For those who don’t know, Andrea Minichiello Williams is the CEO of Christian Concern, which sends out regular updates regarding things happening in the culture and that have sometimes helped to inform my blog writing. Andrea is not everyone’s cup of tea, including among some Christians, and she does remind me a bit of the late Mary Whitehouse, who was prepared to stick her head above the parapet when few others did and as a consequence bore the brunt all sorts of unpleasant reactions and public ridicule. One of the first hits I found, when I did my customary Google search concerning this lady, included the words: “Her style mirrors that of USA fundamentalists who continually press for Christian theocratic power and dominionism, with no acceptance of the diversity or equality that have defined the democratic era”, and this compared with some of what I have read is relatively moderate.
She begins her newsletter: “So, 5 weeks until the General Election and where do we find ourselves? The answer politically, is confused. It seems unlikely either of the old ruling parties will govern alone as a majority; it is unclear where the balance of power will lie or how minority parties will align to form a coalition government. Could there be a minority government fighting on every piece of legislation as Boris Johnson suggests the Conservative Party should do if it manages the largest minority? One thing that unites all the party hierarchies is the rejection of Jesus Christ and the moral truths that flow from recognising Him as Lord. They pursue the reverse conviction – that to prosecute against them is to do good… Between Christmas and Easter this year at Christian Concern we have dealt with a continued push for assisted suicide in parliament and a deliberate refusal by parliament to specifically outlaw gender abortion. We’ve seen a new normalising of same sex families and transgenderism and the imposition of that agenda in the school curriculum for the very youngest of our children. History bears out that the alternative is Christ or Caesar; liberty or slavery; God or man. We know that the State cannot be man’s saviour but Christ is to be recognised as the Saviour by the State. Where man’s law commands what God forbids, civil disobedience becomes a Christian duty …”
Pretty rousing stuff, even by my standards, yet what she writes does strike a chord and I have on a number of occasions declared my hand when good people e.g. the Asher’s bakers in Northern Ireland, one of the later cases in a long line, are penalized with the support of the State, for acting according to their conscience. When I watched the big election debate two days ago, I was struck not just that the questions that were asked were all pertinent but the question I wanted to be asked, to do with fundamental values, was not raised or addressed. The person who got closest was Nigel Farage of UKIP (explaining why they don’t just attract charlatans in their numbers but Christians also) but sadly he blotted his copy book with his fixation on keeping foreigners out of this country and appearing to be down on minorities in society. Even among some of my Christian friends, I often receive short shrift when I raise these concerns, being told I need to focus on “love our neighbor” and, when I engage politically, getting the politicians to do so as well. My response as always is that love our neighbor is axiomatic to my community activism but that also involves not just balancing social justice with sound economics but also allowing people to function according to their conscience as long as it doesn’t lead them to hate our neighbor.
This brings me nicely to another to another piece that appeared in my in-box over the past few days, from an organization with similar aims to Christian Concern – the Christian Institute, with the intriguing title: “Ignore ill-considered British values rules, says head”. What was more intriguing was the head in question is the head of our local boy’s grammar school, the one I attended and the one my son is attending. The article begins: “the controversial ‘British values’ rules brought in by the Department for Education last year should be ignored, according to the head of a successful all-boys school. Robin Bevan, headteacher of Southend High School for Boys, told the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference that the rules are “ill-considered” and “political posturing”. He also referred to inappropriate conduct by schools’ regulator Ofsted in recent months… “There is no one in this hall who would argue against the important role that schools and colleges play in promoting personal morality” and “developing a sense of civic duty” But he said that schools had been doing this successfully for a long time and questioned the need for new guidance”.
One of the reasons why this article struck me was that it was to do with something I had pointed out, with a degree of consternation, when I wrote my earlier “British values” post. I reflected at the time, there is no way a government that withdraws search and rescue services in order to deter asylum seekers fleeing by sea from oppression, on top of the many social justice issues we see every day, has any moral authority to pronounce on British values. For Ofsted to focus on questioning young children about their understanding when it comes to same sex relationships at an age when they should be learning to tie their shoe laces and minding their “p”s and “q”s, and then downgrading those schools that they deem to have failed, is outrageous. Given what we see taking place in society and there are many parents unable and unwilling to teach their children the difference between right and wrong, I can well understand why the government would want to use schools to remedy deficiencies.
Regarding what values are taught in schools, there probably never was a golden age we can harp back to and might want to reproduce, but equally some of what has replaced what I was exposed to as a youngster is worse, despite some other aspects like accommodating the needs and aspirations of minorities and recognising difference is mainly a good thing. The values society as a whole hold dear change, albeit subtly, over the years including among Christians and those who teach our children. What is taught is schools seems set to remain an ideological battlefield for the foreseeable future, not so much with those who teach but with those who determine what is taught, especially as many these days buy into relativism as opposed to certainties based on things like ten commandments, and those who decide are often the wrong people who, more often than not have a questionable agenda that they wish to promote.
Before some zealous liberal minded folks consign me to the bigot, off the wall, category, from a young age, helped by my community worker links with all and sundry, I saw it as part of my parental duty, within reason and along with the intention that innocence be preserved as long as possible, to get my son to engage with, relate to, respect and weigh the ideas of, not just the nice Christian folk in my circle but, those of all religions and none, rich and the poor, bright and not so bright, gay and straight, black and white, male and female, able and disabled, old and young, homeless and housed, drunk and sober. I saw it as a British value just like tolerance, hard work, doing our duty, having a sense of humour, minding our manners, standing with the underdog, respecting freedom of speech, wanting to see that fair play, having a sense of proportionality and, pertinent to this discussion, acting according to one’s conscience with the reasonable expectation that society will allow us to do so.
I have no doubt that some, maybe many, of the problems we face as a country is down to our not having the right values or values that we can share along the lines of the judaeo-christian consensus that once existed – this and failing to love our neighbour, which should go hand in hand! While I live in hope that these matters will become election issues, I know that, without a move of God and a change in heart starting with the people of God, it will be back to the same old politics that might lead to change for the better but only superficially so at best. Only when our values are right will our nation be right.