Friday, 21 January 2011

A Funeral Oration Upon The Burial of Christian Britain

"In 1882 Her Majesty Queen Victoria opened a new court building. It is in the Strand just at the entrance to the City of London. It was built to house the superior courts of this land with the exception of the House of Lords. No one who enters can fail to be struck by the similarity of the Great Hall with the interior of those gothic cathedrals with which this kingdom is so richly endowed. But if, before entering, you gaze upon the façade of the building you will notice 4 statues.
There you will find King Alfred who made such a notable contribution to Saxon England by codifying the laws of his day. You will find Moses to whom was given the ten commandments and to whom, by tradition, is ascribed authorship of the first 5 books of the Bible in which you will find in great detail the laws governing the children of Israel. Also there on the façade is King Solomon whose wisdom has become a legend and who displayed outstanding qualities as a judge when sitting in the Family Division in the only reported case of which we have details. And the 4th statue is that of Jesus Christ who, I imagine, needs no introduction to those involved in this case.
Why are those statues there? Perhaps there were many reasons for them but I venture to suggest that one was to emphasise the Judaeo-Christian roots from which the common law of England was derived.
A great deal has however happened since King Alfred and his Saxon laws, and even more has changed since Moses, King Solomon and Jesus Christ walked upon this earth. Those Judaeo-Christian principles, standards and beliefs which were accepted as normal in times past are no longer so accepted."

Judge Andrew Rutherford, giving judgment in the Bristol County Court on 18th January 2011 against Peter and Hazel Bull, proprietors of a 'bed and breakfast' establishment, who refused to provide double accomodation to a homosexual couple on the grounds that they weren't married.

It may seem an insignificant event, not at all on a par with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the French Revolution of 1789, but I wonder whether future historians will not record this moment in 2011 as the symbolic 'turning point' (the last of many, to be sure) that marked an irreversible change in direction for the UK, the date on the calendar after which it could most definitely be said that "Christian principles, standards and beliefs which were accepted as normal in times past are no longer so accepted".

Some readers will say that Britain was only ever nominally Christian, and might quote Luther to the effect that true Christians are rare birds. They might also say that the endeavour to create a Christian state inevitably confuses Law and Gospel. True, perhaps, but beside the point I wish to make for now, which is that England, and by extension the United Kingdom, was a deliberate attempt over successive generations to form a nation with a Christian ethos, an endeavour that we may admire, albeit with reservations. That project is now dead by virtue of the slow breakdown, over the last century and a half, of the consensus of belief which undergirded it. The church will survive, I have no doubt about that, but individual Christians will increasingly have to 'go underground' in order to avoid the wrath of a state which no longer respects their consciences.

For now, considering the many blessings that have flowed to countless Britons and to the wider world through this endeavour, it seems only fitting to mourn the passing of Christian Britain: Requiescat in pace.

Click on post title to view the judgment in full.

HT The Ugley Vicar


Matthias said...

Yes farewell Christian Britain. The sun has set on the Mother country which has fallen victim to political correctness and the Gaystapo

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Actually, the couple weren't discriminating against homosexuals specifically, Matthias, but maintaining a rule in their establishment that applied to all unmarried couples.

In any case, I'm not against homosexuals having civil rights; that's entirely a matter for the civil lawmakers, and neither we nor Britian are theocracies, but democracies. However, when democracies grow apart from their religious roots, can they survive? I think not. Time will tell. But nature abhors a vacuum - 100 000 Britons have became Muslim in recent years.

Lucian said...

100 000 Britons have became Muslim in recent years.

Because British Christianity no longer fills the void that Muslims now do (ie, offering a steadfast moral compass and unchanging rules and norms of life).

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Yes,Lucian, I'd basically agree with that diagnosis, although Christianity isn't all about rules and norms, you know, there's also something called "grace"!

Lvka said...

there's also something called "grace"!

In the Name of Allah, the most-benevolent, the merciful... -- sorry, you were saying, Father?

