconsistent, but it looks as though Ukip will be victorious next Sunday, with Labour coming second, and the Conservatives in a rather humiliating third place. Not as humiliating, of course, as the comprehensive annihilation facing the LibDems, but the people increasingly treat elections to European Parliament as a single-issue referendum, which, combined with the protest of general discontent and cynicism, is about to hand Nigel Farage a significant victory.

So it is understandable that much of the media scrutiny is on him, his candidates and his party. There are undoubtedly a few dozen fruitcakes and loons, even racists and gadflies. But all political parties seem to have their peripheral wingnuts, and the electorate is sufficiently discerning to distinguish the outliers from the essential core.

The allegations of racism against Nigel Farage himself aren't remotely credible, not least because alleging that one or other ethnic group is more inclined to a particular behaviour is not racist per se: it may indeed be that Romanians are statistically more inclined toward organised crime, and that may indeed be an uncomfortable truth. But Attorney General Dominic Grieve QC MP said last year that ethnic minorities "come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic", and that Pakistanis in particular are more inclined to commit electoral fraud. Does that make him racist? If not, how is it different from Nigel Farage's comment about Romanians?

And back in 2011 former Justice Secretary Jack Straw MP observed that Asian men - and in particular Pakistanis - represented a particular threat to white British girls, whom they routinely view as "easy meat" and treat accordingly. Does that make him racist? If not, how is this observation different from Nigel Farage's comment about Romanians?

But while the media focus on Ukip's nutty fringe, straining to smear 'The People's Army' with all manner of political deficiencies and moral delinquencies, there are one or two 'main-party' candidates which are escaping scrutiny.

Take, for example, Mufti Shah Sadruddin, the Conservative candidate for the Green Street West ward in the London Borough of Newham. He seems to have one objective - the construction of the so-called 'mega-mosque' which would become Europe's largest. Labour Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales has consistently opposed these plans, so Mufti Shah Sadruddin is keenly organising the local Ummah to effect political change.

Nothing wrong with that, of course. We live in a representative liberal democracy, and the first-past-the-post party system requires popular appeals, structural organisation, and internal discipline. So Mufti Shah Sadruddin is hoping to unite his Muslim brothers and sisters in order to take control of Newham Council for the Conservatives.

But here he is only last year lauding his Socialist "brother" George Galloway because he "stood against all the Israelis":

What kind of Conservative calls for bloody revolution and political hangings? What kind of Conservative calls for "revenge" against Islam's "oceans of blood", inshallah? Sure, he specifies in a "non-violent way", but Jihadists have a tendency to ignore the way of peace. And it is difficult - very difficult - to stomach his assertion that the Bangladesh Awami League is "worse than Hitler killing the Jews", or that Sheikh Hasina is "worse than Hitler".

And here he is railing against.. well, it is entirely clear. But he's certainly not whipping up the crowd in favour of homosexuality and an appreciation of the virtues of same-sex marriage:

This man is a Conservative candidate. His beliefs about Jews and gays are far more concerning and his words far more offensive than anything believed or uttered by any Ukip candidate.

It seems that, to win the ethnic minority vote, all political discernment and common sense have deserted the Conservative Party. Under David Cameron's leadership, there is no need to prove one's commitment to the Conservative cause before one may become an election candidate: gender, sexuality and skin colour far outweigh philosophy, loyalty or expertise.

Breitbart reports that: “In 2006, Newham Conservatives lined up alongside the Islamic Forum of Europe, the Islamic Society of Britain, CagePrisoners, Hizb ut Tahrir, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, as well as Stop the War in opposing counter-terrorism raids in the area. All of the so-called 'Muslim' organisations mentioned above have had links to radical Islam, or in some cases, terrorism. None are (sic) considered to be genuinely representative of Britain’s Muslim communities.”

