I’ve been trying for years to find a good word to say about the professional Tory Tim Montgomerie of The Times, but he makes it extremely difficult.
So much happier I was to see the title of his today’s article The Church Is Blighted by Its Left-Wing Bias. At last, I thought, preparing to enjoy every word. Tim has finally seen the light and he’s going to shine it upon us.
Alas, my hopes were raised sky high, but that only made the subsequent fall to earth so much more shattering.
Right diagnosis, shame about the proposed treatment. Mongomerie is absolutely right when saying that Anglican prelates should talk more about “the miraculous nature of Jesus Christ” and less about public policy, especially when their take on it reeks of Marxism with a Druid dimension.
But then Montgomerie has to go and spoil all the good prep work by citing “the Church of England’s great success story – London… [under] the inspired leadership of the Bishop of London, the Right Rev Richard Chartres.”
The leadership has been so inspired that it’s now practically impossible to find a 1662 parish in the London diocese, one that still uses the Authorised Version and the Prayer Book. This is the liturgical equivalent of the same ‘left-wing bias’ that so vexes Mr Montgomerie, something he clearly fails to realise.
The great success story of London and the hope for “the renewal of the whole Church of England” are for him exemplified by Holy Trinity, Brompton, with “its famous Alpha course”.
This, according to Mr Montgomerie, is one of the few places of worship that “find ways to answer the questions about faith posed by a university-educated population.”
I don’t know which university Montogomerie has in mind, not that it matters much any longer. The difference between Oxbridge and a newly converted polytechnic is these days mostly limited to the resulting CV, not the education.
But a truly educated Christian has to see the Alpha course for what it is: a happy-clappy, quasi-Pentecostal, share-care-be-aware heresy for the intellectually challenged and theologically ignorant.
Whatever turns people on, I suppose, but to attach to the Alpha course hopes for ecclesiastical renewal is cloud-cuckoo land – especially in the context of a general lament about the dire state of Christianity in England and the leftward slant of its established church.
The state of Christianity in England is indeed dire, which has not only spiritual but also political consequences, especially in the face of the Islamic threat.
Islam is a feeble religion, but there is nothing feeble about the ardour of its adherents. Say what you will about Islam, but many Muslims are prepared to kill and be killed for it.
When push come to shove, somehow one fears that not many Westerners will be ready to die for what’s on offer as a spiritual alternative to Islam: the human rights of women, homosexuals, animals and rubber trees.
It takes a strong metaphysical statement to muffle a weak one, and such a statement in the West can only ever come from Christianity. Its failure in this respect is fatally dangerous at a time when Muslims increasingly tend to manifest their piety with Soviet-made assault rifles.
These days even Buddhists express themselves on this subject more robustly than Christians, shattering the image of pacific saffron-robed chaps wholly devoted to navel-gazing and meditation.
Witness the brouhaha about the uncompromising declaration made by Ashin Wirathu, one of the leaders of the Buddhist nationalist movement in Burma, or whatever it’s supposed to be called nowadays.
Mr Wirathu’s movement fights for Burma to remain Buddhist, rather than being overrun by Muslims. To that end it proposes curbs on religious conversions and interfaith marriages, along with other measures, some with strong racial overtones.
Without in any way condoning any of these, one can still envy the self-sacrificial passion with which Mr Wirathu speaks out for his beliefs (for which he has already served a long prison sentence).
Naturally, whenever the new multi-culti gospel is sinned against, international organisations must have their say. In this instance, the righteous, or rather self-righteous, criticism came from the UN envoy Yanghee Lee.
This South Korean woman favours the full gamut of internationalist idiom: severe dark suits, Jermyn Street shirts and uncompromising attitudes to any principled attacks on any religion, except Christianity.
However, unlike our namby-pamby London Christians so close to Mongomerie’s heart, the Burmese Buddhist monk wouldn’t bend over and take his punishment stoically. Instead he came back fighting:
“The bitch criticised the laws without studying them properly,” he shouted to a huge crowd of eager listeners. “Don’t assume that you are a respectable person because of your position. For us, you are a whore.”
I assume Mr Wirathu was using the term figuratively, in reference to Miss Lee’s moral failings, rather than literally, as a comment on her sexual behaviour.
In either case one can’t possibly countenance the use of such language when talking about a woman, even if she works for the UN and shares its attitudes.
But one can still envy the clarity of both sentiment and message – something beyond the latter-day Church of England with all its ‘inspired leadership.’