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Interested to know, Lvka, do you think a Muslim can enter heaven?
If so, on what basis?

Southern Cross said...

Democracy is not likely to survive anyway. When people grow estranged from their traditions and roots religious or else, they walk a thin thread with no bearings, they descend into uncertainty and the path has no milestones nor lights to guide them. Democracy is rule through numbers and imaginary majorities, it is the rule of fickleness and demagoguery when it takes on its purest form. Democracy must be checked and fenced to avoid its degeneration into anarchy. Religion affords checks through revelation and morality. Natural law too provides some measure of moderation. Traditions bring up precedents and help people to walk on the right path in broad accordance with their ancestors' deeds and usage. Edmund Burke wrote: "People will not look forward to posterity who do not look backward to their ancestors". We are part of a living thing that unites us within a given tradition: the dead, the living and the yet unborn. These radicals who would warp and maim our traditions are no less bigoted than they fancy conservatives are. Alexis de Tocqueville had already identified and listed these checks, none of them is still in operation.

Religion has been replaced by irreligion (or atheism), which has been fuelling consumerism and materialism as cheap surrogates for this listless, uprooted generation. People believe morality is to be determined by the individual. Natural law is held in contempt by judges and policy-makers who fancy they can make adjustments every now and then, as if society was but a giant machine and individuals cogs that need oiling from time to time. They are technicians in an increasingly lobotomised machine-society. Cheap sitcoms and comics have replaced genuine literature, R&B has supplanted classical music. This society is increasingly gross and vulgar. There is no place for beauty, wonderment and curiosity in it.

This case consecrates what we already knew; that the West as a whole is failing. It is failing to uphold its traditions and what lies at the heart of our civilisation. If we forsake Christianity, the floodgates will be wide open, and there will be little hope. This case shows what democracy, if unchecked, can become. Democracy has indeed turned into a very dangerous behemoth; because Christianity claims an ever-dwindling share of the overall population, it is now held to be no longer valid. Democracy is all about fictitious majorities. If a majority of people say that two and two make five, democracy will trumpet it is so. If Christians are in the minority, then the "people" have spoken and Christianity must be condemned to oblivion and thrown away into the recesses of history (because it is no longer a standard), a relic to be cherished by a few people pictured as lunatics and an object of curiosity for the historian. Democracy has numerous failings and must be checked if we are to preserve our beliefs and traditions; make no mistake, if Christians are in the minority while Islam continues to claim so many converts (and immigrants), we will be persecuted and hunted down as in the "good old times" under Emperors Nero and Diocletian or we will have to "go underground" as Pastor Mark suggests. This judgment officially establishes the reign of King Numbers as John Randolph would doubtless have put it; if murder ever becomes such a frequent occurrence, democracy will make into something acceptable, simply because there is a "majority" in favour of it. Democracy rests on ever-changing standards, exploiting the itch for change and its manifestation: the "legislative maggot". There is not the slightest consideration for the fact that some truths are eternal and indeed worthy of preservation. Since when is a majority synonymous with truth and justice?

Therefore, I agree this case is of the utmost importance as it paves the way for more moral relativism as the new cornerstone for British society (and, increasingly, Western societies in general).

Lucian said...

On the basis of Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 1:13; 1 Peter 3:18-20, 4:6.

(It's not so much Muslims that I worry about, Father, but myself).

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Many thanks, SC, for your thoughts - I fear you are right! In fact, we can see these chages happening already. Democracy does indeed rest upon good education, high ethical and moral standards and religious commitments - all of which are slipping and not only in Britain. T.S. Eliot also wrote some things along these lines; I disagree with his religious position, but he had much of value to say nonetheless. Excellent Burke quote.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Thanks Lucian. All those verses require or imply repentance and faith in Jesus in order to be saved, do they not? This would mean that Muslims would have to renounce the false prophet in order to be saved. Yes? What fellowship hath light with darkness?

I agree we should all be concerned about losing our salvation, Lucian, but as God has purified us from our sins by the blood of Jesus, he desires that we "approach him in full assurance of faith".