If Mufti Shah Sadruddin's candidacy isn't a step toward Islamist entryism, His Grace isn't sure what is.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Newham Tories pledge allegiance to the will of Allah

The imams and Islamic scholars of the London Borough of Newham recently made the following declaration:
Important Message for the Muslims of Newham

Respected Brothers and Sisters of Newham,

We have a moral responsibility to help build and unite the community we live in. This includes our responsibility to make sure we elect suitable, competent and God fearing candidates who we should be able to hold accountable for any council decision or policy that will directly affect us.
A vote is an Amanah (trust) which must be used wisely and not abused for individual benefits.
Any individual that opposes the building of Masjids or Islamic schools or even goes as far as to attempting to demolish a Masjid is not serving the interest of society.
Allah (SWT) says
وَمَنْ أَظْلَمُ مِمَّن مَّنَعَ مَسَاجِدَ اللّهِ أَن يُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ وَسَعَى فِي خَرَابِهَا” “
“who can be a bigger oppressor then the one who prevents Allah’s name from being mentioned in the houses of Allah and makes effort to destroy it” (Albaqarah)
We therefore strongly urge the entire Muslim Community of Newham to wake up and stand united against such unjust politicians in the upcoming elections.
We consider it essential for all the Muslims to endorse any party that helps the Muslim cause by embracing a significant number of Muslim candidates and standing up against Robin Wales.

Allah knows best
Yes, this appeal really ends with "Allah knows best". Sir Robin Wales is the Labour Mayor of Newham, and appears to have held office for rather a long time - 20 years, in fact. Apparently, he hasn't served the community very well at all:

24.3 per cent of all Newham households have no one who speaks English as a main language. Sir Robin has taken steps to encourage people to use English, including stopping all foreign language newspapers from local libraries. According to the Telegraph:
Translation services have been cut and the council has banned all funding for community groups or events aimed exclusively at a single ethnic or religious group, as part of a policy designed to promote integration and “Britishness”.

Sir Robin Wales, the major of Newham, said: “There is a challenge about isolation and we are very concerned about women being isolated in homes and sometimes older people [because of the language barrier].

“We are concerned about it and we are giving support.

“People have chosen to come to this country, they want to be part of it and we try to encourage it.”
Well, this doesn't please Allah one bit, and, as we know, he knows best. And so Newham's Muslims are now seeking to oust Sir Robin, not least for having the temerity to reject plans for their 'mega mosque'.

According to 2011 Census data, just 16.7% of Newham's population is White British, while 43.5% is Asian (13.8% Indian, 9.8% Pakistani, 12.21 Bangladeshi, 1.3% Chinese, 6.5% Other Asian), 19.6% Black (12.3% African, 4.9% Caribbean, 2.4% Other Black), 1.1% Arab and 2.3% of other ethnic heritage. Newham has the highest fertility rate in the country at 2.87 children born per woman, compared to the national average of 1.95. Newham and Tower Hamlets are the boroughs with the highest rates of population growth. Newham also has the largest average household size in England & Wales at 3.01 persons.

Is it racist to point this out? 

Attracting just 16% of the BME vote in 2010, the Conservative Party traditionally doesn't do very well among ethnic minorities. According to Paul Goodman, the party just doesn't offer them much at all, and, according to Lord Ashcroft, the party faces electoral oblivion - "defeat by demography" - unless there is some attempt to "woo" them .

So, in Newham, the Conservative Party is wooing Muslims.

And how..

Point 4 is of particular interest to those who are still pursuing the 'mega mosque' rejected by Sir Robin, and also to those who oppose betting shops, off-licences and Subway stores that presume to sell ham baguettes or bacon rolls. And if you don't speak English - since that nasty Labour Mayor has stopped speaking to them in their own language - those nice Conservatives have made this leaflet available in Urdu, Gujurati and Bengali, complete with appealing mosque-ish watermark:

According to Breitbart, the leaflets are genuine.

Is Newham not a constituent part of this Christian country?

