Friday, August 31, 2007

The Dianafication of Conservatism

On this 10th anniversary of the death of Diana Princess of Wales, Cranmer would like it known that he was rather fond of her. Like all of humanity she was deeply flawed and occasionally foolish, but ultimately she was more sinned against than sinning, and the world became darker for her passing. She is, however, in many respects more powerful in the spirit than she ever was in the flesh, for she has spawned a new phenomenon:

Dianafication: the seeking of a shared and public grief at any given opportunity; the idea that a method of mourning is driven more by selfishness and secularism than by sincerity of emotion; corporate emoting; cumulative and protracted obsession with feelings and intuition.

Her death coincided with the rise to power of the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP, and under his premiership emotion permeated politics. As distasteful as it may frequently have been, it worked. And the Rt Hon David Cameron is following suit, formulating policy and manipulating presentation to accord with the deep-seated feelings and random emotions of ordinary people. It is perhaps intrinsic to postmodernity that logic and reason are complemented by emotion and appeals to the spiritual: politics is no longer the pursuit of policy that works, but policy that feels right. Between the binary pair of logic and emotion, there is an implied hierarchy which is unfounded. In fact this hierarchy is impossible to justify with logic. It is perhaps fused with the reality that politics has historically been a masculine pursuit, a testosterone pastime, and so logic has predominated. But now the pendulum has swung towards emotion, which is not irrelevant to logic, but in excess becomes destructive. Politics demands both to be truly productive: just as it is difficult to be inspired by logic, so is it difficult to be productive purely with emotion. Empathy is no guarantee of sound strategy.

The Conservative Party’s historical focus on the economy, law and order, defence, patriotism, immigration, over-regulation, tax reduction, and their support for private enterprise, are now largely issues which are barely spoken of. They are harsh, masculine, rugged, abrasive, and no longer constitute the stuff of politics. The lions of Trafalgar Square and the British bulldog have been replaced by puppies and teddy bears. Mr Cameron is perpetually walking up and down those same hospital beds where Diana once trod, and he is taking the nation's pulse. When he detects a growing warmth in the blood, a quickening of the heartbeat, he yields to its cause.

It is no longer a matter of formulating the right policy on health, but of moulding the right words to persuade people that you are at one with their sufferings. It is no longer a question of sorting out the appalling state of the nation’s education system, but of appearing relaxed with one’s own children however many poor GCSEs or re-sat A-levels they obtain. Green is the new blue. The promise of no tax cuts is the new compassion. One must be libertarian even if some liberties are malignant, and multi-ethnic culture must prevail even if that divided multi-cultural house cannot stand against itself. Let us eat, drink and be merry, for in decadence are votes, and votes are the key to power. What that power is then to achieve is not the concern of today, and one should cast no cares for the morrow. That is to be focused on a narrow doctrine unintelligible to the sentient and sensitive masses. The politics of sensibility has trumped the politics of common sense.

Yet if this were the right strategy, one might expect it to be working. It ought to be a cause of great concern to Mr Cameron and his strategists that he is facing a landslide defeat with Labour winning a majority of around 100 seats in the House of Commons if the Prime Minister were to call a General Election over the coming months.

David Cameron’s Conservatives are now more about disposition, attitude, and an openness to emotions and spiritual experiences than they are concerned with the traditional core of their philosophy. The Conservative Party has become nothing more than a mood. And this is a great pity, for the Dianafication of Conservatism can have no enduring foundation: it will prove as ephemeral as the tears that were wept a decade ago.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Turkey, Islam, and the EU

Abdullah Gul has been sworn in as Turkey’s president after the vote in parliament, becoming the first former Islamist to win the post in modern history. The presidency is traditionally seen as a bastion of the secular state established by modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1923. The president is chief of the armed forces, with influence over senior appointments - and in the powerful military establishment. Hitherto, Islamists and hijab-wearing wives have not been tolerated.

President Gul said: “As long as I am in office, I will embrace all our citizens without any bias. The Turkish Republic is a democratic, secular, social (state), governed by the rule of law. I will always be determined and resolved to advocate, without discrimination, each of these principles and to further strengthen them at every opportunity… Secularism - one of the main principles of our republic - is a precondition for social peace as much as it is a liberating model for different lifestyles.”

Cranmer hopes that he reminds his recently re-elected prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of these values, for in 1999 he said: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers..."

All this as it appears that Turkey path to the European Union is being made straight. Despite fundamentally irreconcilable differences between Christian and Islamic values, President Sarkozy has softened his stance, and, despite grave warnings, so has Pope Benedict XVI. Is it all simply part of one profoundly dangerous experiment to try to forge a Euro-Islam?

Is it down to Edward Leigh MP to save Europa from herself?

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Austria to limit building of mosques

It is reported that Austria’s Joerg Haider, governor of Carinthia, is planning to prevent mosques and minarets being constructed in his home province. It is his contention that planning laws should take into account ‘religious and cultural tradition’, when dealing with construction requests. He said: ‘We don't want a clash of cultures and we don't want institutions which are alien to our culture being erected in Western Europe.’

Now this is interesting. There is no transgression of human rights legislation because Muslims will still be free to practise Islam, and prayer rooms in buildings may be as abundant as required. What is noteworthy is the objection to the symbolism of mosques and minarets being built to ‘advertise the power of Islam’.

This has been the concern behind the colossal new London mosque planned for the site of the Olympics. In magnitude it will be bigger than St Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, and its location will bring the eyes of the world upon it in 2012. It is considered by many to be an overtly political statement and a religious assertion of supremacy, and petitions have been signed by thousands to halt the proposal.

But neither Herr Haider’s objections nor the petition against the London mosque are likely to realise their objectives. There is no will in the West to contend either for two thousand years of culture or religion. There is simply acquiescence, accommodation, compliance, deference, and, ultimately, submission.

There is, of course, no reciprocity. While Muslims may build their mosques even in the Royal Parks of the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, Christians may not build churches in Islamic lands. And where they exist, they are firebombed, vandalised, and believers live in fear of the consequences of daring to follow their Lord. And the West utters not a word.

Even as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia bans visitors from all items and articles belonging to religions other than Islam, there is no objection from any Western government. If you are visiting Islam’s holiest land, you may no longer take your Bible, even for your own devotional purposes. There is also a ban on crosses, crucifixes, statues, carvings, and items with religious symbols such as the Star of David. They will be confiscated, permanently.

Pace Herr Haider, could one ever conceive of the West banning mosques, Qur’ans, crescent moons, and prayer mats?

Daniel Pipes has a strategy for dealing with the Saudi government. He suggests that until they change their ‘detestable policy’, its airline should be disallowed from flying into Western airports. Cranmer would go further, and demand of Western governments that they cease diplomatic relations and all trade agreements with a country which the United States has termed ‘among the most religiously repressive in the world’. But, of course, it is about oil. The land which spawned Osama bin Laden, and spreads the Wahhabi poison throughout the world and into the mosques of the United Kingdom, is ultimately untouchable.

Reciprocity may well be requested of equals, but when there is an ascendant power, with a victor and a vanquished in sight, reciprocity is simply a nice word for political consumption, and a vain dream of self delusion.

Monday, August 27, 2007

‘There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger’ balls

One has to pity the US forces in Afghanistan. A simple attempt to spread a little goodwill through the universal language of football – which is variously considered by its adherents to be akin to a religion if not a political struggle - is bearing all the hallmarks of becoming a major international incident.

They stand accused of ‘insulting Islam’ for distributing footballs bearing the name of Allah. It is reminiscent of ‘Allah’ on Nike trainers or Burger King ice cream. But in this case they were damned if they do, and damned if they don’t, for the name of Allah flies regularly from flagpoles all over Saudi Arabia, and Cranmer has never heard complaints that he has been hoist aloft and hung out in all weathers. To have omitted the Saudi flag would also have been an insult, so the whole design of the ball is an example of US ‘insensitivity’.