Southern Cross said...

Yes, Pastor Mark, that is also one of the checks Alexis de Tocqueville listed: ethical education. It was one of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's principal struggles to set up such an education network. Unfortunately, there are few remnants. Knowledge is nothing without ethics to set boundaries around this collection of facts, and ethics spring from morality which, in turn, spring from faith. Today's education is a bland blend of watered down history, endless self-flagellation, rampant atheism and pseudo-rationalism, sprinkled with a pinch of moral relativism and radical equalitarianism. The steady decline of Christianity in today's West is doubtless the most frightening event of all, even though there are many other causes for preoccupation. Most of these are indeed connected with this decline. Take fertility rates for instance; is it by chance that the fall in birth rates coincided with the wane of Christianity? Crime too is in many regards the result of a lack of bearings and ethical education. Every economic and social issue has a moral bottom.

T. S. Eliot was one of the foremost American conservatives, and I do support his sound analysis. However, I would not agree with him on religious issues either (as I would not agree with Newman, Kirk and Brownson, although I am largely supportive of their analysis in other regards). The aforesaid conservative writers had a worrying tendency to picture Protestantism as the destruction of traditions and a vehicle for radical change. However, this is obviously not the case for many more conservatives, among whom Lecky and Burke stood out as respectively Protestant and Anglican. I do not agree, I rather see Protestantism, or Lutheranism at any rate, as a conservative movement that tried to safeguard the Church in its essence. Luther failed to do so, and a new church had to be created to uphold the Gospel and re-set boundaries more consistent with the crux of Christianity (sola Scriptura). The Roman Catholic Church had been drifting for a long time when the Lutheran Church came into existence, going as far as to sell the remission of sins for money.

I have been much inspired by Edmund Burke, but also John Adams and Benjamin Disraeli. All of whom are now little read with the possible exception of the former and his Reflections on the Revolution in France. I have not yet read his Letters on a Regicide Peace, but I certainly mean to remedy this. Edmund Burke has always been my main source of inspiration in things political and moral.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Being influenced by John Adams, you will no doubt be aware, SC, of his criticisms of Roman Catholic claims? True conservatism is no friend of tyrrany. The American founding fathers understood that well.

Yes, ethical education is crucial. Alas, Dewey and progressivism have wrecked Western education.

Btw, Melanchthon, Luther's right hand man (and author of the Augsburg Confession), is known as the 'preceptor of Germany' for his work in reforming education among the German peoples and setting it on a firm foundation. He was a classicist too.

Southern Cross said...

Of course, I am acutely aware of John Adams' religious views, although he later found refuge in a bland Unitarianism. Conservatism and liberty go hand in hand, except people now think liberty is licentiousness and licentiousness is liberty, which is what John Adams also rightly exposed.

Dewey and his naturalists have indeed been most instrumental in bringing Western civilisation to the brink of disaster. Others had been trying to do just that before; Bentham, Condorcet, Turgot, Rousseau and the philosophes clique. This is a permanent struggle we must win.

You seem to be well read in conservatism, Pastor Mark.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Yes, in a previous life (just a figure of speech!), in my 20s, I did read some Burke, de Tocqueville, Eliot, Adams, et. al. Prior to discovering this vein of thinking, back in my 'teens', I was a socialist, but Orwell cured me of that. In my present vocation I keep purely political matters at arm's length; I must "be all things to all people, that by all means I may save some." Of course, I take my duties as a citizen seriously, and I have personal views, but activism in politics is a vocation for the laity.

Southern Cross said...

