If Supranational Government Is Necessary For Peace And Cooperation, When Will The Vatican State Join The EU?

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If you love the EU so much…

Yesterday, this blog took to task the motley crew of Christian bishops and other assorted British faith leaders who signed their names to an insufferably glib and ignorant letter imploring the British people to vote to remain in the European Union in the 23 June referendum.

But the Archbishop Cranmer blog has now gone one better, and published a satirical spoof article reporting that the bishops had actually called for Pope Francis to commit the Vatican State to joining the EU – the joke being that the bishops would never dream of insisting that the Vatican surrender sovereignty to Brussels but are perfectly happy to demand that Britain does the same.

From Archbishop Cranmer:

Religious leaders from the UK’s main faith communities – including former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams – have joined forces to urge Pope Francis to commit the Vatican State to joining the EU, saying membership is vital to preserving peace, fighting poverty and tackling the migration crisis.

In a letter in the Observer, 37 leading figures from across the faiths say that they hope the Pope will reflect on whether joining the international institutions charged with delivering these goals might contribute to a fairer, cleaner and safer world.

[..]

The letter is obviously not endorsed by any Roman Catholic leaders, but is signed by Anglican archbishops and bishops, Church of Scotland academics, reverend professors, deans, distinguished rabbis and imams, ecumenical coordinators, baronesses and peers, leaders of Sikh and Hindu faith communities, and Global Leader Steve Chalke MBE.

The ‘Stronger In’ campaign have today dispatched comedian Eddie Izzard to tour the Vatican State in an attempt to get the Curia to pray for Pope Francis, that he might incline his ear toward justice, peace and righteousness, and commit the Vatican to immediate EU accession negotiations. “It makes sense,” said Mr Izzard, “to have the Pope of Rome subscribe to the Treaty of Rome.” He added: “We know the overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic leaders and laity support membership of the EU because of the opportunities it presents to work, to study and to travel to Lourdes. I share their positive view of Europe, and I think Pope Francis ought to, too.”

And who can argue with this faultless logic? If we accept the Remainers’ fatuous assertion that Britain must remain in the European Union because only by being subordinate to a supranational government based in Brussels can we work pragmatically with out neighbours to solve problems which transcend national borders, then why should this not apply equally to the Vatican?

In fact, why should it not apply especially to the Vatican, being both an extraordinarily rich state and a hugely influential one, often bypassing other national governments to lay a claim on the hearts, minds and souls of people in countries all over the world? Given the Vatican State’s unique advantages in this regard, surely (according to Remainer logic) it is practically criminal for the Pope to stubbornly hold out, clinging to anachronistic national pride and refusing to be subsumed into the greater European whole.

And yet nobody makes this argument. The Vatican is left to go about its business as a sovereign state unmolested – quite rightly. But the fact that the European Union’s Christian cheerleaders would rather not afford Britain similar freedom is yet more proof of the inconsistency and subjective nature of their case.

As this blog recently remarked:

Britain is and will always remain part of a “bigger whole” whether we remain in the European Union or not. The European Union is a political construct, and a very recent and unproven one at that. It is not interchangeable with the continent of Europe, and it has no democratic legitimacy when it arrogantly claims to speak and act on behalf of the many diverse European peoples. There is a positive case for Brexit based on leaving euro-parochialism behind and engaging more fully in the world, and pro-EU Christians participating in the debate should at least acknowledge this fact rather than arguing against the two-dimensional cartoon Ukipper they hold in their minds.

But this is the very low standard of debate we have sadly come to see from those who claim to represent the Christian perspective. At its core, their argument amounts to little more than “the EU is about friendship and peace and cooperation, and Jesus was in favour of all those things, so what’s not to like?”

[..] Seriously – boil down most of the [Christian pro-EU arguments] and they amount to little more than that. You’ll hear endless variations on the theme that because we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, somehow it naturally follows that we should be united under the same supranational political umbrella – though curiously the Church of England never wastes its time clamouring for Asian countries to merge together, or for Canada, Mexico and the United States to institute a shared parliament.