The flag features the Shahada, the Islamic declaration of faith: ‘There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger’ – and people were going to kick it…

And now the Mullahs of Afghanistan are leading demonstrations against ‘the West’.

Cranmer finds this a little rude. The footballs were intended as gifts for the children, and when one is in receipt of a gift, the normal rules of social etiquette demand that one politely accepts it even if it is destined for the dustbin. But not when you’re dealing with Mohammedan Mullahs. They could have chosen to politely point out the insensitivity, on the quiet, permitting a subtle withdrawal and rectification. But no, they are marching, shouting, and protesting, and will no doubt soon be burning effigies and killing someone.

Where in Islam might Christians purposely look for offence where none (presumably) is intended?

Sunday, August 26, 2007

And now – EU teacher training

Some teachers kick a ball or play at Blue Peter; others are exemplary pedagogical practitioners of the cerebral kind. But hitherto, their training and professional development has been monitored and controlled by various agencies ultimately accountable to the British Government and to Parliament. According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (6 August 2007), the European Commission has expressed concern at what it says are severe gaps in the training and education of teachers in the EU. Their knowledge is ‘out of date’ and ‘inadequate’, for instance where the use of computers or their knowledge of language is concerned. The Commission has therefore suggested improvements to the teacher training programmes across the Union. The Education commissar in Brussels, Jan Figel, said that high levels of education were the key to Europe’s future competitivity (sic) and that highly-qualified teaching staff were necessary so that the European educational system could be successfully reformed. Mr Figer pointed out that ongoing training of teachers was the rule only in eleven Member States. Nowhere does this training consist of more than five days per year and in most cases fewer than twenty hours a year are set aside for teacher training. This is, apparently, insufficient.

Not content with infiltrating the curriculum of pupils, the EU is intent on manipulating the training of those who deliver it. The use of the ‘competitivity’ argument to justify Commission interference in an area which is obviously the preserve of the member states is an example of how the Commission will always find a way to extend its powers.

Along with today's Times, Cranmer demands a referendum on this whole EU project. It has gone too far.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

EU divided along religious lines

The Spectator carried an article a few weeks ago which fell under Cranmer’s aegis, yet more pressing priorities stole it away. It was concerning the role of religion in the formulation of ethical codes for scientific research, and it is evidence, if any were needed, that Europe’s divisions are and always have been deeper than mere issue of economics or politics.

While the focus remains on the impending not-a-constitution Reform Treaty of 2007, one minor footnote has been largely ignored: footnote 18 to the proposed draft wording for a replacement of Article 6 on fundamental rights. It is termed a ‘Unilateral Declaration by Poland’, and states quite clearly that the ‘Charter does not affect in any way the right of Member States to legislate in the sphere of public morality, family law as well as the protection of human dignity and respect for human physical and moral integrity.’

This is quite a significant issue to deal with in a mere footnote; indeed, it is of such great significance that it ought to have be included in the main body of text. One can only assume that those who drew up the not-a-constitution Reform Treaty intended that it would not be spotted, but (as ever) the Devil is in the detail.

The Spectator notes that ‘the protection of human dignity and respect for human physical and moral integrity’ is EU-speak for bans on new medical areas such as embryonic stem cell research, gene therapy and even the latest breakthrough, RNA (ribonucleic acid). The ‘Unilateral Declaration by Poland’ is designed to ensure that EU member states will remain free to ban such research, fearful, as they were (and are) that the new voting arrangements threaten to trample over their liberties to legislate upon such matters.

Opposition to controversial stem cell research usually emanates from the religiously conservative. For the vast majority of Jews, Christians and Muslims, an embryo is a person, or at least a potential person whose potential ought not to be extinguished for the sake of expedience. Since Abraham, Jesus, and Mohammed were at one time embryos, one might understand why Roman Catholic bishops have decreed that such research is ‘immoral, illegal and unnecessary’.

Yet for Roman Catholics it is universally taught and generally accepted that euthanasia, abortion, and the creation for research purposes of human embryos, are ‘evil’. This was the expressed opinion of John Paul II, and Benedict XVI has since added that the destruction of human embryos to harvest stem cells is ‘not only devoid of the light of God but is also devoid of humanity’. In those countries where Rome is strong, stem cell research will remain banned.

But the Roman Catholic Church, acting through staunchly Catholic countries like Poland, is not merely contending against the EU’s secular-scientific-atheism; Protestants generally have a much more utilitarian view of such ethical issues, as if there were some Kantian moral imperative with transcends the transcendent, and among the Muslims there are also divergent views, with the majority holding that embryonic stem cell research is permissible provided that the motive is the amelioration of human health. Cranmer could not help but smile at The Spectator’s principal observation:

Powerful opposition…coincides with a strong church. It should not therefore be surprising that a country such as Britain, with some of the most ineffectual religious leadership, has some of the most permissive research laws.

Protestant Europe and Catholic Europe will therefore contend against each other on this one. The irony, of course, is that the moment discoveries are made and cures are found in the Protestant parts, all of those Polish Roman Catholics will board their planes and fly to an EU country where treatment is legal. And it is mainly the wealthy who will be able to take advantage of the fact that EU citizens may elect to be treated wherever they wish, when denied treatment in their own countries. Where is the privilege for the poor in that?

Friday, August 24, 2007

Iraq and the genocide of Assyrian Christians

It is perhaps one of the great ironies of the whole Iraq debacle that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair - two of the most avowedly Christian leaders of recent times – should have created a situation which has not only destabilised the entire region, but imperils the very existence of Assyrian Christians. In the liberation of the majority Shi’ia from their Sunni oppressors, the Christians, who once lived and worshipped freely under the regime of Saddam Hussain, now face genocide in their own country at the hands of determined Islamist fanatics. The Rev Canon Andrew White, vicar of the 1300-strong St George’s Anglican Church in Baghdad, recently spoke in Washington, and said: “The situation is more than desperate. The Coalition has failed the Christians. We have done nothing to support the Christian community or the increased Christian suffering.”

Cranmer is indebted to his correspondent Latimer for the information that follows:

Christians are being cleansed from their ancient neighbourhoods and villages by roving bands of terrorists and criminals. Muslim families swiftly move into the abandoned homes. According to Major General Benjamin Mixon, commander of US forces in northern Iraq, ‘this is an act of ethnic cleansing…almost genocide’. While Sunni and Shi’ia may be blowing each other up, they are united in targeting the Christians, and seek to cleanse them from Iraq in accordance with their respective interpretations of political Islam.

The irony of their situation is that Assyrian Christians are perceived by the ignorant Sunni and Shi’ia as being agents of the West; collaborators with the occupying forces. In fact, their presence in the region predates Islam by some 700 years. Assyrians are Semitic cousins of the Jews: ‘Parthians’ were present on the day of Pentecost and became the first nation to adopt Christianity as their state religion in AD 179, more than a century before Armenia. They claim to have been the first to build churches and to translate the New Testament from Greek into their vernacular Aramaic, the language of Christ. Learned Assyrian Christians kept Greek science and technology alive while Europe lurched through the Dark Ages. For over a thousand years since the Muslim conquest of their homeland, Assyrians have lived in relative peace in the region. They have been second-class citizens of various caliphates, and there have been interludes of active persecution. But for the past 150 years, martyrdom has been their fate. In 1915, the Turkish junta viciously murdered some 750,000 Assyrian Christians and 1.5 million Armenians. Turkey has still not acknowledged this atrocity; indeed, it is a criminal offence to do so. Prior to 1915, Christians were 20% of Iraq’s population; today they are barely 2%.

Most Assyrians are members of the Chaldean rite aligned with Rome, but there are also Syrian Orthodox and Nestorians, the first Christians to reach China. Services at St George’s in Baghdad are attended by many who now have no other church in which they may worship, since so many have been bombed and their clergy and congregants abducted for ransom or ritualistically murdered. Canon White noted that his church members are not only Anglicans, but Christians from many different denominations. Within just the last month, 36 of his own congregants have been kidnapped, and only one has been freed after payment of the ransom.

