Saturday, 15 December 2012

The `debunking' of values and the constraining of freedom

In amongst the reporting about the Government’s proposal to introduce ‘same-sex marriage’ early in the week was the following on the BBC website:
They [sic the Government] also say that teachers “particularly in faith schools will be able to continue to describe their belief that marriage is between a man and woman whilst acknowledging and acting within the new legislative position which enables same sex-couples to get married”.
At first blush this might seem to be a guarantee of the freedom of ‘faith schools’ to teach the views of that particular faith. But in fact it is no such thing.
What the statement says is that teachers will be able to describe their beliefs. In other words they will be able to say, “I believe marriage is such-and-such”. But describing personal beliefs is not the issue and ‘describing’ is not the same as ‘teaching’.
What really matters is that teachers (and therefore presumably the curriculum) will have to “acknowledge and act within the new legislative position”.
In other words, they will be able to describe their own beliefs according to their faith about anything they like, but on this issue they will have to acknowledge the existence of same-sex marriage and they will have to act in accordance with this — which I doubt means they can teach that this is wrong or a biological impossibility or whatever else may come to mind.
Once again, then, the Government is using ‘smoke and mirrors’. Same-sex marriage is being introduced in the name of ‘freedom’ (a freedom of which, according to Maria Miller, all religious groups, even the Church of England, should actually consider availing themselves, since she says [as an Anglican herself] there is  “a really strong argument to be had ... for churches really to be considering the opportunities here”), but the Church of England has (without having been consulted or informed) been singled out, albeit in a traditionalist (I nearly said ‘conservative’) direction.
Then we discover that teachers will be ‘free’ to describe their belief that this is wrong, but they will be required to acknowledge and act according to the new status quo.
This is why the issue is not, in the end, the sex or the marriage, but power. And it is why we should ponder the words of CS Lewis in The Abolition of Man:
Each generation exercises power over its successors: and each, in so far as it modifies the environment bequeathed to it and rebels against tradition, resists and limits the power of its predecessors. In reality, of course, if any one age really attains ... the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power.
Our confused politicians, with their incoherent legislation (Maria Miller spoke repeatedly of ‘civil marriage’ when she was describing opening it up to religious groups) , believe (again in the words of Ms Miller) that they are about to bequeath “one of the momentous changes that this Government will make” — and indeed she is right, but not in the way she thinks.
The real problem beneath all the ballyhoo is that despite human civilizations having believed and acted one way for thousands of years, from whatever date determined by the Government we will all have to ‘reset’ our thinking, even though some of us believe what we are being required to think is unsustainable at the deepest level of reality.
A law-making body which treats human beings in such a way is frankly dangerous to humanity. As Lewis, again, put it, writing in the dark years of the Second World War, when the outcome was by no means settled:
... many a mild-eyed scientist in pince-nez, many a popular dramatist, many an amateur philosopher in our midst, means in the long run just the same as the Nazi rulers of Germany. Traditional values are to be `debunked' and mankind to be cut out into some fresh shape at the will (which must, by hypothesis, be an arbitrary will) of some few lucky people in one lucky generation which has learned how to do it.
Significantly, Lewis’s little book was subtitled, “Reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools.” Rightly he recognized that the most innocent-seeming practices might have far from innocent outcomes, especially if they affected education.
The teacher who must teach what he does not believe is, actually, not a teacher at all but an indocrinator. And if he must teach what the Government tells him to teach against not just his convictions but in contradiction of the previous self-understanding of humanity then we are in a situation about as far away from genuine freedom as one could imagine.
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    1. This is unhistorical nonsense.

      The Welfare State (itself inspired by Abp William Temple) came into being during the 20th century, as the collective wealth of society grew and successive governments took more and more of it in taxation to fund things like the NHS, education, council housing, pensions, etc. Before the State took control of such things, what little welfare and education provision existed came from the Churches. But the cost (as opposed to the benefits of State involvement) has been considerable.

      The Christian vision which shaped the development of the UK as a society governed according to God's law - resulting in the widespread adoption of its welfare provision - is now being obliterated by an entirely different and destructive philosophy, which seeks to reduce human beings to a materialist lowest common denominator, in which all must be "equal" whatever reality might have to say.

      The outcome is a society which is under pressure to abandon its humanity, as human life becomes a mere commodity whose value is defined by arbitrary decisions taken by politicians influenced by little more than the most recent opinion poll. Unborn children? They are just "foetuses" or "potential humans", to be scrapped like unwanted pets at Christmas. Elderly people? "Let's bring in euthanasia, assisted suicide, the Liverpool Care Pathway, and relieve ourselves of the burden - and help ourselves to their estates". Marriage? "Undermine it in every way possible, so that the State rather than the parents teaches children what is good for them."