His Grace can't see the Conservative Party in any constituency ever publishing an election leaflet pledging specifically "To listen to the Christian community", and the Conservatives are fast losing the support of that demographic, too.

But, as Lord Ashcroft observes, they face electoral oblivion without an appeal to ethnic minorities. Though quite why they have to make a base appeal to Muslims in this blatantly sectarian fashion - instead of appealing to those qualities, values and virtues which unite all Conservatives - is unknown.

No, the time is fast approaching when Christians shall need an organised, potent and persuasive means of making our politicians listen.

Especially the shunned and beleaguered 16.7% in Newham.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pregnant Christian to hang for apostasy - a test for Baroness Warsi

It is all over the mainstream media - Telegraph, BBC, Independent, Express - and many others. Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, 27, who was born to a Muslim father but brought up a Christian by her mother, married a Christian man from South Sudan. Mrs Ibrahim is eight months pregnant. But a court in Khartoum has found her guilty not only of apostasy - despite never having been a practising Muslim - but also of adultery, since her marriage to a Christian is void, and so her pregnancy is irrefutable proof of her sexual sin.

For the unforgivable crime of apostasy, she has been sentenced to hang. For the heinous sin of adultery, she has been sentenced to a flogging of 100 lashes.

It is not clear to His Grace how she has been found guilty of adultery, on account of there being no alleged infidelity to a third party. But we must assume that the judge is morally and theologically illiterate and, to him, fornication and adultery are synonymous.

Mrs Ibrahim has denied the charges. She is reported to have told the judge: “I am a Christian and I never committed apostasy.”

Naturally, this sentence has been condemned by the international community. In a joint statement, the embassies of Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands expressed “deep concern” over her case. “We call upon the government of Sudan to respect the right to freedom of religion, including one’s right to change one’s faith or beliefs,” they said.

Deep concern?

That's nice.

Baroness Warsi is the Minister for Faith and Communities. She said earlier this year: "I have made the issue of religious freedom a personal priority. The threat to religious freedom, I believe, has become a global crisis. As a result, the UK government has elevated it to a key priority in our human rights work, and, more broadly, we have shown that we understand the huge importance of religion at home and abroad."

The problem she has is that while, for her, terrorism is nothing to do with Islam or or any strain within Islam, and terrorists are not Muslims, or followers of any path of her prophet, this sentence is wholly consistent with certain quranic injunctions. Yes, the liberals or moderates will point to the verse which says: "There shall be no compulsion in religion." But others will point to the very words of Mohammed: "It is not permissible to spill the blood of a Muslim except in three (instances): A life for a life; a married person who commits adultery; and one who forsakes his religion and separates from the community."

In short, Baroness Warsi must understand that there can be no religious freedom where such application of the Quran is foundational to their legal code. Where there are dhimis, there can be no equality; where there is jihad, there can be no peace or justice. Certainly, we in the West can quibble over the relative authority of the Hadith or Sunna, and apply our scholarly methods of theological criticism to the Qur'an to justify theories of abrogation, but this "global crisis" of the diminution of religious freedom needs more than agitated jurists, theologians, philosophers, ethicists and historians drinking coffee on an ad hoc Foreign Office committee: it needs unequivocal condemnation followed by meaningful political action.

And there is no point insisting that combative words and retributive actions are likely to make the situation worse for Christians across Islamic lands. The oppression is already appalling: those who suffer cannot fathom Baroness Warsi's utopian assertion of "moderate Islam" when its true spirit persecutes, tortures, slaughters and condemns.

Spiritual liberation cannot come from a committee: it must be foundational to all our political, legal and economic notions of justice. Islamic political culture is simply not conducive to the protection of human rights. Doubtless it is 'islamophobic' to say this, but the assertion is supported not only by the plight of Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, but by many other examples of the poor record on human rights in many Muslim countries, particularly those with Islamic political orientations.