The Chaldean Patriarch, Emmanuel III Delly, has estimated that as many as half of Iraq's 750,000 Christians have fled the country since the US-led invasion of March 2003. The majority of the remaining Christians live in Dora, a neighbourhood of southwest Baghdad, where they are increasingly terrorised by Sunnis. If they want to live, they must convert. If they refuse, they must pay the jizya – the ‘dhimmi tax’ – or be killed. The sum fixed by al-Qaeda operatives has set this tax at $1,600 per person.

Iraq's outnumbered Christians and other religious minority groups are targets of an unremitting terror campaign, and face daily murders and rapes. Archbishop Emmanuel III Delly has said of the situation that it is ‘Open persecution, as in the early centuries of the Church’. Priests are being beheaded, boys are being crucified, girls are being raped…

And where in the media is this being reported, and what is the West doing about it?

Nowhere, and nothing.

They should read Hebrews 13:3, and consider 1Corinthians 12:26. And then ask why they pour billions of dollars into liberating the oppressed Muslims of Bosnia or the oppressed Muslims of Iraq, yet lift not a finger for the oppressed Christians of Assyria.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Calls for the Qur’an to be banned

Cranmer's communicant Mr Wrinkled Weasel has brought to his attention a report by Al Jazeera. Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch far-right Freedom Party, has called for the Qur’an to be banned because it is a ‘fascist book’ which ‘calls on Muslims to oppress, persecute or kill Christians, Jews, dissidents and non-believers, to beat and rape women and to establish an Islamic state by force’. In comparing the Muslim holy book to Mein Kampf, Mr Wilders insists that the Quran has ‘no place in our constitutional state’.

And if his message were not clear enough, he helpfully elucidates, declaring: ‘I am fed up with Islam in the Netherlands: no more Muslim immigrants allowed. I am fed up with the worship of Allah and Muhammad in the Netherlands: no more mosques’.

Cranmer is not in favour of banning books; they should conquered with the pen. It is possible to break down and deconstruct all manner of nonsense and falsehood in reasoned discourse, and banning things tends only to exacerbate the martyr complex. Persuasion, not force, is the guiding light of Christianity, and the hope of civilization. It is love and passion which produce literature and debate, and through the application of the intellectual mind and the spiritual heart may truth be sought and found. We have not spent centuries overcoming fascism and tyranny, shining a beacon of liberty to the world, only to render ourselves no better than the fascism and tyranny we conquered.

The principle of a list of forbidden books was adopted at the Fifth Lateran Council in 1515, and confirmed by the Council of Trent in 1546. The first edition of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum was dated 1557 and published by Pope Paul IV. Over the years, as it has been revised and updated, the Vatican has sought to ban inter alia Abelard, Erasmus, Machiavelli, Calvin, Milton, Locke, Hume, Kant, Mill, Montaigne, Descartes, Pascal, Voltaire, Rousseau, Diderot, Sade, Stendhal, Balzac, Hugo, Gide, Sartre…

And where has it got them?

And if one were to ban the Qur’an for its distaste and violence, the Old Testament would not be far behind. There are those who see in it pornography, smut, incest, gang rape, homosexual rape, voyeurism, fornication, adultery…

Self sexual-mutilation (Mt 19:12); exhibitionism/flashing (2Sam 6:20); sexual intercourse in public (2Sam 12:11f; 16:21f); sexual slavery (Judges 21:7, 12); incitement to beheading (1Sam 17:50f); glorified killing (1 Sam 29:5); occupation of land (Deut 4:38); and all manner of disgusting perversions, like scat (eating human faeces [Ezek 4:12f]) and water sports (drinking urine [2Kgs 18:27]).

No, indeed, there can be no end to the banning of books…

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Garda Sikh banned from wearing turban

In a welcome departure from things Islamic, Cranmer’s loyal communicant Mr Bob has brought his attention to this religio-political nugget from the Republic of Ireland. It appears that a young Sikh Irishman wanted to serve his country in law enforcement, but has been told by the Garda that ‘immigrants to this country must accept our culture…people who come here must understand our way of doing things’.

Hmm…

The thing is, this young man is not an immigrant; he is Irish born and bred. It was in response to the very specific calls on minority races and communities in Ireland to volunteer for garda service that he decided to apply, and this condition was not disclosed prior to his application. And now he simply wishes to wear a turban to cover his long uncut hair (kesh) which is a sign of his commitment to his religion. Of course the origins were more to do with the practicalities of keeping all that hair neat and tidy, but the 5Ks developed into a Sikh orthodoxy, and (much to the chagrin of Guru Nanak) another ‘-ism’ was born. They are not supposed to shave either, but most young Sikhs conveniently ignore this.

Cranmer has some sympathy for this young man. Turbans are worn by Sikh police officers elsewhere, most notably in Britain and in the United States, and Sikhs are also exempt from wearing crash helmets on motorbikes. Compromise on such matters has historically been a part of the British approach – epitomised by pragmatism – and the Sikhs have, almost without exception, been loyal, faithful, and law-abiding members of their communities and wholly respectful of tradition and culture.

But this young man has been told he must remove his turban and wear a garda cap.

Amidst the predictable accusations of ‘racism’, Minister of State Mr Conor Lenihan believes it is the exact opposite. He says: “If we're to take integration seriously, people who come here must understand our way of doing things. When the President and Ministers travel to the Middle East, they accept cultural requirements of the country and the culture they are operating in. It is a vice versa situation with regard to Ireland."

It is true the Her Majesty the Queen wears a veil in Muslim countries, she removes her shoes when entering gurdwaras and mosques (in her own country), and even wears black when meeting the Pope. And yet she is Supreme Governor of the Church of England. It is one thing to bow to the religious and cultural mores of other traditions when one is in their jurisdiction, but quite another when they are in hers.

So Cranmer is pondering today, before we have Muslim doctors and teachers and police wearing burkhas (-for the day is surely not far off-), that maybe the Garda is right not to compromise on this. A uniform is supposed to be, err… uniform. As BA discovered, when one allows one exemption, one is obliged to permit a myriad of others. And in today’s postmodern mish-mash of relativist spirituality, with Jedi Knights on the ascendancy, Cranmer is a little worried at the thought of members of the Metropolitian Police being permitted to carry lightsabres.

Yet at least in the Garda this Sikh young man is permitted be Sikh: in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, he would, like all non-Roman Catholics, be classified as Protestant.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Chief Rabbi: ‘The Jewish people and the Anglican Church should join forces’

In an article for the Church Times, one of Cranmer’s communicants, Dr Irene Lancaster, has set out comprehensively why the roots of Zionism matter. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the two Chief Rabbis of Israel, Shlomo Amar and Yonah Metzger, signed an historic agreement almost a year ago which set out a framework for continual dialogue. Archbishop Williams said: "This is a most significant step in developing mutual understanding and trust between the Anglican Communion and the Chief Rabbinate and worldwide Judaism."

The signatories agreed on the need for a sense of urgency in the search for long-term peace, justice, and security in the Middle East in general, and in Israel and the Palestinian Territories in particular. This should include, they said, both the physical infrastructure, and the emotional and psychological relations of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim believers.

The text of the agreement mentions the ‘all too many times of violence and persecution by Christians of Jews’. Importantly, it celebrates the fact that ‘the United Kingdom, encouraged by its Christian community, was involved in the origins of the State of Israel’. It continues:

‘Among our profound concerns is the rise of anti-Semitism in Britain and the rest of Europe, in the Middle East and across the world… Where it is fostered by governments or political parties, we will openly oppose it…recognising that there have been times when the Church has been complicit in it.’

Importantly, Chief Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, the chairman for interfaith relations of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Council, defined as blasphemous the idea of divine sanction for suicide and homicide as a ‘religious’ sacrifice.

