21 July 2015

The British Way of Life

On July 20 the R/t Hon/ble David Cameron, First Lord of the Treasury and prime minister, made a speech in which I might be capable of being convinced that he made some practically sensible suggestions. However, it seems to me, conceptually, to be based upon premises which constitute an attack upon the liberties of every believing Christian in this country. The following sentence is the heart of the error:

"We believe in respecting different faiths but also expect those faiths to support the British way of life".
What does this mean but that different religious groups are required to subscribe to the British way of life? I grant that Cameron leaves the phrase distinctly undefined, but the fact that something is not defined and given clearly described limits makes it more, and not less, dangerous. It becomes all the more capable of manipulation, of being twisted to mean whatever a tyrannous ideology chooses. 

But, to be objective: can anybody deny that divorce,  fornication, adultery, abortion, sodomy are widespread in all sections of our society, and, in a number of cases, are promoted with pride by the governing class, the legislature and the courts of this country? If these things are not now at least parts of the British way of life, I do not know how any concrete meaning can be attached to that phrase.

Moreover, when I was young, Blasphemy, Abortion and Sodomy were still illegal. Is the British way of life something which metamorphoses every decade or so? Was I, in the 1940s and 1950s, not brought up in the British way of life? When did Cameron's British way of life come into existence? When the mores of this country will have changed from how they are now, will they no longer constitute, for Cameron, the British way of life? Or does the British way of life mean in each decade whatever is culturally fashionable at that precise moment? If so, Cameron's rhetoric constitutes a requirement that believers of all cults should regularly and very promptly accommodate themselves to the Zeitgeist, the Spirit of the Age. In these circumstances, were not the "German Christians" of the 1930s absolutely correct? If Christians or others are forbidden to be counter-cultural, was there any ground for not assenting to the Holocaust?

In as far as I understand the British way of life, I repudiate, with very great emphasis, all or at least large parts of it.

" ...equal rights ... sexuality ... "
 This recurs throughout the speech. Cameron does not explicitly in this speech mention his own enthusiastic promotion of sodomitical relationships and perverted lifestyles, but in a speech of 23 July 2013 he repeatedly expressed his pride in the legislation which he had recently passed into Law. In that same speech, he spoke about his determination to "export" "same sex marriage" around the world, so that other countries could follow suit. 

The fact that Cameron's July 20 2015 speech fails to be as explicit as the 2013 speech is easily explained, and the explanation does very little credit to Cameron's frankness or honesty. He is now attempting to carry along with him the greater part of the Islamic community in this country. It would not serve his devious purposes to be too explicit about some of the contents of the British way of life to which he is now imperiously demanding their (and my) allegiance. In the slippery tradition of the card-sharper who stacks his cuffs, or the spiv with his contraband merchandise, Cameron finds it convenient to conceal things in the recesses of his clothing.

"... theocracy ... fusion of religion and politics ..." 
Cameron dislikes this pair. I am not convinced that he would be a supporter of the Catholic teaching of the Social Rule of Christ the King, if someone were to explain it to him.

" ... reforming and moderate Muslim voices ... moderate and reforming voices ... critical reforming voices ... "
 I do not know how expert Cameron is on Islamic history, jurisprudence and theology; just possibly not a great deal more that I am. But let me put a hypothesis before you. Suppose, please, just for the sake of the argument, it were true that authentic Islam were something inconsistent with that British way of life to which Cameron demands the assent of Faith Communities. This would mean that he is only offering toleration, to Islam and to other Faith Communities including Christians, as long as they reform, moderate, and critically change their religions so as not to be contrary to the British way of life. Taken to its logical conclusion, as it is very likely to be taken, this would return Catholicism to the threatened state it was in during the reign of the first Elizabeth.

My faith is not at Cameron's disposal for him and his cultural allies and their masters below to reform, moderate, or change.

" ... a review of the Sharia Courts ..."
You can see why Cameron gets rather tentative and vague here. It would be embarrassing to condemn the Sharia court system in terms that also rendered illegal the Canon Law courts of the Catholic Church or the Court of the Chief Rabbi. You're going to have to tread carefully there, David.

"[You in the Media should] recognise the huge power you have in shaping these debates in a positive way".
Splendid! A candid admission! We are on familiar and agreed ground here! Christians, and especially Catholics, are very experienced in the huge power the Media have in shaping debate. We get the rough end of it almost daily.

I will conclude by pointing out that Cameron here gives us a good example of the particular English dialect sometimes known as Management Speak. In this unpleasant and aggressively manipulative dialect, positive means "what I approve of", just as negative inevitably means "what I disapprove of". Somewhere at the back of his Etonian mind, Cameron has the speech patterns used by his Head Master and his House Master in their attempts to assert dominance and secure compliance. Truly, culture wars are won or lost on the playing fields of a large school near Slough.

