Friday, 28 March 2014

We don't do God here - though we think we do

Out of curiosity, I attended a lecture in the Lady Chapel at Westminster Abbey on Monday, sitting between the choir stalls, gazing up at the lacework ceiling, under which our Monarchs rest.   I was expecting to hear an examination of how Christianity still has a role in public life in a series of lectures supposedly about "moral courage in public life".

We listened to a highly qualified Oxford-educated woman, who, in the presence of the clergy, gave a lecture about how to govern. Needless to say, I am not someone who pulls the levels of State, though I may have a slight influence, now and then, used on behalf of the marginalised.

She said one should take a three-pronged approach combining "economics/targets", a "sense of people's rights" and  something else (now forgotten), all of which sounded exactly the way the modern world thinks - pragmatically.  She never once mentioned God, though she mentioned several German philosophers, including Kant. She took morality for granted, which clearly these days, is not to be taken for granted at all.

The audience, nearly all male, some of whom may have been eminent churchwardens, did not appear to agree with her.  One said that "God has a bias to the poor"; another, an ordained clergyman, that she had left values out of her three-pronged formula.

I said that it is all very well applying this three-pronged rule, but if your experience of the world is limited, by coming from a certain class background, or you are blinkered by complacency, plus you have no idea what it is to live without resources, even if you are a moral person, wanting to do good, you will still come to the wrong conclusion.  Some might say this applies to most politicians today, few in any party in the UK, coming from 'the receiving end' of society. I was actually thinking about those with disabilities and long term health conditions. She replied that one needs to do 'homework', through research. However, if you do not ask the right question  in your research, that approach will not help either. Others present considered this and said that in coming to an 'informed' decision, one should be humble about it as it could still be inadequate or even wrong. It is widely known that we need more people to represent less favoured groups.  This principle is called "diversity" - not unfashionable, in itself.

Afterwards, someone thanked me for speaking. I had earlier overheard him talking to his friend about "the Taliban" - who removed statues from churches (i.e. Cromwell's Presbyterians).  I said "Actually, I am a bit of what you call 'the Taliban', myself". He and I laughed, as the British do, covering all serious religious issues, with humour. He politely said "Graven images are indeed prohibited in the Bible". Thus we parted - with respect for each other's sense of history.

I came away with two impressions: those who know the Bible do not obey it - or privately undermine those who do seek to respect the Bible's teaching.  Those who do not know the Bible, cannot define the argument. We see this muddle going on continually in public debate, on TV, in print.  The net result is not just that "We don't do God here - even though we think we do"  but a complete lack of intellectual or spiritual justification for any approach - apart from selfishness.

Without God, there is no justification for morality: Christianity is the bedrock of the civilised West. Without giving credence to the Divine, we soon get lost in a maze of contradictions. Into this moral vacuum something else - which people may like a lot less than the Christian God - could easily move to take over the reins of power.

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