That won’t go down very well in some quarters…

He continued: "Unfortunately, we continue to witness in Israel, Britain, and elsewhere, people who think they are serving God by killing people. Therefore, it is imperative for us - the Jewish people and the Anglican Church - to join forces to combat those religious leaders who purport to be speaking in the name of God, but who are actually preaching bloodshed and terror.”

Hmm…

Cranmer can hardly wait. He hopes they have more luck than Channel 4, but half expects the Archbishop and Chief Rabbi to be reported by the police and a file sent to the CPS accusing them of incitement.

The Chief Rabbi acknowledges: “The Palestinians have their cultural and religious rights. However, the religious rights of the Jewish people cannot be sacrificed. Although religion can be a source of tension, it may also prove to be the principal vehicle through which a solution may be found. We are meant to live together here, and to love and respect each other… Zionism is therefore not merely a relatively recent political movement, but a religious injunction incumbent on all Jews.”

As Dr Lancaster observes: ‘The true meaning of Zionism, as described here, has not always been understood by those in the Church of England. She quotes from the Revd Dr James Parkes’ A History of the Jewish People:

The roots of Zionism are to be found…everywhere and in every century of Jewish history. One thing has been constant - a determination to maintain roots in the 'Promised Land'. Much of the modern discussions of Zionism would have been clearer if this had been realised. It was no case of “Jews returning to a land they had left two thousand years ago”. As a people, they had never left it either physically or spiritually…All through the centuries Jews had intended to return to it.

It is brave indeed of Archbishop Williams to be party to a declaration which fuses ‘secular’ Zionism with the deeply spiritual Jewish desire to live in the Holy Land. Cranmer just wonders what he’ll say the next time he meets the various and disparate leaders of Islam in the UK…

Monday, August 20, 2007

Normal service will be resumed…

…when this has died down:

20 Aug, Mon, 18:53:18 Google: itv muslim jesus
20 Aug, Mon, 18:55:34 Google: muslim religion dress code swimming
20 Aug, Mon, 18:57:17 Google: hindus funerals uk
20 Aug, Mon, 18:58:23 Google: the muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:00:35 Google: the muslim jesus tv documentary
20 Aug, Mon, 19:01:11 Google: muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:02:33 Google: "the muslim jesus"
20 Aug, Mon, 19:02:44 Google: the muslim jesus, ITV
20 Aug, Mon, 19:02:46 Google: muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:02:51 Google: itv the muslim jesus
20 Aug, Mon, 19:03:20 Google: muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:08:15 Google: jesus muslim itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:10:13 Google: the muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:10:44 Google: itv programme jesus
20 Aug, Mon, 19:10:56 Google: the muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:13:07 Google: ITV muslm juses
20 Aug, Mon, 19:13:11 Google: muslim jesus on itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:14:35 Google: the muslim jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:20:32 Google: jesus itv
20 Aug, Mon, 19:22:23 Google: ITV The Muslim Jesus

This Google read-out is indicative of the cause of His Grace’s record-breaking statistics for unique visitors, which reached 1240 in one day. He apologise to his regular Communicants that threads have been somewhat ‘hijacked’ (sorry…). The words ‘The’, ‘Muslim’ and ‘Jesus’, now rank among the most frequent search terms, and only ‘Cranmer’ has parity. 'Muslim' has supplanted 'Catholic', and 'Protestant' is nowhere to be seen.

August is supposed to be the ‘silly season’ and a quiet month, but for Cranmer it is looking to be record-breaking. With 'Muslim' on the ascendancy, it marks the end of an era for 'Catholic' and 'Protestant'...

Muslim outrage at ‘Jihad – the musical’

Cranmer has been waiting for a ‘quiet day’ to comment on this. It is not very often that his religio-political antennae are drawn to the Arts, but this show on the Edinburgh Fringe is presently playing to packed houses, and it was the incongruous juxtaposition of ‘Jihad’ with ‘musical’ that made him hope that one day we might have ‘Mohammed – the musical’.

Well why not? Christians have previously endured a clown messiah in ‘Godspel’, and a loser messiah in ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, and it is perhaps a mark of a grown-up religion that one can examine issues of faith with irreverence and a sense of humour, not least because we have a God who smiles and laughs (Pss 2:4; 59:8), and one who fills the mouths of believers with laughter (Job 8:21; Ps 126:1-3). So if there is to be parity (as opposed to supremacy), why not have ‘Mo – the musical’? Or does the Allah of the Qur’an have no sense of humour?

Unsurprisingly, ‘Jihad - the musical’ has caused ‘fury’ among many Muslims, and there is even a petition to 10 Downing Street demanding that the Prime Minister intervene and ban the show.

Others have noted, and Cranmer accords, that while all this Muslim outrage is directed towards ‘Jihad – the musical’, there is scarcely a whimper from them on ‘Jihad - the reality’.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

ITV to broadcast ‘The Muslim Jesus’

Today is the Lord's Day, but never mind that. Tonight, at 11.15, ITV will broadcast the story of the Islamic Jesus – a man born of a virgin, and a man who performed miracles, but there was no crucifixion and no resurrection. Yet there is a Second Coming, when he shall descend in the clouds as a Muslim to destroy the Jews and 'the swine'.

In a documentary which professes to contrast the Jesus of the Bible with the Isa of the Qur’an, they dare to boast that ‘the two faiths have more in common than most people realise’. There will, of course, be nothing objective about the historical evidence for the crucifixion and resurrection: the documentary will unashamedly portray Jesus as Muslims see him, and use the Qur’an as its primary source material, completely and conveniently ignoring the fact that it was ‘revealed’ centuries after Jesus lived and the Gospels were penned. The accounts of the real primary material are thereby rubbished, and Jesus’ divinity is denied. It is both blasphemous and offensive to Christians the length and breadth of the country, but as long as it’s not blasphemous for Muslims, everything’s alright.

The programme is directed and produced by one Irshad Ashraf, and was commissioned (and is narrated by) Melvyn Bragg, a member of the Anglican ecclesial community. Lord Bragg, it seems, was ‘fascinated by the idea’. His hope is that it will ‘provoke among Muslims the feeling they are included in television’. You can alienate the Christians, but as long as the Muslims feel included, everything’s alright.

The Guardian reports that ‘Representatives from mainstream Anglican and Catholic organisations were invited to take part in the film…but nobody was available’.

Nobody available? From the spiritual and theological centres of Westminster and Canterbury, from the bishoprics to the academic faculties of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church nobody was available? What are these people doing with their time? Are they all at home washing their hair, eating dinner in front of the television, or writing yet another article condemning gay bishops? Have they any sense of their priorities that, given a chance to witness to the gospel on national television, to be apologists for the truth of the crucifixion and resurrection, they are ‘not available’?

One Anglican has, however, entered the fray. Canon Patrick Sookhdeo, a convert from Islam to Christianity in 1969, said: "How would the Muslim community respond if ITV made a programme challenging Muhammad as the last prophet?’ He asserts that the Qur’an’s denial of Jesus's divinity is ‘unacceptable’, not least because at his Second Coming it says he will destroy all the crosses.

Christians ought to be besieging ITV headquarters and demanding a documentary on the alternative view to the hagiographical Islamic account of the life of Mohammed. One that might examine (impartially and objectively, of course) the historical assertions that he was a mass murderer, a torturer, rapist, child molester, thief, and a liar; that he was not a prophet, and that he plagiarised vast sections of the Qur’an from contemporary literature, and developed ‘Islam’ out of the primitive worship of a pagan moon god.

If one may broadcast a blasphemous documentary on the Qur’anic view of Jesus, then a fortiori ought one to be allowed to broadcast one on the biblical view of Mohammed, which would have to assert that he was not merely not the last prophet; he was not a prophet at all. Indeed, he manifests all the attributes of what the Bible terms a false prophet and an antichrist:

Who is the liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist that denieth the Father and the Son (1Jn 2:22).