The position of religious minorities - in particular the dhimi Christians and Jews - is one of chronic discrimination and non-equality. Gender inequality permeates Islam - we permit it even here in the UK, where gender segregation is pouring out of the mosques and into our university campuses. Some brave Muslim women are embracing feminism in order to defend their rights, but there is no political will to support their quest. Bizarrely, we tolerate their subjection in the name of religious equality.

You don't have to go to Sudan, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan: many moderate and enlightened British Muslims affirm the death penalty for apostasy and the flogging or stoning women for adultery. This is considered just: it is the the will of Allah. And it is a very small step from that belief to the burning down of the odd church and beheading the occasional kafir.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Welby: "We must be battering at the gates of heaven in prayer" for South Sudan

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Steve Chalke and the artful Evangelical Alliance defiance

A lot of words have been (and are still being) poured out on the 'schism' in Evangelicalism following the expulsion of the Oasis Trust from the Evangelical Alliance over Oasis founder Steve Chalke's stance on same-sex relationships, which the EA deem to be inconsistent with the 'traditional' Evangelical view. It seems that Evangelicals are only 'Better Together' (their mission slogan) when there is compliance and uniformity on the zeitgeist obsession of homosexuality. The EA do not expel members who support abortion; nor do they sever links with those who marry divorcees or accept pre-marital sexual relations as a forerunner of marriage. They do not even expel a member for repudiation of the foundational Evangelical doctrine of substitutionary atonement, which the Rev'd Steve Chalke terms "cosmic child abuse", as though God casually murdered His Son for the salvation of the world, and penal substitution is barbaric and utterly morally indefensible.

No, the Evangelical Alliance has excommunicated the Oasis Trust simply because its founder has stated (time and again) his support for committed monogamous same-sex relationships. He says that he has arrived at his view "not out of any disregard for the Bible's authority, but by way of grappling with it, and, through prayerful reflection, seeking to take it seriously".

The thing is, the Director of the Evangelical Alliance Steve Clifford has also arrived at his view out of regard for the Bible's authority, after many years of grappling with it, and through an awful lot of prayerful reflection, not to say 2000 years of biblical interpretation. And he warns: "The danger we all face - and I fear Steve has succumbed to - is that we produce 'a god' in our own likeness, or in the likeness of the culture in which we find ourselves. Steve's approach to biblical interpretation allows for a god in the likeness of 21st-century Western European mind-sets."

And so the Evangelical Alliance has excommunicated the Oasis Trust "with sadness".

And the Oasis Trust responded in equal sorrow.

Reminding us that Copernicus and Galileo were similarly accused of a secularist, European mind-set, Steve Chalke explained: "My whole argument is based around dealing with the Bible, and the issue of exegesis and hermeneutics. We now have a much deeper understanding of the Bible itself, and of the cultural issues into which Paul and other New Testament writers were writing."

And he implores that his views on homosexuality should not put him beyond the pale of Evangelicalism, reasoning: "My point of view is that the law provides for civil partnership... For a couple who seek to live together in a lifelong committed relationship, I want to add my support and my blessing to that; and I believe that God adds his blessing."

And so we now have (another) schism - Conservative (or 'Traditional') Evangelicals, who welcome fornicators, adulterers and abortionists, and Liberal (or 'Accepting') Evangelicals, who welcome all of the above plus gays and lesbians.

It is important to observe that the Oasis Trust does not itself take a corporate position on the issue of homosexual relationships (or on any matter of human sexuality): the EA is responding to the words and actions of its founder and director, and was seemingly desirous that the Trust 'beef up' its website with a traditional Evangelical diet of sexual moral orthodoxy.

It is also important to observe that the Oasis Trust works on five continents and in 11 countries around the world, delivering housing, education, training, youthwork and healthcare. They are a very significant voluntary-sector provider in the UK, supplying crucial services for local authorities, as well as self-funded initiatives aimed at providing opportunities for the most underprivileged and dispossessed, of all faiths and none. The Trust employs in excess of 5,000 staff in dozens of schools, hospitals and homeless shelters. Children in these schools are not only Christian, but Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and those utterly indifferent to religion (not to mention homosexuality).