I used to be a libertarian not so long ago. Reading Burke and Kirk destroyed the ideas I formerly held. Edmund Burke won me over to conservatism. Orwell is indoubtedly one of my favourite authors as far as dystopias are concerned. I understand you have a duty to stay aloof from the fray of politics as a pastor. Sometimes, however, politics and religion intermingle, or, more commonly, politics interfere in religious matters. The case mentioned in this article is one example of how politicians and judges (the two frequently overlap these days) assume they can control believers and extend the scope of their powers endlessly. The Church was once accused of meddling into temporal affairs, and was relegated to its spiritual role (most notably in France). Today, I am rather under the impression there has been a gradual reversal of the situation, and it is definitely government that should get off the back of religion. Nevertheless, I respect your refusal to get caught in politics because of your duties, this shows you have integrity, notwithstanding your beliefs as an individual in front of the polling booth.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

Yes, when the state encroaches upon the sphere of the individual conscience of believers, the church should speak up and support them. We've faced this problem in one state in Australia where the government decriminalised abortion and would not grant the right of conscientious objection to believers or others who objected to being enlisted into abortions.

In a more healthy situation, however, I like the image of the civil estate and the spiritual estate working together like two lungs in a body - separate but both contributing to the health of society. However, we haven't had such normality in the West for some time.

Southern Cross said...

'Euthanasia' has been hotly debated in France for the last few days. Luckily, the statute they wanted to pass was rejected in the equivalent of your House of Representatives. Here is another example of how Christian doctors or nurses could be compelled, against their most basic moral principles, to perform an act that is nothing short of murder. Today, abortion represents 220,000 babies slaughtered yearly in France (out of 64 million inhabitants, the proportion is daunting when you consider many less people are able to beget children due to age or health, and the loss of human life is always to be deplored, anyway). Two-thirds of women practising abortion have psychological problems afterwards. Many nurses openly speak up against abortion, having seen the sheer horror of it. Yet, an overwhelming majority of people, and women, consider abortion a fundamental right. Notwithstanding whether you are in favour or against the death penalty, you have got to wonder how it is that innocent lives are mindlessly taken without further ado while so many people (the same who inconditionnally support abortion) speak up against the hanging of criminals. Again, this does not necessarily imply we should be in favour of death penalty, but this mismatch clearly shows there is a double standard. Sometimes, I wonder in which type of world we live.

Edmund Burke and Samuel Taylor Coleridge in particular wanted the church to take an active part in politics, however indirectly. Coleridge thought morality should be inculcated to all, including politicians, so that the scope of their decisions would remain within ethical standards. The interference of religion in politics used to be useful and beneficial every now and then; it was essentially Christian groups who lobbied the British government in order to secure the abolition of slavery throughout the Empire. I do agree both bodies should be separate and autonomous, Pastor Mark, but the civil estate cannot hope to put their knowledge to effective use if it is not guided and circumscribed by ethics and morals, and that is precisely the role of religion to determine these.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I agree, SC.
If the church is free to attend to its main, God-given task of preaching the Gospel, you will see positive results in society, as for a historical example, the evangelical preaching of Wesley et al is said to have prevented England from suffering a revolution in the 18th C. as France did.
I turn, the state's God-given task is to protect the innocent from evil and maintain honest, justice and peace. When it attends to its functions properly the church is free to go about its work, and all people reap the blessings of good civil government. This is also the work of God.
Even though we might use the word autonomy, it is not an absolute autonomy, but a relevant one, in that both the civil and spiritual estates minister to the same people. There are many ways to organise church and state, with arguments for an against each one. Luther favoured separation, but he was never able to achieve this in his lifetime. However, he did not mean that the church would become a sect, isolated from the wider community. He spent much time counselling princes and nobles on how to put the Reformation in effect in their territories. The German people reaped great benefits from this in terms of better education, release from superstition, etc etc, as did the English, Scots, etc in their Reformations. Of course, such blessings eventually came to be taken for granted, and the slow decline of Europe began.

Southern Cross said...

Well, that is why I used the word 'autonomy' as opposed to 'independence'. 'Autonomy' suggests state and church are separate, distinct entities, but that they do interact. This is the classical separation between temporal and spiritual, but sometimes the temporal impinges upon the spiritual and vice versa. Therefore, I agree with your views. Politicians have all too often lost sight of tradition and religion, which also weakens their morality and puts them at a risk, the more so since moral relativism has become so widespread.