But after the broadcast, Cranmer hopes the police and the CPS will investigate, and will report ITV to Ofcom for biased editing...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Lord Deedes 1913 – 2007

Communicants and readers must excuse His Grace for a while as he mourns the passing of his long-time friend, Bill Deedes. His contribution both to journalism and politics was profound, indeed, he might rightly be recognised as one of the original Compassionate Conservatives of the 20th century. As Charles Moore observes: 'He believed that God commanded the fortunate to help the unfortunate, and he discharged this duty cheerfully'. He was a committed Roman Catholic, a faith which grounded his politics and informed his journalism, and it was a subject he discussed with His Grace at very great length on a number of occasions. His Grace shall remember these politico-theological discussions with very great fondness.

The world has dimmed with his passing. As His Grace mourns privately, and (if truth be told) sheds a tear, he asks Communicants to bear with him.

It would, however, be remiss of His Grace to leave his beloved flock with nothing as he indulges his grief, so here is what the Noble Lord recently had to say about Islam.

No God but Allah?

Cranmer was not intending to comment on this facile contribution to Muslim-Christian relations, but so many of his Communicants have pleaded with him to do so that he has no option but to feed his flock.

This is Bishop Martinus Muskens of Breda in the Netherlands, who has suggested that Christians should refer to God as Allah as it would promote better relations with Muslims. “God doesn’t mind what he’s called,” he said. “Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years. In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?”

Bishop Muskens admitted that he did not think his suggestion would be welcomed readily and that it would take about 100 years before Catholics would feel comfortable calling God ‘Allah’.

Cranmer is not sure that Western Roman Catholics will ever ‘feel comfortable’ with the proposal, but at this rate calling God ‘Allah’ may eventually have a degree of compulsion to it, and it is not going to take a century to get there. There is an acutely political dimension to the Bishop’s comments, not least because the Netherlands is only a few decades away from a Muslim majority, and Bishop Muskens is simply doing his John-the-Baptist act and making straight the highway.

But does God mind what he is called? What’s in a name?

Firstly, Cranmer notes that Martinus Muskens is also known as Tiny Muskens, so there may be something there which is indicative of his intellect or theological understanding. But the name of God is rather more significant, and in that revelation it is manifest that God does care what he is called.

And God spake all these words, saying, I am the LORD (Heb. ‘YHWH’) thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other Gods before me (Ex 20: 1-3).

And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you… this is my name forever, and this is my memorial to all generations (Ex3:14f).

The Bishop is right to point out that Christians throughout Arabia would use the name ‘Allah’, not least because it has come to be simply the Arabic term for God. But this was not revealed to Mohammed: the term predates his era and that of the Qur’an. Allah was in fact a Babylonian moon god, one of a pantheon of gods. Over the centuries he came to be the chief god and then the only god. Of course, most Muslims refute this, but they are largely ignorant of etymology, the evolution of language, cultural history, and textual criticism. And those who dare to delve into such areas as the ‘satanic verses’ either lose their heads or end up with a fatwa on their heads.

The use of ‘Alla’ for Arab Christians has always been as natural as ‘Dieu’ is for the French or ‘Gott’ is for the Germans. But ‘God’ is a job description, not a name. For Jews and Christians the name of God is revealed and he has made himself known; for Muslims he is unknown and unknowable. For Jews and Christians God is immanent and is their Father; for Muslims he is transcendent and not intimately related. For Christians God is revealed in Jesus, the Son of God; for Muslims God is one and has no partners.

Unfortunately, this Roman Catholic bishop who would have spent three years studying philosophy and a further four being steeped in theology (they train longer and much more thoroughly than the Anglicans…), completely misunderstands or chooses to entirely ignore the missio dei expounded so clearly in the New Testament. The entire story of the Early Church is dominated by the profound difficulties inherent in communicating a Hebrew messiah to a Greek audience. The modern Western world lives with the consequences of fusing Greek philosophy with Christian theology, which is why Jewish Christians tend to have a very different christology from Christians in the West. Christianity adapts to culture, but its central truths are immutable.

For Christians in the West to call God ‘Allah’ is nothing but dhimmitude. And what of reciprocity? Might we ask the Muslims to call Jesus the Son of God? No, of course not: the compromise is one way. And the problem is that ‘Allah’ does not now simply mean ‘God’: it has come to symbolise a distinct theology, and a particular doctrine of God. The connotations are salvation through works by adherence to law, absolute and unquestioning submission, and a complete absence of grace. Islam is intolerant of other faiths, and insensitive to cultural diversity. For many in the West, Allah is vindictive, oppressive, and his name has become the battle cry of terrorists and murderers. For Christians to use the term in a Western context would therefore be what St Paul termed 'foolishness to the Greeks'. If the gospel is already foolishness to those who are being lost, the use of 'Allah' to reveal the saving grace of Jesus would be a further hurdle to overcome, an offence, a stumbling block. Here, where nomenclature is so important, it clearly matters what one calls God, and to get the term wrong is to risk the salvation of souls.

Our Father in Heaven, the one who asked that we call him Abba, Father, is manifestly not of the same ontology as the Allah of the Qur’an. One might just as well propose that churches be called mosques, Christians be called Muslims, and pretend in a pluralist Hickian kind of way that it doesn’t really matter because God is really an elephant and no-one sees the whole creature - Muslims have a leg and Christians have a tusk and Jews have got the trunk, but the greater truth is in the whole, which no-one sees.

Except, of course, for Bishop Muskens, who appears to have grabbed hold of the penis.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Enforcing the unenforceabilty of forced marriages

There are distinct attitudes expressed toward women by many Asian men which have little to do with equality or respect. They have certain cultural norms which are, shall we say, at variance with the traditions and customs of the United Kingdom. One of these is ‘forced marriage’, in which girls as young as 13 are forcibly carted off by their parents, grandparents, uncles and brothers to Pakistan, Bangladesh or India, where they meet their intended husband for the first time. They marry, return to the UK where his immigration status is regularised by virtue of the union, produce children, and the process is repeated generation after generation. Many forced marriages within the Pakistani Muslim community are aimed at providing British citizenship to a distant member of the family presently living in Pakistan, and the marriage is perceived to be a matter of duty and honour.

It is estimated that around 1000 British teenage girls endure forced marriages every year. A quarter of these manage to contact the Forced Marriages Unit of the FCO, but the other 750 are effectively kidnapped and coerced, and their plight largely forgotten by society. There is one brave charity which deals with the most common consequence of forced marriages - domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse, - but the Southall Black Sisters are despised by many in the Asian community for their interference in private family matters, and for betraying their cultural heritage. There are other brave souls, but they operate on the outer fringes of their communities.

The Conservative Party has decided to tackle this issue head-on, irrespective of the offence it might cause to many Asians, and indeed the damage that accusations of ‘racism’ might do to David Cameron’s Conservatives as they seek to impose a notion of ‘Britishness’. The intention is to make forced marriages ultimately unenforceable.

Good. Multicultural sensitivity is no excuse for moral blindness.

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green is going to insist that anyone planning to marry outside the UK will have to register their intentions, and disclose the name of their fiancé before leaving the country. The reasoning is that this would prevent girls being taken abroad ‘for a holiday’, only to find themselves being forcibly married off. They are too scared to object, and many are genuinely terrified of the very real possibility of being killed for bringing ‘dishonour’ upon the family.

Mr Green said: ‘It is the extreme and unacceptable end of the clash of values between a plural democracy that values individual human rights and belief systems that regard women as second-class.' His view is that the girls would be protected because ‘if they are not persuaded of the merits of their potential husband they can delay knowing that time is on their side’.

Hmmm…

Cranmer believes this to be hopelessly naïve. While the intentions are honourable, and the pursuit of justice admirable, Mr Green has absolutely no idea of the intolerable pressures many of these young teenage girls endure. And neither does he grasp the Asian view of the family nor understand that many will find a hundred ways around these flimsy proposals.

