Out of general respect for the clergy, I don’t like saying nasty things about men of the cloth (women of the cloth are fair game: I don’t recognise their entitlement to that particular fabric).
But in yesterday’s debate in the upper chamber of our Parliament Lord Harries of Pentregarth left me no choice.
Until his motion, I had thought that the kind of remarks he made could only come from a man who is either ignorant, stupid or subversive.
Yet the former Bishop of Oxford proves it isn’t necessary to choose: one can succeed in being all three, fusing them into an utterly toxic alloy.
He declares that “religion is visible and agitative in a way that it was not before. It has a voice, or rather a variety of voices that want to be heard in the public sphere.”
If I understand correctly, His Grace believes that there exists in this country one monolithic entity called religion, which practises glossolalia by speaking in various tongues.
Being a polyglot, this uniform entity now occupies a prominent place it has never held in our society before.
Obviously history isn’t a subject His Grace is familiar with, so I won’t take up much space pointing out how prominent Christianity was in our country before the likes of him became the establishment.
But his ignorance in his area of professional expertise is staggering. For there is no such thing as generic religion. There are only different religions, each as fundamentally different from one another as any of them is from atheism.
Then Lord Harries rejoices in the fact “that issues concerning the wearing of the cross… have found their way to the European Court of Human Rights…”
Of course to the ECHR all religions are indeed the same, and equally repugnant. That’s why it decrees that employers are within their right to ban the wearing of Christian symbols.
It’s understandable that the Court should feel that way: as an EU organisation it isn’t just secular but aggressively atheist. However, for a priest to feel that way about the cross should be grounds for summary unfrocking and excommunication.
And Lord Harries does feel that way: “…the European Convention on Human Rights is now rightly a benchmark for our society.”
For His Grace all religions merit equal “respect and concern”, which must be reciprocal. Admittedly, “both Christians and Muslims… will claim a higher loyalty [but] this must not be interpreted as loyalty to a foreign power structure, as it was, for example, by some Roman Catholics in the 16th century.”
In other words, all religions are equal, but Catholicism is less equal that others. Surely a Christian prelate who sits in the House of Lords must be familiar with the notion of an established religion?
The very existence of a state religion, in our case the Church of England, presupposes that other religions can’t have the same rights by definition.
The 1701 Act of Settlement, for example, states that no one who becomes or marries a Roman Catholic can inherit the throne. This means that even a Western Christian confession that is doctrinally close to Anglicanism, especially its orthodox wing, is denied equal rights.
Would it be too much of a stretch to suggest that this injunction extends to religions such as Islam that aren’t just non-Christian but aggressively hostile to Christianity?
As to ‘loyalty to a foreign power structure’, 80 per cent of London Muslims support ISIS. Are they entitled to equal ‘respect and concern’ too?
Yes, according to His Grace: “This equality is not just tolerance; it means accepting and celebrating people in their difference.”
It’s good to see that Lord Harries’s capacity for all-inclusiveness far outstrips that of Jesus Christ himself. One understands that the European Court of Human Rights represents a higher authority, but still:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” “Ye fools and blind…” “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?” “…your inward part is full of ravening and wickedness.”
There’s no ‘equal respect and concern’ anywhere in sight, even though Jesus is generally regarded as a loving man even by those who don’t believe he is Our Lord.
One understands that Christianity, with its tradition, history, scripture and indeed founder, means little to the likes of Lord Harries.
Still, for old times’ sake, he must make a big effort and try to realise that what he is saying is downright heresy.
Jesus Christ told us to love not only our neighbours but even our enemies. Yet nowhere does he say that we must love everything our enemies stand for.
Of course, a Muslim is entitled to equality before the law, and he’s even entitled to respect – but as a human being and subject of Her Majesty the Queen, not as a Muslim.
Christians in particular must love Muslims and pray for the salvation of their souls, an outcome badly compromised by their hateful creed. But that shouldn’t prevent us from deporting some, or even many, or even most, of them should they be deemed to be a threat.
I’d suggest that the 80 per cent of London Muslims who support ISIS constitute such a threat – thereby forfeiting any right to ‘equal respect and concern’.
If deportation or internment sounds too radical, or especially impractical, our government must still do all it can to protect us from the venom liberally hosed down on our heads out of every one of the UK’s 1,600 mosques.
Lord Harries’s religion, whatever it is, clearly can’t accommodate this line of thought. The thought it does accommodate is that Islam should enjoy not just equal rights but equal time with Christianity.
As a shining example for all of us to follow he cites Bristol cathedral, where the beginning of the Christian year was celebrated by “a brilliant creative act of accommodation”.
The brilliant creative act was the reading of passages from the Koran, presumably along with some Christian texts, though Lord Harries doesn’t make this clear.
This, according to him, lights up a straight path to lead to shining heights: “This principle of hospitality can and should be reflected in many public ceremonies, including the next coronation service.”
Surely His Grace must be aware that our realm is constituted along Christian lines, that one of our monarch’s titles is Fidei defensor, Defender of the Faith? Perhaps not.
In that case, he may not realise that he’s proposing constitutional sabotage, something that in times olden was described as treason. I’m genuinely sorry that Tyburn Hill has become a residential area.
Granted, when Prince Charles was young and impressionable, he stated his objective of skipping the definite article, becoming instead Defender of Faith, meaning all faiths.
One function of high prelates in the established Church of England is to keep our princes on the Christian straight and narrow whenever they deviate.
Lord Harries sees his role differently: he’ll grab every imprudent word out of the royal mouth and run with it – all the way to perdition.
And I’m not using this word in the strictly religious sense. If we let subversive fools like His Grace destroy the very foundations of our society, we’ll perish in a perfectly secular way.