Steve Chalke was awarded the MBE in 2004 for his manifest good works, which bear witness to the whole world of the Good News of Jesus Christ. He is also the founder and Chairman of Stop the Traffik, and a special adviser to the United Nations on human trafficking.  All of his immense entrepreneurial efforts are founded upon Christian values. Except that, for him, the barrier-breaking and humanity-levelling gospel of inclusion extends to an acceptance of homosexual monogamy as a form of covenant. And that is clearly not a traditional Evangelical value.

The thing is..

The Evangelical Alliance has a Council of Reference made up of more than 80 church leaders and people of influence from around the country. They meet twice a year. They include Labour's Gavin Shuker, MP for Luton South.

Mr Shuker has voted in favour of equal gay rights and even for allowing marriage between two people of same sex. Most recently, he followed the Labour whip in the following divisions:

Commons5 Mar 2014Make Same Sex Marriage Available to Armed Forces Personnel Outside the United Kingdom Majorityaye Loyal
Commons5 Mar 2014Amendments to Acts of Parliament in Light of the Introduction of Same Sex Marriage in Parts of the UK Majorityaye Loyal
Commons5 Mar 2014Changes to Laws on Consular Marriage Following Introduction of Same Sex Marriages in Parts of the UK Majorityaye Loyal
Commons5 Mar 2014Registration of Armed Forces Chapels for Same Sex Marriages Majorityaye Loyal
Commons5 Mar 2014Proceedures for Consenting to Registration of Shared Places of Worship for Same Sex Marriage Majorityaye Loyal
Commons5 Mar 2014Same Sex Marriage — Enabling Courts to Deal with Divorce or Annulment Proceedings Majorityaye Loyal

No doubt a deeper analysis could be carried out to establish precisely where Mr Shuker deviates from 'traditional' Evangelical views on human sexuality. Certainly, he is manifestly not as traditional in those views as fellow Council member Fiona Bruce, Conservative MP for Congleton, who has consistently voted to uphold the traditional Evangelical view of human sexuality and heterosexual marriage.

Surely, if Steve Chalke's beliefs on homosexual relationships are so beyond the pale as to justify the severing of relationship and the termination of fruitful association, the EA ought not to tolerate a member on its guiding Council of Reference who causes the weak to stumble and leads them into sin?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Nigeria: Christian girls, Muslim converts and dead boys

Christian girls in Borno state, Nigeria:

Girls forcibly converted to Islam in accordance with the precepts of Boko Haram:

 The fate of the boys:

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nigeria's kidnapped girls and slaughtered boys

“I abducted the girls at a Western education school,” said Abubakar Shekau, the leader of Boko Haram. “And you are disturbed. I said Western education should end... I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market, by Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell; he commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.”

“It is Allah that instructed us,” added Shekau. “Until we soak the ground of Nigeria with Christian blood and so-called Muslims contradicting Islam. After we have killed, killed, killed, and get fatigue and wondering what to do with their corpses — smelling of Obama, Bush and Jonathan (Nigerian president Goodluck) — will open prison and be imprison the rest. Infidels have no value.”

The kidnapping of 276 (Christian) girls by the (Muslim) group Boko Haram is heartbreaking. It is most urgent, right and proper that Western political leaders do all they can to secure their freedom and restore them to their families and loved ones before they are sold off as child brides for $12 for a life of domestic slavery and spiritual oppression. Michelle Obama thinks YouTube and Instagram can help; David Cameron has taken to Twitter with the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls; and the Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a press release. All of these social-media efforts help to raise the profile of this appalling case and keep it high in the headlines. The UK has sent counter-terrorism and intelligence experts to work alongside the US team already out there. "We stand ready to do anything more that the Nigerians would want," the Prime Minister pledged.