The vast majority of teenage Asian girls and boys (for they are just as susceptible, and often the forgotten victims of this practice) are persuaded from a very early age of the virtues of ‘religious duty’ and ‘family honour’. These override all else. No Asian girl or boy goes abroad for ‘a holiday’ without there being months of family polite chit-chat of how ‘it might be time to think about marriage’. Asian teenagers are no more stupid than their Caucasion peers: they will know that a ‘holiday’ to Pakistan is likely to involve a wedding, and they are likely to have confided this to their closest school friends.

If the law is changed to force the disclosure of a name with a simple statement of intent, this will cause these Asian families very little difficulty. A name does not reveal ‘the merits of their potential husband’, and there is nothing in these proposals to make a period of ‘engagement’ in any sense obligatory. The teenage victims will still be just as scared and just as terrified of the consequences of bringing dishonour upon their families. They will, therefore, obey their elders. And if they do not obey, they will be 'assisted' to do so.

Mr Green makes clear that the Conservative Party has no problem with arranged marriages, and he insists these are distinct from those which are forced because of the consent that is given by both contracting parties. While this may be so for very many Asian teenagers, ‘arranged marriages’ for many more are just as forced, so much so that ‘arranged’ is but a euphemism for ‘forced’. When is this consent forcibly extracted? What pressure is there to consent? How do teenage girls resist the bullying of their fathers, brothers and uncles? And how does one define ‘forced’? One person’s ‘encouragement’, or ‘assistance’, may quite easily be perceived by someone else as force, coercion or obligation.

Perhaps the inadequacy of the proposals is better understood when it is considered that one of the Conservative Party’s principal advisers on the policy is the new shadow cabinet minister for Community Affairs, Sayeeda Warsi.

Baroness Warsi herself was 'obliged' to have an ‘arranged’ marriage, to which, no doubt, she gave her unqualified consent.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Round II: Roman Catholics besieged by Sexual Orientation Regulations

It didn’t take long. Indeed, Cranmer is quite surprised by the speed with which the Sexual Orientation Regulations are proving manifestly corrosive for religious liberties of the United Kingdom, and for individual freedom of conscience. The laws were rushed through Parliament just six months ago, when Cardinal Cormac Murphy O’Connor led the campaign of concern in the media, threatening the Government with an ultimatum. The Catholic adoption agencies would close, he said, rather than be obliged by statute to place children with homosexual couples.

And close they have - two so far, and doubtless others will follow. One has to hope and pray that adoption agencies which favour gay adoptive parents will be just as assiduous in placing thousands of problem teenagers, as the Catholic adoption agencies have done over the years.

But the effects of the Sexual Orientation Regulations do not stop there.

The headmaster of a Roman Catholic school in Liverpool has decided to enter into a ‘civil partnership’ with his male partner, confronting directly the orthodox teaching of the church, and challenging the view of Pope Benedict XVI that civil partnerships are ‘anarchic’ and a danger to the family. Yet despite the views of the school governors, parents, and many of the faithful, he is unable to be dismissed from his position. For some, this is ‘unacceptable’. As one has said: ‘It is not unreasonable for parents sending their children to a faith school to expect the headteacher to be living according to that faith.’

Indeed not. The man purports to represent his church, and ought to abide by its moral teachings. What manner of example is he setting to those vulnerable hearts and minds to whom he has a duty of care?

The Sexual Orientation Regulations involve competing rights and are an infringement of freedom of conscience. The law which was designed to protect minorities from discrimination is riding roughshod over the rights and beliefs of the majority. There is no limit to the application of such a principle. As the Archbishop of Canterbury observed: 'By legislating to protect and promote the rights of particular groups, the government is faced with the delicate but important challenge of not thereby creating the conditions within which others feel their rights have been ignored or sacrificed, or in which the dictates of personal conscience are put at risk'.

He concluded: 'The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning'.

But Cranmer is puzzled. He does not understand why neither the adoption agencies nor the school are not prepared to continue as they always have, and let those who are aggrieved bring their cases to the courts. Would not this law then be shown for the ass that it is? Could not the competing arguments be played out in the full glare of the media? Would not sympathies of the overwhelming majority fall to the Roman Catholic Church? Would not this be a media coup?

It is unacceptable that Christians should be obliged to conform to 2007 sexual orientation legislation, when Muslims are still not conforming to 1975 gender-equality legislation. Why do the courts not involve themselves in the issue of all-male mosques? Do not forced marriages involve kidnap, coercion, or abuse? The law turns a blind eye to such practices, conveying a distinct sense of exemption from the law.

In all of the minority competing claims experienced so far, two groups have consistently triumphed – Muslims and homosexuals. These two are presently held in pre-apocalyptic tension, and the final conflict is yet to take place. When they ultimately confront each other, and be assured they will, there must be a victor and a vanquished. A homosexual headmaster of a Muslim school in a ‘civil partnership’ cannot, under the law, be dismissed. A Muslim homosexual youth worker applying for a job to teach children in a mosque cannot, under the law, be refused the position. A woman who demands admission to an all-male mosque cannot, under the law, be prevented.

But perhaps there are other ways of dealing with such inconvenient individuals…

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Scottish Health Authority instructs ALL employees to heed Ramadan

Cranmer commented on the development of an Islamic Health Service some time ago, but that was in the matter of distinct NHS provision for Muslims. This latest development, courtesy of the NHS in the Lothians, Greater Glasgow and Clyde, is absolutely incredible. For there ALL staff have been instructed to eat away from their desks during Ramadan, which begins next month, for fear of offending their Muslim work colleagues.

The health service's Equality and Diversity Officer sent an e-mail to all senior managers, giving guidance on ‘religious tolerance’. It is also reported that vending machines with food are to be removed, and the office food trolley has been banned from circulating during the Islamic holy month. As if this were not enough to inflame the sensibilities of the kuffar, the Muslims will be given extra breaks during which they may pray, and extra time off to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha.

The population of Scotland is just over 5 million, out of which Muslims number 40,000. Thus they constitute 0.8% of the population. Cranmer will resist linking this dhimmitude with the Islamist attack upon Glasgow airport, but the cynic may well observe that Islamist terrorism is not only working at the level of British foreign policy; it is helping to transform British culture and render it increasingly Shari’a compliant.

All of this is being done under the guise of ‘promoting cultural awareness’ in the NHS. But there has been not a peep from Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond, who was propelled to office (just) by aggressively courting the disaffected Muslim vote. The only dissenting voice in the Scottish Parliament has come from Bill Aitken, the Scottish Conservative justice spokesman, who said: “Frankly, this advice, well meaning as it may be, is total nonsense. This is the sort of thing that can stir up resentments rather than result in good relations.”

But he really ought to have run this by Mr Cameron first, for in the recent Southall by-election, Mr Cameron’s Conservatives were very much in favour of such a policy.

And would you want to be treated by a nurse wearing this? It is the brainchild (if that isn’t a ludicrous misnomer) of Karen Jacob of the Lancashire NHS Foundation Trust. It is called the ‘interfaith gown’ for the guarding of modesty, but Cranmer has never seen a Hindu, a Christian, a Jew, a Sikh or a Rastafarian wear anything remotely resembling it. It is, of course, solely to placate Muslims working in the hospital. Increasingly, the National Health Service, a uniquely British institution, is beginning to appear foreign in its own land.

For Cranmer, the enforced adherence to the principles and practices of Ramadan is Marxist political correctness gone mad. It is not only a step too far in the ‘diversity’ agenda, it is a blow to the cultural mores of the United Kingdom. At her Coronation, Her Majesty the Queen took an oath in which she promised to govern the peoples of the United Kingdom ‘according to their laws and customs’. Those laws and customs are fundamentally inspired by the Christian faith, to which the laws and customs of Islam are antithetical. It is unacceptable that Scotland’s majority, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic and Protestant in its faith adherence, should be obliged to acquiesce to a 0.8% minority.

