Saturday, 30 March 2013

David Cameron, Lord Carey, Gender and Christian Persecution

Today I read this headline from the Daily Telegraph:

David Cameron 'feeds fears of Christian persecution', former Archbishop of Canterbury says

And this from the Daily Mail (PM is David Cameron, the Prime Minister):

The PM's done more than any leader to make Christians feel they're persecuted

The Daily Mail article is attributed to Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Lord Carey says that he likes David Cameron and believes in his sincerity in making Britain a generous nation where “we care for one another and where people of faith may exercise their beliefs fully”.

A little later he suggests that many Christians doubt David Cameron’s sincerity. That according to a ComRes poll more than two-thirds of Christians feel they are part of a persecuted minority.

He does, however, point out that these feelings of persecution may not be justified since “few in the UK are actually persecuted.”

And yet, he says, the Prime Minister has “done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties.”

What has the Prime Minster done?

  • Allowed government lawyers to argue against the idea that Christians should be able to wear the Cross at their place of work
  • More shockingly: is allowing the Equalities Minister to support a bill that would make the Parliamentary chapel of St Mary Undercroft into a multi faith prayer room
  • He is working towards changing the law to allow same sex marriages
  • The law might not offer religious believers who are registrars to refuse to carry out same sex marriages on religious grounds
  • The law might force teachers to express agreement with the new politically correct orthodoxy (with respect to same sex marriage)

And what might this result in:

  • The alienation of people who were considered to be pillars of society
  • Christians not voting Conservative in the next general election
  • Driving law-abiding Christians into the ranks of the malcontents and alienated

It’s not so long ago that things were very different. Same gender sexual activity wasn’t an accepted thing for people to be involved in. There is historical stuff here and more contemporary stuff here. And some background on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) issues in the United Kingdom here. Though it actually says an enormous lot more about G than it does about L, B or T.

There have been times when sexual activity between  men resulted in the death penalty. More recently – within my living memory – it resulted in imprisonment. It seems that in 1957 the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Geoffrey Fisher, spoke out in favour of the decriminalisation of consensual and private homosexual behaviour.

It wasn’t until 1967, however, that this decriminalisation occurred when the Sexual Offences Bill was made passed.

A quote from Wikipedia:

Lord Arran, a sponsor of the Sexual Offences Bill, made the following remarks at the third reading in the Lords:

“Because of the Bill now to be enacted, perhaps a million human beings will be able to live in greater peace. I find this an awesome and marvellous thing. The late Oscar Wilde, on his release from Reading Gaol, wrote to a friend:

Yes, we shall win in the end; but the road will be long and red with monstrous martyrdoms.

My Lords, Mr. Wilde was right: the road has been long and the martyrdoms many, monstrous and bloody. Today, please God! sees the end of that road.”

And yet, Lord Arran went on to say:

“I ask one thing and I ask it earnestly. I ask those who have, as it were, been in bondage and for whom the prison doors are now open to show their thanks by comporting themselves quietly and with dignity. This is no occasion for jubilation; certainly not for celebration. Any form of ostentatious behaviour; now or in the future any form of public flaunting, would be utterly distasteful and would, I believe, make the sponsors of the Bill regret that they have done what they have done. Homosexuals must continue to remember that while there may be nothing bad in being a homosexual, there is certainly nothing good. Lest the opponents of the Bill think that a new freedom, a new privileged class, has been created, let me remind them that no amount of legislation will prevent homosexuals from being the subject of dislike and derision, or at best of pity. We shall always, I fear, resent the odd man out. That is their burden for all time, and they must shoulder it like men—for men they are.”

It seems that,in the UK, it wasn’t until 2003 that gay relationships began to be permitted in a similar way to heterosexual relationships. Civil partnerships weren’t introduced until 2005.  The first civil partnership ceremony took place at 11:00 on 5 December 2005 between Matthew Roche and Christopher Cramp at St Barnabas Hospice, Worthing, West Sussex. The usual 14 day waiting period was waived as Roche was suffering from a terminal illness. He died the next day. The article here gives additional background.

In all of this I’m left feeling that for many, many, many years it has been gay people that have been persecuted. The levels of persecution were extreme. The perpetrators of this persecution have included the Church and the State.

Thankfully things have changed and continue to change. A reading of the history of it suggests that the House of Lords has been a lot less willing to support such changes than has been the House of Commons. And some parts of the Church are moving much more slowly than is society in general.

I believe that Lord Arran was right in saying that no amount of legislation would change the way that people feel about homosexuals and homosexuality. Legislation doesn’t do that kind of thing.

But thankfully his view that homosexuals would forever be the subject of dislike and derision or pity … a burden for all time …  demonstrated that he severely underestimated people’s capacity for change when propaganda and misinformation are no longer supported by the fear that unjust laws can engender.

I’m not at all convinced by the idea that Christians in the UK are being persecuted in any kind of systematic or state-supported way.

There have been instances of lack of sensitivity – but equally there have been instances where the law has mainly been involved in preventing people with strongly held religious beliefs imposing the restrictions of those beliefs upon other people.

I’m particularly saddened by the view that support for same sex marriages should be construed as some kind of a persecution of the Church. Thank goodness that there are many, many Christians who don’t hold this view.

If David Cameron has done so much to make Christians feel persecuted then I’m left with the feeling that there are perhaps a lot of Christians that suffer from an excess of paranoia.

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