The thing is..

Nigeria's boys have been routinely abducted, tortured, shot or burned alive for years.

There has been no YouTube or Instagram from The White House; no tweet from No10; and no press release from Lambeth Palace.

Of course it is unconscionable to target innocent Christian girls simply because they are being educated in a 'Western' way ('Boko Haram' means 'Western education is forbidden'). It is an act of moral depravity to force them into marriage or sell them into sex slavery and a wretched life of unimaginable horror. They will doubtless be raped and 'converted' to the way of Allah, just as untold thousands of women and girls have been for centuries right across the Prophet's lands.

But boys are targeted, too. Not usually to be raped or forcibly converted, but tortured and burned alive.

Where is the outrage? Where is the heartbrokenness? Are they not worth even a hashtag?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Conchita Farage - just think of the potential

The people have spoken.

Eurovision victory is awarded not to the best song, but to the symbolic embodiment of a quest for personal liberty and identity difference.

So much of the ordinary life is surrounded by prohibitions and obligations which impose a stifling conformity on human society. We live by social rules, where the norms of social interchange are marked by the aspiration to certain objectives, such as equality without regard to rank or sex, autonomy of individuals, solidarity. The goodness and wisdom of God are shown in the interlocking order, and our disengaged reason as our way of participating in God's purpose.

But this picture of disengaged reason is linked to the conception of human dignity. In particular, it incorporates a sense of self-responsible autonomy, a freedom from the demands of authority. There is rebellion against the institutions of state, the patriarchal family and community commitment. The stress is on expressions of individuation against the demands of ascriptive authority.

As with Eurovision, so it is with our fragmented culture, relative morality, and our increasingly atomised politics. We are moving to the prizing of autonomy above all; to the primacy of self-exploration and the exaltation of self-expression, in particular of feeling. In our political language, we rail against disciplinary structures and reject the established orders in favour alternative formulations and expressions. Nigel Farage may be a loathsome opportunist and hypocrite, but he is one of modernity's epoch-making political philosophers, railing against the entrenched natural order and traditional conceptions of the common good.

It is not that Nigel Farage necessarily does philosophy; it is simply that he has one while the unsatisfactory others do not. He expresses a vision, while the others flail about and perish. Like Conchita Wurst, Nigel Farage stands for personal liberty and a different identity, and, for the moment, the people seem to like that.

Imagine Ukip led by a bearded singing transvestite.


Friday, May 09, 2014

Pickles quashes Europe Day

Today is Europe Day – the anniversary of the 'Schuman Declaration', when, in Paris in 1950, the French foreign minister Robert Schuman proposed a new form of political cooperation for Europe, the objective being to make war between Europe’s nations unthinkable. And in commemoration of this marvellous event, above every Government Building customarily flies the flag of the European Union.

But not above the Department of Communities and Local Government.

For Eric Pickles has successfully renegotiated to remove the requirement in EU law to fly the EU flag outside the DCLG building on Europe Day. This applied to DCLG, BIS, DEFRA and the DWP.

Instead, he has raised the flag of Jersey in Whitehall, London, to mark 'Jersey Liberation Day' and the liberation of the Channel Island’s from Nazi occupation.

On 9th May 1945 – just one day after Winston Churchill declared the end of war and that “our dear Channel Islands are also to be freed” – HMS Beagle arrived in Jersey to accept the surrender of the occupying forces. Swastika drapes were lowered and replaced with the Union Jack, and the crowds cheered and wept for joy. Guernsey was also liberated the same day.

Events to mark the liberation of Jersey from German occupation during World War Two now take place every year on that date. The raising of the British flag at the Pomme D'Or Hotel has been reenacted every year since the 50th anniversary of the island’s liberation. The Channel Islands are not part of the European Union, but have their own individually negotiated agreements, including a Customs Union.

Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, said: “We are stronger as a society when we celebrate the ties that bind us together, and we should fly the flags of our communities with pride. Today it is right that we honour Jersey’s freedom from tyranny. This British Crown Dependency suffered a five-year occupation by Nazi Germany during World War Two. Jersey’s Liberation Day is a timely reminder about the freedoms that we take from granted across the British Islands.

Senator Philip Ozouf, Treasury and Resources Minister for Jersey, pictured with Mr Pickles, said: “Liberation Day is first and foremost a time of celebration for Jersey, as the point at which we regained our freedom and autonomy. Yet it is also a chance to reflect on an experience that is still felt deeply in our Island and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice for the British-led cause of freedom in the world. The raising of the Jersey Flag in Whitehall on this most important of days for the Island is a significant symbol of Jersey’s strong relations with the United Kingdom, our historic partner and friend. Our relationship with the British Crown has existed for over 800 years and, as such, the Jersey flag flying in London is an important symbol of the unity of our past, present and future. I very much hope that this powerful new tradition will continue.”

And His Grace very much hopes that Eric Pickles will continue, too.

Tuesday, May 06, 2014

Infusion of young blood is the key to eternal youth

It seems that what humanity needs is an injection of new blood – quite literally. For scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered that by infusing the brains of old mice with the blood of young mice, the aging mind is rejuvenated and mental decline halted. No doubt this experimentation will now be swiftly extended to bunnies, beagles and primates, and thence to human dementia patients. And when the efficacy of the therapy is scientifically proven to combat Alzheimer's and reverse impairments to brain function, no doubt it will be marketed in shiny sky-blue packaging as the key to eternal youth.

And it will be worth biotech $billions, for everyone is aging quite naturally, and no one really looks forward to second childishness and mere oblivion. What 60-year-old doesn't want to feel 20 again? If our lives may be extended and decaying brains recharged with young blood, then why not roll out the therapy to mitigate our suffering and improve the human lot?

The problem is that this Brave New World will require a plentiful supply of young blood.

Fortunately, we already abort millions of babies and harvest billions of stem cells, so it looks as though we'll eventually be injecting embryo blood to strengthen our muscles and sharpen our minds. And why not? How exactly is this different from a routine blood transfusion or organ transplant? Since Parliament has determined that babies in the womb are not fully human and stem-cell research is a wholly moral pursuit, does it not make complete sense to use what would otherwise be discarded and incinerated? If it be acceptable to destroy potential life for human convenience, why not for medical expedience to the manifest benefit of those who are living?

Many of us who might object to routine vampirism on religious grounds tend to be quite accepting of stem-cell research in the pursuit of cures for disease: there is no consensus on the dualistic separation of the secular and sacred when it comes to bio ethics. If it be moral to combat neurological illnesses like Parkinson’s, then why not debilitating mental afflictions like Alzheimer's? If we may reverse dementia with infusions of baby blood, what is wrong with bio-engineering a therapy to prevent the onset altogether?

The 'unwanted child' is now a well-established part of or cultural-ethical landscape. Pregnant teenagers and career-minded women are no longer required to sacrifice their personal freedoms for the sake of a baby. Autonomy and individuality are the foundation of our rights, and it is deemed 'inappropriate' in our political discourse to weigh the rights of the woman against those of the unborn child, for the latter has none. The call now is for everyone to do what is right in his or her own eyes, which is a formula for moral chaos and disobedience to God (Deut 12:8; Judg 17:6; 21:25).

We no longer really care when life begins or whether a foetus is a person, not least because such questions are unanswerable both scientifically and scripturally. We may have an opinion or a belief, but morality is besieged by claims and counter-claims of liberation and empowerment, and the religious worldview is unsettled by experience. Life is sacred, yes, but much more when it is our own. And the 'quality of life' is now paramount. So who may reasonably object to the eradication of deformity or the mitigation of mental handicap with the infusion of new blood?
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