So, about that rigorous, intellectual, Christian case for the European Union – where is it?

We are still waiting.

 

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Britain’s Religious Leaders Squander Their Moral Authority By Supporting The EU And Forsaking Democracy

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Another day, another insidious, arrogant attempt by religious leaders to suggest that God is a paid-up member of the Remain campaign

Read this portentous intervention in the EU referendum debate and tell me it isn’t the most fatuous, ignorant, sanctimonious bilge to be uttered by religious community leaders and supposed people of God in recent memory:

Faith is about integration and building bridges, not about isolation and erecting barriers. As leaders and senior figures of faith communities, we urge our co-religionists and others to think about the implications of a Leave vote for the things about which we are most passionate.

The past 70 years have been the longest period of peace in Europe’s history. Institutions that enable us to work together and understand both our differences and what we share in common contribute to our increased security and sense of collective endeavour.

What’s more, so many of the challenges we face today can only be addressed in a European, and indeed a global, context: combating poverty in the developing world, confronting climate change and providing the stability that is essential to tackling the migration crisis.

We hope that when voting on 23 June, people will reflect on whether undermining the international institutions charged with delivering these goals could conceivably contribute to a fairer, cleaner and safer world.

The letter is naturally signed by all of the usual suspects:

Rt Rev Rowan Williams, former archbishop of Canterbury; Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Movement for Reform Judaism; Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general, Muslim Council of Britain; Jasvir Singh, chair, City Sikhs Network

Rt Rev Dr Ian Bradley, Church of Scotland & Reader in Church History and Practical Theology, University of St Andrews

Baroness Butler-Sloss, Chair, Commission on Religion and Belief in Public Life

The Rt Rev Professor Lord Harries of Pentregarth, Emeritus Professor of Divinity, Gresham College, Honorary Professor of theology, King’s College London & Former Bishop of Oxford

The Rt Rev Paul Bayes, Bishop of Liverpool

The list goes on. Sadly, from a personal perspective, it includes Bishop Thomas McMahon of the Diocese of Brentwood, who confirmed me into the Catholic church as a young, eighteen year old convert.

But if this ignorant waffle is the best thinking that modern Christianity can bring to bear on the EU referendum debate, then Christianity deserves to be in decline for it has ceased to be any kind of intellectual (let alone moral) force in this country.

If these learned people – many from the higher echelons of the establishment, some of them with theological doctorates to their name  – genuinely can’t discern the difference between leaving one supranational political institution one the one hand and disengaging North Korea-like from the entire world on the other, then they deserve neither our respect nor the media’s airtime. And if they do discern the difference but choose to pretend to their congregations that Brexit means automatic isolationism, then they need to go back and consult their respective holy books to remind themselves what is written about bearing false witness.

Putting political preferences aside for a moment, anybody of faith in this country – Brexiteer or Remainer – should be appalled by this clumsy and ignorant intervention. For if religion is to continue to play a meaningful role in public life (as it should), the representatives of our faith surely have a duty to understand the issues on which they choose to intervene.

One has to earn the right to be listened to and taken seriously in the public square, and the surest way to forfeit that right is to talk loudly from a position of ignorance. And if this letter in the Observer reveals anything, it is a wellspring of ignorance. Ignorance about what the European Union is, why it was created and the direction in which it is plainly, openly heading. Ignorance about the true foundations of peace in Europe – liberal democracy, post-war economic growth and NATO. Ignorance about the future of global trade and regulation. And a profound ignorance (or at least a tendency to conveniently shut out the example) of the rest of the world, which has conspicuously avoided grouping itself into the type of regional supranational political bloc which the bishops bizarrely claim is essential to freedom and prosperity.

Where is the thought here? Where is the serious introspection, the good faith effort to actually listen to the opposing side (the importance of which religious leaders often lecture us) rather than go charging in to battle against a dishonestly constructed straw man? How, in short, is any Brexit-supporting Christian (or follower of any other faith represented in this car crash of an intervention) supposed to respect or feel respected by their spiritual leaders, after no less a figure than a former Archbishop of Canterbury made it quite plain in the pages of the observer that he believes that Brexiteers are literally seeking to undermine peace in Europe for no good reason?