And where is the ‘diversity awareness’ and ‘religious sensitivity’ for Scotland’s Christians? Will all Muslims in the NHS be ordered to refrain from eating during Lent?

The answer, of course, is foregone.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The ECB exposes the EU’s coup d’état

Throughout its 30-year history, the European Council and its summits have been the engine of deeper integration, yet it has remained strictly independent of EU governmental structures; its raison d’être being to guide the 'non-imperial empire' to ever-closer non-imperial political integration. It is composed of the presidents and prime ministers of each member state, and its independent status has permitted these representatives to defend vehemently their national interests, to advocate forcefully on behalf of their peoples, and to argue passionately for their own values and interests. As many of these are sometimes mutually exclusive and stand in diametric opposition, it is perhaps no surprise that the body which Monnet conceived to be the engine of deeper integration has occasionally threatened to be the Union’s nemesis.

However, the ‘Reform Treaty’ has a solution, extracted verbatim from the ‘abandoned’ Constitution. The European Council is to cease being intergovernmental, and is to become supranational. The debate around this change has generated much heat and little light, and there are insufficient numbers in the UK who either understand or care about the differences between the two. In the words of many Europhiles, the amendments are just ‘internal housekeeping’, ‘obscure legalese’, an ‘insignificant paper exercise’, and a ‘complete irrelevance’ to the everyday lives of ordinary people.

But Dr Richard North has argued on the EUReferendum blog that this represents a coup d’état: it is a power-grab of significant proportions, and a distinct diminution of British sovereignty. Those ranged against this thesis are legion, and most notably drawn from HM Government who persist with the mantra that ‘the constitutional concept is abandoned’. The decision to fuse the European Council with the European Commission and the European Parliament will not, they insist, inhibit the British prime minister from defending the national interest.

Well, Cranmer is delighted to announce that he has irrefutable proof that this is a lie. And the source is none other than the European Central Bank. The EUObserver website notes that Jean-Claude Trichet, head of the ECB, has written to the Portuguese EU presidency to query the ‘small but potentially significant change’ to the wording of the bank’s status. The Constitution specifically protected its independence; the ‘Reform Treaty’ lists it alongside all the institutions of the Union.

The letter expresses M Trichet’s concern that ‘with the ECB listed along the commission and parliament as an institution, it will be subject to the same general rules as these institutions which work together and follow certain agreed goals and European values’.

Quite so.

If the European Central Bank is worried that the ‘Reform Treaty’ compromises its independence, then a fortiori should we be concerned that the European Council will be similarly compromised, and will find itself obliged perpetually to promote the EU’s values, advance its objectives, and serve its interests. These will have to take priority over any national loyalty. One does not need a crystal ball to discern where this is leading. Should the ‘Reform Treaty’ be ratified, whenever the British prime minister attends a future summit, there can be no concern with the national interest; no hand-bagging over rebates; no stubbornness over defence; no insistence on foreign policy; no intransigence over agriculture, fisheries, taxation, etc., etc., etc. Mr Brown or any other British prime minister will have an overriding duty to promote the objectives of the European Union.

The change in status of the European Council renders it the de facto Cabinet of EU governance. And by placing a President at its helm for a fixed period of office, the empire simultaneously acquires both its emperor and its imperium. This really will be ‘the end of a thousand years of history’.

Protesting at ‘the Islamisation of Europe’

As upwards of 100,000 Mohammedans met yesterday in Jakarta to march in favour of the founding of a new caliphate – a single, unified Islamic state - it appears that one may not march in Brussels against such an idea. The march against the Islamisation of Europe was being organised to let the political leaders of the city of Brussels understand people’s genuine cultural concerns. But it is not to be.

One might expect Hizb ut-Tahrir – the Sunni ‘Liberation Party’ with an estimated million members - to be free to march in Indonesia for Islamic objectives, but equally so should Christians and other Europeans of all faiths and none be free to march in Belgium for their liberties ands their cultural values. Yet the Mayor of Brussels, Freddy Thielemans, has prohibited the march. Apparently, he ‘cannot guarantee the safety of the public’. Against whom, one asks?

The decision to ban a march by a peaceful and democratic group, consisting of people with no history of violent behaviour, is a totalitarian impulse. It has far more to do with not wanting to offend the sensibilities of Brussels’ large Mohammedan community than it has to do with tedious ‘health and safety’ concerns.

The irony is that Hizb ut-Tahrir is banned in some Asian and Arab countries, but is quite legal in the EU and the UK. Mohammedans who advocate its ideology can march and protest all over a free and democratic Europe to their hearts’ content - against Western values, Western democracy, Western traditions, Western culture, Western religion. But God forbid that a group of indigenous/white/Christian inhabitants should seek to protest against the subjection of their heritage and culture to an ascendant Islamism. If Brussels, the political heart and governmental nerve-centre of the European Union, is prepared to deny its citizens free speech and the freedom to demonstrate, then Christendom has indeed subjected itself to Eurabia, and Shari’a supplants Europe’s Christian heritage. Here is evidence, if any were needed, that Europol is unconcerned with protecting the innocent, Eurojust unconcerned with ‘social justice’, and the Europe is heading towards collecting the jizyah + VAT.

Mayor Thielemans leads Brussels’ ruling Parti Socialiste on the city council. At the start of 2006, 14 of its 26 representatives were Mohammedan immigrants (ten of Moroccan origin, two Turkish, one Tunisian and one from Guinea). And guess which religion dominates in the city’s council across all parties…

If Cranmer’s communicants or readers wish to tell Mayor Freddy Thielemans what they think of his ban, his email address is:

Cabinet.Bgm.Thielemans@brucity.be

He looks forward to hearing your thoughts.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

If politics and religion do not mix, what of politics and cults?

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has a problem. He is a Mormon. But he is not the first presidential candidate to discover that one’s choice of church may be a bar to the highest office. When the issue of the Catholicism of Senator John F Kennedy was emerging as an issue in his quest to become President of the United States of America, he made a speech, in which he said:

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured - perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again - not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me - but what kind of America I believe in.

He was struggling to persuade the sceptical American people that the White House would not become an embassy of the Vatican, and neither would the US President do the Pope’s bidding, but, for a nation born out of the struggle for liberation from religious tyranny, his words frequently rang hollow. Yet the prejudices were overcome by his oratorical skill. At times, the communication of his dreams and visions were redolent of Martin Luther King Jnr:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute - where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote - where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference - and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

That speech was made in 1960, yet even in 2007 the land of the free does not permit all men to be equal. Of course, the inequalities are no longer based on race or gender, but they are manifest and legion when it comes to religion. Mr Romney is presently experiencing not dissimilar problems from those faced by Senator Kennedy. Then the issue was the Church of Rome, now it is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

But while Rome has a self-confessed salvific religio-political mission to redeem the world, the principal objection to the Mormons is their rejection of the Trinity (having abandoned polygamy a century ago). It says much for a nation when it places a distinctly theological issue over an acutely religio-political one. Many who object to him for his trinitarian views would be wise to acquaint themselves with certain aspects of church history, and with the contentions of Chalcedon in particular.

Largely through the radiant charisma and global profile of Pope John Paul II, Roman Catholicism has become a respectable religion the world over, but Mr Romney’s problem is that Mormons are perceived to be a cult. There is little authoritatively which distinguishes between the two: for many, ‘religion’ is simply a positive and respectable spiritual force, while ‘cult’ is a religion of which one does not approve. Belief systems tend to be considered cults when their practices are perceived to be harmful to their members, or when they stand in opposition to the widely-accepted beneficial interests of mainstream cultures and governments.

There are, of course, too many relativist considerations in the present age for terms like ‘harm’ and ‘beneficial’ to be expounded. Even the democratic primacy of ‘mainstream’ is undermined by the deference displayed to every fragmented religious minority interest, for fear of causing offence. In the final analysis, every cult is now a religion because no-one is perceived to have the political right or the spiritual authority to tell anyone else what they should or should not believe, or what they may and may not do. Liberty has become a deity.

