Sunday, 12 February 2012

More tea, vicar?

Public authorities - be it Parliament or a parish council - should have the right to say prayers before meetings if they wish. The right to worship is a fundamental and hard-fought British liberty.

Eric Pickles, the Daily Mail, the Bishop of Exeter, the Bishop of Rochester and The Christian Institute and the rest of the usual suspects either don't understand the basic idea of liberty, or are pretending not to.  As Basil Fawlty once said, 'I can spend the rest of my life having this conversation. Now, please, please, try to understand before one of us dies'.

It really is quite simple. You can believe what you like, but you've no right to impose your beliefs on people who don't share them. If you're in a council meeting, you should be doing council business, sorting out pedestrian crossings and making sure people's bins get emptied, not expecting everybody else to wait in embarrassed silence while you take time out to talk to your invisible friend. If that floats your boat, fine, You're welcome to be a sunbeam for Jesus, but there's a time and a place for it. The time is your own spare time and the place is called a church.

It is quite simple, but I don't think that conceptual difficulty is the problem here. It's all about power and status. As Upton Sincalir famously said, 'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it'. If clerics and supporters of the established church were seen to understand that their views and sensibilities occupy a privileged status in public life that owes nothing to the plausibility of their beliefs or to the number of adherents they've managed to convince, they'd stop looking merely dim and start to look like self-serving apparatchiks trying to hold on to their positions.

This "assault on our Christian heritage" nonsense is a, slightly more polite, watered-down version the politics of the Conservative Christian / Tea Party lobby in America. The Americans don't have an established church, but they do have a lot of influential, but insecure clerics, for whom it's all about me. Never mind the global economic meltdown (clue; it really is the economy, stupid), what really matters is my freedom to shout what I believe and to tell anybody who believes different to shut up, to interfere in what other people get up to in the privacy of their own bedrooms and to never, ever, be offended, challenged or made to think.

There should be a name for this retreat into brittle, self-serving, self-obsessed identity politics that  ignores the obvious, massive issues affecting everybody in favour of obscure issues that don't even exist for people outside a narrow "faith community". "Surrealpolitik" will do.


Fiona Dodwell said...

Hi Andy

I've been trying to find your email address but no luck!

Steve suggested I try here, since I'm no longer active on facebook.

Hope all is very well with you; your blog seems to be going great guns!

I've been a bit confused as I thought you were getting married (on 2 June 2012 my note says) but I havn't had anything formal and I wondered if it was still on or not?

Hope it is OK to ask!

Doesnt seem like long since that garden party but I guess that was the year before last now.

I'm liking being 50, but not so sure about 51. Just heard today I have some osteoarthrosis already.

I'm doing some creative writing (poetry) at uea, and an Eng Lit dissertation at cambridge ICE, it is very enjoyable, turns out I have quite a lot to say!

Be good to hear what you are up to in general

Love to Jo and Tom
Love Fiona

Andrew King said...

Hi Fiona

Yes, we're still on for June 2nd and you're still both most welcome to come along - formal invite to follow in the post.

Still plodding on here; I'm still one of the struugling self-employed, Jo's on a one year secondment as a curriculum manager at the OU, (like many people these days we've found the concept of job satisfaction being put on hold in favour of 'you're lucky to have a job').

Work aside, we're both well and Tom is flourishing at school. Childhood obsessions have moved on from Thomas the Tank Engine, to cars (in particular the exhaustive study of makes, models and badges), and, ever since school introduced space as their topic for last term, space. Every spare piece of paper in the house seems to have been covered with drawings of the planets of the solar system (including dwarf planets) and our half term treat tomorrow is a trip to Leicester space museum.

Good to hear that you're enjoying your Eng Lit course, and good on you for trying something new - if we could find the time /money I think both of us would like to do a bit of study to keep the old grey cells alive, but we never seem to find very much of either.


Andy, Jo & Tom