Can the bishops point to a chapter and verse direction in the Bible that nations should seek to merge their political institutions together slowly and by stealth, while claiming that it is somehow necessary in order to underpin free trade? Of course not. Can the bishops highlight a specific injunction from the Lord clarifying that “building bridges” with neighbours means seeking some kind of continent-wide homogeneity? No. Tumbleweeds. The theological case for European political union is nothing more than a wheedling, hand-wringing, simpering assertion that because Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loved us, we should nod our heads and go along with one specific plan for European integration dreamed up by old men scarred from the memory of two world wars.

(In case you protest that a short OpEd in a newspaper is no place to set out complex arguments in full, I refer you to my pieces hereherehere and here, where I extensively discuss the fact that a solid Christian case in favour of the European Union has yet to be made by any religious leader in the course of this sorry EU referendum debate).

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If the story of religious intervention in the EU referendum thus far teaches us anything, it is that those who claim to lead our faith groups and communities are profoundly ignorant both about the country in which they live, and the world with which they seek to engage.

But worse than that, the bishops are often ignorant about their own flocks and congregations, many of whom have solidly moral and intellectual reasons for wanting Britain to leave the European Union, and who deserve better than to be effectively labelled as harbingers of the apocalypse by virtue-signalling prelates who are either too lazy to learn or too disingenuous to admit that the EU is not the alpha and the omega of democracy, trade and international cooperation.

At some point – maybe not on June 23, but probably in years rather than decades – the European Union will face a true crisis of democracy and legitimacy, as the passions of the narrow-minded European political elites diverge ever further from the interests of the people they lead. Whether this leads to civil unrest, antidemocratic coups d’etat or the breakup of the EU itself remains to be seen. But those bishops and other faith leaders who so airly signed their names to this letter proclaiming that anything other than a vote to Remain in the EU essentially means cheering on climate change, war and pestilence will find themselves dangerously exposed (which is perhaps why they have done so in their own names, but their organisations have held back).

For when the EU’s final crisis of democracy comes, the names of these faith leaders who today encouraged us to remain in the European Union will be mud. And deservedly so, for they have betrayed democracy either through their ignorance or their invidious EUphilia.

And if the bishops think that they and their values are being squeezed out of the public square now, they should wait until they are permanently associated in the public mind with actively working to keep Britain chained inside this failing, antidemocratic, euro-federalist experiment.

When the EU’s day of reckoning finally comes, the signatories to this letter may well yearn for that happy time when the public was merely indifferent about religion.

 

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When The Established Church Goes To War With Half The Country

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What to do when the established church makes no attempt to hide its hatred for conservatives?

Those who watch Gogglebox are no doubt familiar with the Reverend Kate Bottley, whose ambassadorship for the Church of England probably reaches many millions more people than most bishops.

Should we be concerned, then, that one of the established church’s most high profile characters holds a seething contempt and hatred for one of our country’s two main political parties?

Archbishop Cranmer lays down the charge, based on Bottley’s recent on-air admission that “I hate it when I agree with a Tory”:

She wasn’t wearing her dog collar this week, but she doesn’t need to: the whole country knows (and so do Channel 4 editors and producers) that she is a Church of England vicar and a minister of the Word. And she is very well liked and respected: there is no hint of moral or doctrinal delinquency, but national admiration for her personal spirituality and great teaching capacity. She is a manifestly gifted, active communicator who is dedicated to serving her parish.

But ministry isn’t simply service, for that is the whole of Christian life. Her task as a vicar is distinctively liturgical, catechetical and pastoral, principally for the needs of the whole Christian community, including Tories. As an ordained priest, she is both servant and shepherd among the people to whom she has been sent, and that includes Tories. Her task is to proclaim the Word of the Lord and to watch for signs of God’s new creation, including in Tories. Her vocation is to teach, admonish, feed and provide for her flock, which includes Tories.

