Matthew Parris is ‘invigorated by a new idea’, which seems preferable to some other things by which Mr Parris is known to be invigorated from time to time.
The trouble is that the source of his excitement doesn’t qualify as an idea, and neither is it particularly new.
Mr Parris has recently found himself involved in ‘a ground-breaking exploration of a massive problem’: God. The way he words the topic already contains the answer. To Mr Parris and his supper companions, God constitutes a problem, not the solution.
That’s fair enough – faith is a gift in the literal meaning of the word: something presented by an outside donor. Since the donor is the active party in the transaction, it’s up to him to proffer the gift or not, though one is allowed to ask for it.
Mr Parris, or anyone else, is therefore to be pitied for his atheism, but not blamed. However, using atheism as the starting point of idiotic musings is no one’s fault but his own. For this Mr Parris must be rebuked.
In what sense is God ‘a massive problem’? And what eternal verities did the ‘ground-breaking exploration’ reveal?
“A supreme supra-national being [tends] to draw loyalties away from the secular state” is the answer to both questions.
This statement strikes one as remarkable even by the standards of Mr Parris’s consistently crepuscular thinking. For the underlying proposition has to be that the secular state should inspire loyalties higher than which none should exist.
True enough, those secular states that proceeded from the same assumption had little tolerance for religious faith. The most up-to-date examples, which must have served as the models for Mr Parris to follow, are provided by Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany.
Apart from their propensity for murdering large numbers of people, usually by category, the two regimes shared two other characteristics. They were both socialist (like Mr Parris), and they both detested Western, which is to say Christian, civilisation (ditto).
One can understand how they felt: if there is one secular conviction that must logically flow out of Christianity, it’s that the individual is primary and the state is secondary. When Christ said that his kingdom was not of this world, he established an immutable pecking order: his kingdom was higher than this world.
Etched into a Christian’s soul is the innate knowledge that he’s transcendent but the state is transient. Hence in everything that matters he can only regard the state not as his master but as his servant. If the state’s actions suggest that it’s assuming the role of master, then the believer may either resist it or pretend at a moment of weakness to be going along to protect himself from persecution. But inwardly he’ll never acquiesce.
Preaching the primacy of the state is tantamount to negating at a stroke the 2,000 years of our civilisation – and the worrying thing is that Mr Parris doesn’t even realise that’s what he’s doing. Nor does he seem to be aware of the identity of the modern states that were especially arduous in practising what he preaches.
He deplores “the moral absolutism that a higher God than parliament underwrites: abortion, divorce, gay marriage, IVF research, Sunday trading, pacifism and gambling, for example”.
Contextually, Mr Parris believes that none of those ought to be resisted on moral or any other grounds, which is his privilege and, in some of those areas, also his personal choice. Yet in his two model states, those that enviably didn’t allow any conflicting loyalties, homosexuals were routinely castrated and even executed (Nazi Germany) or imprisoned (the Soviet Union). Perhaps then, monotheism isn’t the only culprit.
Mr Parris hasn’t been blessed with a far-reaching intellect, but his instincts are in working order. It’s true that the modern secular state to which he has pledged his undivided loyalty is at odds with Christianity.
The two are in fact incompatible: just as the early Christians went to their death for refusing to accept the divinity of the Roman emperor, so will today’s Christians never accept the state’s supremacy over God.
That’s why all modern states without exception are trying to expunge Christianity or, failing that, to marginalise it. That is also why the power of all modern states is steadily growing pari passu with the diminishing power of the individual.
In the West this tendency takes the shape of democratic despotism, what Tocqueville, and Mill after him, mistakenly called ‘the tyranny of the majority’. In fact, in our so-called democracies the majority merely acquiesces in the tyranny imposed by a small political elite, to which Mr Parris, a former Tory MP and now a Times columnist, belongs, however tangentially.
I don’t know what this elite has established as its membership qualifications, but Mr Parris’s example proves that the ability to put together a cogent argument isn’t one of them.
He thinks he’s saying something of substance, whereas all that comes across in his gibberish is that Matthew Parris hates God. Who cares?
However, I for one would love to find out how God feels about Matthew Parris.