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Sunday, 24 January 2010

Waiting for tongues of fire

I’ve just learned that being a lawyer, politician, journalist or civil servant means knowing about “vital issues such as life, liberty and the family”. On the surface, it sounds OK.

But there’s a contradiction in there somewhere. To Right-wing Christians such as the bunch who are advertising a residential weekend course, how can “the family” and “liberty” be meant to live side by side – not just in one sentence, but in reality?

Because “the family” to the likes of the Christian Legal Centre – which is urging people to join this course in late March in Oxford, UK – is man, woman and some kids, and definitely no poofters (to quote an old Monty Python sketch).

This is the thrust of their pitch to deprive people of some money (I assume) in exchange for what looks like dogma:

The inaugural “Wilberforce Academy” takes place March 21st to 26th 2010 and we are asking all students and young professionals who have a passion for defending and proclaiming the Truth to consider applying. For one week you will be taught by some of the world’s leading thinkers on vital issues such as life, liberty and the family. You will learn how to make a difference to a society which has turned away from God. You will meet like-minded people from across the country that share Christian conviction and the desire to serve God’s Kingdom. In short, you will learn how to become a generation of men and women who “Passionately Demonstrate Truth”.

Why “Wilberforce Academy” is in quote marks makes you wonder. And where is the capitalised “Passionately Demonstrate Truth” quoted from? Or is it quoted from anywhere at all? Are they using capitalised initials and quote marks as mere decoration, as so many do?

The sceptic will wonder whether they are really confident in their ability to deliver, if they have to put stuff in quotes, which, unless you’re actually quoting, usually means, “I’m distancing myself from this; I’m not really meaning this, but this is the phrase I’m using, ha, ha.”

They then have three bulleted items, telling you that you can:

– Learn natural law principles and the foundation of law.

– Lead driving change in the legal system.

– Defend religious liberty, the sanctity of life and traditional family values.

In one weekend? Perhaps they’re hoping for a holy miracle, for tongues of fire, a Pentecostal moment, the Holy Spirit descending from above and saying, “Go forth and multiply the misery of gays and others you don’t happen to like throughout the land, you bunch of sad bastards.”

What links the hysterically homophobic Christian Legal Centre (a sister organisation to the equally rabid Christian Concern for Our Nation) and the “Wilberforce Academy” (got to keep the quote marks going) I don’t know. A banner at the top of the email alert in which this invitation comes to me (with a subject line that gasps, “Amazing Opportunity for Students and Young Professionals”) announces:

The Christian Legal Centre introduces the . . .

Wilberforce Academy

in association with the . . .

Alliance Defense Fund

The ellipses are theirs, not mine. More punctuational furniture?

As for the Alliance Defense Fund, as you can see from the spelling, it’s American, and says of itself, “The Alliance Defense Fund is a legal alliance defending the right to hear and speak the Truth through strategy, training, funding, and litigation.” For Truth (note the capital T) read bigoted, family-oriented, antigay, redneck and all the other adjectives we usually associate with the kind of muscular Christianity that emanates from the wackier end of the religion.

Anyway, the e-flyer continues:

Successful applicants will gather at Oxford University for a residential week of lectures, seminars, worship, devotions, and interactive discussions designed to confront conventional wisdom in legal education and present a principled, analytical framework and Christian viewpoint. You will leave not only with increased knowledge and conviction, but also with connections to other interns and faculty that will assist you throughout your education and career.

Well, I’m all for confronting conventional wisdom (why didn’t they put “wisdom” in scare quotes, since it would be more appropriate?), because a lot of conventional “wisdom” is anything but. Anything but wise, I mean. It’s conventional all right.

But I digress. Their idea of confronting conventional wisdom is saying that there’s no place in society for gay people. That Christians should occupy a privileged position by being able to bunk off doing part of their job because it goes against their weird and often dangerous beliefs.

1 comment:

Stuart Hartill said...

In case no-one's aware yet, the ADF's a very rich outfit whose founders included Focus on the Family and the American Family Association. Their main business seems to be defending anyone who 'warns' the US public about the 'dangers' of groups like the ACLU. Sort of like CLC but on a much bigger, better funded and resourced scale.
They started an event called 'Day of Truth' to counter attempts to tackle homophobia in US education, and, most worryingly, seem to have used Exodus International as their main source for material.
As far as I can tell, they are only expert on US law which wouldn't be relevant in UK courts, but if they were to start funding the efforts of loons like CCFON or the CLC that might be a worry.