The majority of England is instinctively conservative: it appears to be a natural disposition; an affinity with the natural order; part of the psyche of essential Englishness. The Rev’d Kate Bottley is by no means obliged to approve of that: indeed, she is free to repudiate its consoling power and turn her religious fervour to more meaningful transcendent bonds. But you’d think there might be some sensitivity to the political-philosophical implications for mission praxis. Why should those Tories who attend her church bother to listen to her tell the story of God’s love, if all the time she is pinching her nose at their spiritual halitosis? Why should all those Tories who watch Gogglebox even consider walking with her in the way of Christ, hoping to be nurtured and encouraged in their faith? Why should they gather round the Lord’s Table if their vicar deems them to be unworthy or unable to resist the evil philosophies of men?

Bottley is far from an isolated case. Seething anti-Tory sentiment clearly exists much higher up in the church hierarchy, too, judging by the Bishop of Manchester’s decision to play host to Jeremy Corbyn and a left-wing rally coinciding with the Conservative Party conference taking place in the city.

Long gone, it seems, are the days when the Church of England was commonly known as the Tory party at prayer. And with church personalities using their pulpits to inveigh against right-wing policies and pontificate on the supposed dangers of Brexit, the time has come to urgently look again at the privileged position which the partisan established church holds in our constitution.

 

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The Daily Smackdown: Cynical Bishops Exploit Terrorism For Publicity

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Who will condemn the bishops for exploiting our fear of terrorism in their grubby bid to preserve taxpayer funding of the BBC’s religious output?

The Church of England is very upset that the BBC is considering cutting the amount of taxpayer money it spends on (predominantly) Christian television output.

From the Telegraph:

A spokeswoman confirmed that the BBC was planning to “look at ways we can reduce costs” as it faced “huge financial challenges” but added that cuts would come from across the corporation.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, the Church of England’s lead spokesman on media issues, said the move could threaten something which was “fundamental to our public life”.

“It seems to me that religion has already taken a hit,” he said.

“It has already been reduced certainly in terms of its scope as an independent part of the BBC, at a time when we already need – as everyone acknowledges – more religious literacy in the nation.”

Nothing unusual there. The Church of England is a well oiled lobbying machine, and any private organisation lucky enough to have a bloc of 26 unelected representatives sitting in parliament to influence our laws in their favour would be foolish not to make good use of them. Thus it is no surprise that the unelected theocrats of our state church have been hard at work speaking out against the BBC’s planned actions.

But the fact that the Church of England’s behaviour is understandable does not make it any less reprehensible. Firstly, because it makes a total mockery of the idea of the BBC as an independent broadcaster. Nobody seriously believes that an organisation whose budget is nearly totally dependent on taxpayer money can be truly independent, but the fact that the Lords Spiritual are now actually speaking in parliament about the internal decisions and strategy of the BBC makes any pretence of the BBC’s impartiality or the government’s non-involvement utterly ridiculous.

Worse than this, though, is the flimsy rationale now offered by the bishops as a pathetic excuse for more taxpayer funded religious programming:

Bishops have warned the BBC it risks turnings its back on efforts to tackle extremism and aid integration by slashing spending on religious programming.

[..] The first female cleric in the House of Lords, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, remarked that the decision had presumably been taken “to reduce the possibility of offending people with too much God stuff over the holiday”.

It is good to see the newly enobled Rachel Treweek, my Lord Bishop of Gloucester, is wasting no time in rolling up her sleeves and interfering in our national democracy as generations of theocrats have done before her. She will be making the home team very proud. But unfortunately, she and her fellow Lords Spiritual are talking nonsense.

The argument that cutting the amount of taxpayer money devoted to religious television and radio programming on the state broadcaster is somehow a threat to anti-extremism efforts is as ridiculous as it is unfounded.