      What a brave new world!

  2. ‘human civilizations having believed and acted one way for thousands of years’ – you could say the same thing about slavery – indeed it was not until Enlightenment values began to infect Christianity, that Christians thought there was anything wrong with slavery – and it was mainly Non-Conformists and Unitarians that did anything about it, until Wilberforce decided to run with it.

    ‘The teacher who must teach what he does not believe is, actually, not a teacher at all but an indoctrinator.’ What rot – loads of teachers teach what they do not believe.

    Lewis’s appeal to ‘tradition’ is just a load of middle-class elitist nonsense – trying to excuse the power that a small number had in society for no other reason than ‘tradition’ said they should have it. Oddly enough it is flag ship legislation, going through Parliament in the early 40s (e.g. The Education Act 1944) that paved the way for many a reactionary Christian of today to have the education that a generation before they would have been denied.

    I think Christians need to ask WHY reforms were needed. The insinuation here is that it is all a wicked liberal conspiracy - it could just be that people, particularly those coming back from the First and Second World Wars realised that tugging your forelock to the Church and State and factory owner and the traditions they stood for, had just kept them in their place – for the benefit of church, state and plutocrats. Why, if ‘traditional values’ and the Christian religion are so much better for society, was the lot of the vast majority of this nation – in terms of access to health care, education, rights before the law, decent housing, discrimination, race (in short the ‘looking after widows, orphans etc. – a stalwart of biblical morality, but never really achieved until the advent of the secular state – there’s irony...) so much worse when the ‘traditional values reigned and the churches were fuller and the Bible better known?

    It seems to have become a self-magnifying myth, that Christianity has been expunged from society by the actions of an educated, liberal, elite. The fact that it could just be that many people came to the decision Christianity and Christians don’t always come up with the goods, that has resulted in their demotion in social and political affection – but that would be a little too challenging wouldn’t it? So it is better to blame and scoff and not think ‘Did we do (or do we do) anything to deserve our relegation in the ordering of our society?’ It is a challenging but necessary question I think too few of our conservative Christian friends want to ask. Instead they blame this or that aspect of society, never thinking that perhaps if Christianity had been doing what it says on the label, it wouldn’t have lost its place to begin with...

    1. Peter, you ask why a more overtly "Christian" Britain/England didn't enact welfare reforms of various kinds. May it please you to recall that until the industrial revolution the necessary material means were, shall we say, somewhat lacking. Now, that revolution rested on scientific advance which was itself boosted by the Biblical worldview as a number of historians have convincingly demonstrated.

      What has happened since the late 17th century or so is that the bien-pensants have been kicking away the ladder that enabled Europe to get as far as it had, and are currently relying on technology and vast public expenditures to try to compensate for the broad negative effects of societal abandonment of Christian sexual values in particular. But they can't hold off the evil day forever; and the current chronic financial crisis could be the roosting of the flock of chickens....


  3. Peter

    Let us conduct an experiment.

    Take 20 sq miles of Britain. Ideally with a port so lets take a old manufacturing port with high levels of unemployment.

    In that area it would be completely autonomous of UK and EU law and comprise basically of the following…..

    Freedom of Religion

    No income tax

    Small government

    Free press

    Families rewarded.

    Divorce penalised and abortion banned.

    Laws based on the Bible OT and NT with capital punishment for murder and other crimes properly punished.

    You would not need to give it 20 years. After 10 years the rest of Britain would have followed suit or a huge wall would have been built to keep the rest of Britain from trying to move there.

    Your way into the future leads nowhere. It has been tried many times before and has always failed. People are God’s children, they want to be free. The liberals want us to be pawns of the state with no freedom, no God, no honour and no hope.

    Why do you want this? You work it out......


  4. Peter,

    Your comments about Christians ditching slavery are truly troubling. Either you are totally ignorant of history, or you are trying to deliberately mislead people.

    1 Timothy 1, Paul is pretty clear that buying & selling people is en par with murder. Slavery in the OT was not a medium term solution to starving to death (i.e. a form of welfare that you worked for), then one was freed in Jubilee, or opted for slavery. Slavery, as practiced by the Romans & others died out as Christianity grew in Europe, but still existed outside the Christian world, e.g. in Islam. Indeed, there was a law to set foot in England was to be free. So, slaves would escape here. Later, colonial powers exploited slavery & used it again. But it was Evangelical Christians who campagined against it.

    So this "Christians used to think slavery was OK, until they took on the world's ideas" is, frankly, a lie. Some Christians though slavery was OK because they went with the flow. Christians changed the way the world thought about slavery.

    Darren Moore