This is the tragedy of postmodernity. One is now obliged to respect all religious beliefs, and revere every spirituality. If this is not extracted by statute, it is enforced by the zeitgeist. All men may not be equal, but all religions certainly are. Islamism is as ‘noble’ and ‘great’ as Roman Catholicism, which is just as worthy of respect as Buddhism, Hinduism, Sikhism, and any and every other spiritual ‘-ism’ which emanates from the mind of man.

Cranmer, by the way, is content to adhere to the cult of an obscure Nazarene.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Prayer mats and puja in the Houses of Parliament

Cranmer has uncovered a plot. Or, at least, allusions to an agenda which will have far-reaching implications for the spiritual life of the nation, the establishment of the Church of England, and the Christian foundations of Parliament which have for centuries been the guiding principles for the framing of laws and the defining of liberties.

The House of Lords is trying to move towards multi-faith prayers in its chamber. There is, apparently, a degree of admiration for the ‘enlightened’ manner in which the US Senate approaches prayer before official proceedings, and moves are afoot to emulate this approach. As far as Cranmer is aware, this has not been formally discussed, and neither have the Lords Spiritual made any comment (though many may be in agreement with it…), but the revelation comes from the blog of Baroness Julia Neuberger, the Liberal Democrat peer and rabbi. Yet the agenda is not merely reported, but advocated. She states:

It is a very good thing if a Hindu chaplain opens the senate proceedings with prayer.
We are just beginning to try to move away from the only prayers (every day, before proceedings start) in the House of the Lords in the UK being conducted by the Church of England bishops. There is no sign of a move. I cannot comment on church and state divides, but in terms of
having prayers at all, it is a huge improvement to have people of all faiths conducting the prayers from time to time, and it works very well in the Scottish parliament.


There may be ‘no signs of a move’, but the Baroness clearly reveals the intention and her belief that such a development would be ‘a huge improvement’. And who is this 'we'? Cranmer won’t comment on her feeling that prayers led by Church of England bishops needs improving upon, but it is a wonder indeed that a rabbi should be agitating for such a reform. She is manifestly ignorant of the differences that exist between a state from which the church is divided, and one in which it is established. Britain is ruled by the Crown in parliament, which means that laws and decisions are made by the Monarch as represented and advised by her government with the support of both Houses of Parliament. That Monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, and the prayers in both Houses are not a formality before official proceedings; they are part of the official proceedings. The prayers of Her Majesty’s bishops are not only symbolic of the relationship between the two, but express the literal subjection of both to Almighty God. They constitute part of the Christian fabric of the nation and, although there is no codification of parliamentary procedures, they exist manifestly by historic convention through centuries of practice.

But Baroness Neuberger has no regard for any of this. She would rather see a multi-faith mish-mash of puja, salah, prayers, meditations and incantations. She might even be content to see Shambo (or rather his reincarnation) entering the Lords’ chamber as a manifestation of the divine. It is interesting that she is presently working on two books - one ‘on death and dying’, and the other ‘on why religion is so important in the rather godless United Kingdom’. It is perhaps apt that she appears to be working on both tomes simultaneously.

But while the Baroness views such prayers as ethnic entertainment and a necessary politically-correct piece of theatre, there is a rather more serious religio-political dimension to the proposal. For the Christians serving in the High Court of Parliament, their prayers are going daily to the secret place of the Most High. The Father listens as the Holy Spirit guides and the Son mediates. The prayers are efficacious, and able to change lives, homes, relationships, characters, careers, and nations. Such intercessions to the Throne of Grace are made in the certain knowledge that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is in command of the affairs of man, and that God is also the God and Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Prayer is not simply a privilege or responsibility; it is the greatest power that God has bequeathed to man.

And (importantly for Cranmer) it is these prayers which preface legislation relating to the Church of England, for it is Parliament that authorises the Book of Common Prayer, and it is Parliament that decrees the administration and sacraments, the rites and ceremonies, and the manner of making, ordaining, and consecrating of bishops, priests and deacons. The status of the Church of England, and, indeed, of the Monarch herself, are dependent on an Act of Parliament, because Parliament is omnipotent under God. It is unthinkable that such legislative procedures could be presaged by prayers to what many Christians believe to be false gods and idols.

With interesting timing, The Times reports today of two Mohammedan MPs who insist that Parliament ‘must address its attitudes towards the rising prominence of ethnic minorities’. In the article, Shahid Malik MP talks of the need for Parliament to adopt ‘the language or discourse that we would think is acceptable’.

It is through the perpetual allusions to victimhood, and the eroding reiteration of discrimination, that Brahman, Waheguru and Allah will be worshipped in the Palace of Westminster. YHWH would simply be one in a pantheon of gods, and could not even be the chief deity, for all would have to be ‘equal’. And why is this significant? Well, one of these is more equal than the others, and asserts an acutely political agenda, which is for Parliament to adopt ‘the language or discourse that we would think is acceptable’. And once Parliament has adopted what they think is acceptable, spiritual sovereignty is transferred. One cannot serve two masters.

Friday, August 10, 2007

UK’s ‘blasphemy law’ is effectively Shari’a

It is, apparently, quite legal to sport a placard in a public parade proclaiming ‘Jesus is a fag’, and not fall foul of the existing blasphemy laws, or even the laws on incitement. And this in the most Christian and religiously-sensitive corner of the United Kingdom. It is, of course, a question of ‘freedom of expression’ of both speech and religion; a convenient summary of quite a complex gay christology, and Christians simply have to put up with it.

East Belfast DUP councillor May Campbell wants such freedoms curbed. She says: ‘Christians all over the province, and indeed, the world will be disgusted by this slur.’

Quite so, though Cranmer is almost as disgusted by the unfortunate creature carrying the placard as he is by the message of the placard itself.

But while parades are a legitimate form of protest, and placards and banners are by definition provocative four-word summaries of much more complex grievances, there can be no doubt that this particular placard was designed to provoke and upset Christians.

But there were no arrests, and there will be no prosecutions. The blasphemy laws in the UK were designed to protect the name of Christ, though since 1838 restricted to protect the ‘tenets and beliefs of the Church of England’. They are from an era when faith was the nexus of society, and to challenge or offend was considered a crime against the established order. Since the laws are no longer upheld, one may assume that they have been impliedly repealed.

But that is not quite the case.

If this placard had said ‘Ganesh is a gay-boy’ or ‘Buddha is a bugger’, the Hindus and Buddhists might have raised an eyebrow, but, like the Christians, they would have been obliged to endure the offence. But if the placards had dared to say ‘Mohammed is a homo’ or ‘The Prophet is a puff’, the Mohammedans would have been up in arms (some quite literally), and those carrying the placards would have been arrested for breach of the peace, or incitement.

It may be adduced, therefore that one may attack Christianity and offend Christians by blaspheming the name of Christ with impunity, but any such attack on Islam and its prophet would meet with the full force of the law. The default 'blasphemy law' in the UK is therefore Shari’a.

But the irony over the ‘Jesus is a fag’ placard is that the DUP helped to finance Belfast’s Pride march, and the Free Presbyterian Church is not best pleased. While some condemn the ‘celebration of sodomy’, others are adjusting to the realities of the tensions inherent in government. It is one thing to be doctrinally pure in one’s theology, but quite another in one’s politics. Dr Paisley is discovering the age-old dilemmas of being both priest and king. As one church member observes: ‘Far from the DUP elevating the morals of society, it seems that the DUP is going to come down to the level of morality that society demands.’

And on this level of morality, Cranmer has just one more thought. Homosexuals are now free to flaunt their sexuality in public and force it down the throats of Christians, but if Christians were to carry a placard saying ‘The Wages of Sin is Death’, or ‘Homosexuality is a sin’, they would certainly be arrested.

So Islam and homosexuality both now trump Christianity. Perhaps they are not so mutually exclusive or reciprocally antithetical after all.
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