More moderate Christianity on TV will not result in less Islamic extremism on the margins of British society. And pontificating, busybody bishops who abuse their parliamentary platform to suggest otherwise should provide evidence for the supposed link, or else retract the claim and admit that they are simply exploiting serious issues of national security in a cheap ploy to gain more taxpayer-funded airtime.

The real issue is not so much the pull factor of extremism as the push factor of the alienation of too many young Muslims from British society. It’s the fact that we have living among us too many self-segregated societies comprised of people who hold the same passports as us, but look upon us – and the enlightenment values of reason, education, liberty and democracy to which we try to adhere – as alien and unwelcome. By failing to inculcate a strong and inclusive sense of Britishness, out of craven fear of causing offence, we provide the Islamist recruiters with easy fodder.

Do my Lord Bishops of Gloucester and Norwich (flowery titles for a bygone age) seriously believe that the kind of alienated youths and their families who are now quietly slipping away to ISIS in Syria or seeking out radicalising materials online are the same type of people who tune in to BBC Two at six o’clock in the evening, ready to be reached out to and placated with a documentary about public spirited imams, rabbis and priests working together to open a new community centre? What nonsense.

The people most in need of the BBC’s moderate religious programming and generally liberal worldview are those whose eyes are glued to YouTube videos of anti-American 9/11 conspiracy theories or seditious social media conversations on their smartphone screens. More government intervention – be it through Prevent or the BBC – is not going to make meaningful inroads to these people. The only lasting solution must come from the bottom up, a revitalisation of patriotism and pride in Britain, and the promotion of a common British identity which transcends racial divides (rather than revelling in a multicultural dystopia which sees groups living side by side but separately in parallel, alienated lives.

Do the Lord Bishops have anything meaningful to say about that? No, they do not – perhaps with the exception of the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres.

This is in no way intended as an attack on religion, or on the Church of England (so long as it stays within its own boundaries and stops trying to play an undue role in our public life). I grew up watching Songs of Praise on a Sunday, and have happy memories of doing so. But it is not right for general taxpayers of an increasingly secular country to continue funding religious programming using a model that invites some appointed bureaucrat or another to choose which religions or denominations are to be favoured above others.

Perhaps the Lords Spiritual begin to grasp this. Perhaps they are grasping at these increasingly ludicrous excuses for their continued influence because deep down, they realise that they have no place in the government of a twenty-first century democracy.

But if these are the death throes of theocracy in Britain, they are still very offensive indeed. Claiming that the BBC should continue to spend taxpayer money on religious output favouring the established church because failing to do so will unleash more extremism – and note how the bishops cannot bring themselves to utter the name of the religion from which that extremism currently emanates – is cynical and manipulative, playing on the fears of British people just to win more free promotion.

I have never expected much from the Church of England’s upper hierarchy, or their antidemocratic parliamentary delegation. But this is low, even by their rock-bottom standards.

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Church Of England Parliamentary Team Revel In Their Antidemocratic Role

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The Church of England’s Parliamentary Team have taken to joking on Twitter about the various ways in which they subvert British democracy. But there’s nothing funny about these modern-day theocrats

Imagine if a private sector firm had twenty six seats in the upper house of the British Parliament and possessed the ability to debate bills, lobby government ministers and even vote on Acts of Parliament – all without receiving a single vote from anyone in the United Kingdom. That organisation would be counting its undeserved blessings, and doing its best to keep a low profile and avoid drawing attention to their wildly over-privileged position.

If the RMT possessed nearly thirty votes in Parliament and used them to thwart key transport bills or trade union legislation, there would rightly be an uproar. If Tesco had their own parliamentary caucus who voted against minimum wage increases and greater employee protection rights, people would march on Westminster with burning torches to evict the voice of the Evil Corporations. And yet when the Church of England enjoys the exact same privilege – twenty six Lords Spiritual who sit in the House of Lords and exert influence over our democracy in the name of the established church – there is a deafening silence.

Well not quite. The one group of people making any kind of noise about this state of affairs are the Church of England’s own Parliamentary Team, who thought that it would be in great taste to post this cartoon on their official Twitter feed today:

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