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Friday, 8 August 2008

Christianity or Islam? Take your pick

Norman Tebbit seems to think that, if we don't smarten up our Christianity, and drop all this poofy nonsense about same-sex marriage, Islam will creep up on us like the big bad wolf and eat us all up.

Well, it could well do that, anyway, but it won't be because some Christians have a sense of fairness and justice, and believe same-sex unions are as valid as opposite-sex ones.

Lord Tebbit is writing in the Daily Mail, where he no doubt feels very much at home. While he has on occasions produced bits of non-PC common sense, Tebbit is an arch homophobe. Today, be berates the Archbishop of Cant, Rowan Williams, for his having once embraced the idea that same-sex marriages are OK.

Dr Rowan Williams is a decent, likeable and intelligent man. But over homosexuality, he seems to be in a terrible muddle, saying different things to different people. Just days after the Anglican Church agreed to call a halt to ordaining gay bishops, a debate in which he sided with the conservative majority, earlier private letters have emerged in which he equates gay sexual relationships to heterosexual marriage.

These letters show that his private views may be rather different and considerably more liberal. And as a result, many of his fellow travellers, I'd assume, are confused as to what their spiritual leader really believes.

There is, of course, nothing new about homosexuality or homosexual priests and I suspect that most people these days will say "so what?"

But the Church of England still has a role to play in upholding the standards and beliefs which have shaped the society in which we live. And for the leader of that institution to appear confused by his moral standpoint is surely disastrous.

And these standards, Lord Tebbit?

Not just any old group of people shacked up together for a while, but the exclusive partnership of one man and one woman bearing and bringing up children. That way, the traditions, rules and customs of society have been passed from one generation to the next and children have been cared for in a safe, nurturing and responsible environment.

Yeah, yeah. And this somehow, magically, means that a relationship will be better, more nourishing, more supportive? We've seen the products of some heterosexual marriages, and they're far from perfect. At least same-sex couples have to make a decision to have a child (whether by adopting or by AI), and it's not going to be the result of a drunken shag, and added to the heap of kids already crowding a family that's too large for its own good. Most families are not like that, but enough are to make us wonder whether same-sex couples might, on average, make better parents.

Tebbit then weighs in with the Islam threat:

So who is left? Watch out for the challenge from the mosques. An Islam with a modern face will soon begin to present itself as the natural home for those who long for moral certainty and a new sense of discipline within society. The calls for a caliphate, a religious state based on Sharia Law, will be toned down, the firebrand preachers will be done away with by the moderates, and there will be talk of the founding of a secular Muslim state, as in Turkey.

And with no other options on the table, they may soon find that they have an awful lot of fellow travellers with whom to bolster their ranks.

The task for the imams will be to exploit the fatal weakness of the multicultural society and replace a Christian church that has lost its sense of history and direction with a Mosque that has a strong, ingrained sense of both. For Islam, that would be a justified.

But will hanging onto old Christianity solve this possibly real problem? His suggestion that it will do so brings with it the threat that a Christian country will tighten up the laws to force people to obey old biblical edicts. Laws can be tightened up without religion. Laws can be tightened up – if that is required – based on our needs and aspirations today, not of when ancient goat herders roamed the Middle East and created their laws according to their perceived societal needs.

If we wish to keep an Islamic state at bay, we need to stamp on the privileged status of all religions and keep them in the private sphere – not in the sense of never having them on display, of course, but in the sense of keeping them out of harm's way, unable to influence legislation, unable to wield power, unable to have undue influence over schoolkids. In other words, let religion be of hobby status as far as policy is concerned, having as much of the government's ear as any other group.

That way, the country has freedom of religion, and freedom from religion. The two can coexist.

1 comment:

George Broadhead said...

The irony of this is that Tebbit is an atheist, isn't he?