Or, on the other hand, perhaps not.



peregrinusto said...

Precisely put, Father.

Cameron is offering the "British way of life" as a kind of Trojan Horse to be taken into the city of faith uncritically. The implications of what it contains will be seen over time and "spread throughout the world," to use his phrase. The enemy of our enemy (radical Islam) is not always our friend.

motuproprio said...

I fancy it would not be too difficult to put a very similar speech into the mouth of Francis Walsingham, Queen Elizabeth I Principal Secretary, concerning Catholics.

vetusta ecclesia said...

I agree with Motu Proprio. Is Cameron the first First Minister since the Reformation to urge a church to " Get with the programme"?

Chris said...

in terms that also rendered illegal the Canon Law courts of the Catholic Church or the Court of the Chief Rabbi.

And would at the least tend to undermine the jurisdiction of the Court of Arches &c.

Gadfly said...

Cameron's ideas resemble that of the ancient Roman state don't they not: everyone one to worship as they please as long as they offer incense to the emperor. Well as I recall, the Christians were executed in their thousands precisely because they would not offer incense to the emperor.

Fr John Hunwicke said...

Chris: Indeed. But I didn't mention the Anglican system of courts because I assumed some pedant ... yes, they do exist on this blog ... would point out that since the C of E is established, its courts are courts of the British Crown. It was precisely because of this consideration that Tractarian priests on 'ritual' charges refused to plead before courts whose judgements would ultimately be subject to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

Matthew Roth said...

I thought the British way of life was the Christian one.

Anonymous said...

We are on the same page, Father. In conversation with a work colleague today, I said that no one should complain about "The Inquisition" any more since we have an increasing number of thought crimes in this country now. He laughed in a slightly derisory manner, so I pointed out that what is being proposed and implemented by this government is not just the disruption of terrorism and its propaganda, but of all opinions that do not conform to some - as yet undefined - doctrines of secular "tolerance" (wonderful piece of newspeak that). And any dissent from these doctrines will be deemed a threat to "The British Way of Life" with (again, as yet unspecified) social and legal consequences. Such was exactly the thinking behind the various medieval inquisitions - that heresy undermines and destroys society. Only in their case the doctrines they were defending were clear, objective and unchanging, and claimed a well argued divine authority. This "British Way of Life" simply means whatever the toffs, celebs and political in-crowd want it to mean. Far from being tolerant, it is increasingly doctrinaire, claiming an irrational authority for themselves as a power elite to know what is enlightened and progressive for the whole of humanity. There is a real danger that the powers of the new secular inquisition will eventually be even more arbitrary and brutal than anything from the past. Brave New World and 1984 are both coming true simultaneously. He laughed again, but a little more nervously, as if to say he thought I was exaggerating wildly, because, of course, that couldn't be happening in dear old democratic England... could it?

John H. Graney said...

Maybe the United Kingdom should have a Grand Mufti appointed by the Queen, and said Mufti can be asked whatever questions might be considered necessary to assure that his beliefs do not contradict some idea of the British Way of Life. Ironically, when the (Sunni) Muslims object to having their Mufti appointed by the government, it can be pointed out that they did the same thing to the Orthodox by having their Sultan and Caliph appoint the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Anyone Sunni Muslim who doesn't agree can be forced to pay a fine. I'm sure that nothing could possibly go wrong.
The irony is that the western countries are practically allied with Saudi/Gulf Sunni Wahhabism in geopolitical terms.

OreamnosAmericanus said...

The Christian churches' --and the Catholic Church's in particular-- support of the invasion and destruction of Europe (and North American and Australia) by Third World savages is a Great Betrayal. All in the name of the the Church's cooked-up "social teaching" and sentimental blather about "migrants." It is complicit in and guilty of every rape, assault, murder and degradation of Europe's natives that the dregs of Africa and Asia bring with them. Shameful and unforgiveable. The Popes should have read Jean Raspail's The Camp of the Saints. It is now being fulfilled.

austin said...

I am a child of the Empire, brought up in Africa. For us, the "British way of life" included "dominion over palm and pine," the spread of Christianity, imposition of the rule of law (by any means necessary), and accepting the obvious superiority of both British ethnicity and culture -- "first prize in the lottery of life", as Cecil Rhodes put it. For at least 150 years, almost every "right thinking" British person shared these views in common with (at least) the white subjects of the dominions and colonies.

In my lifetime, this set of values changed from being generally shared, normative belief to being characterized as appalling racist and imperialist extremism, punishable by ostracism and dismissal from employment. It has been an instructive experience in the wild shifts of ideological fashion, and had an influence in my conversion to the rather firmer intellectual ground of the Catholic faith.

Will the HMG publish a schedule of approved beliefs, assent to which will be required by statute? That at least would be an honest and open way of establishing a national secular ideology. A regime of appropriate punishments would be expected, enforced by summoners.

Distasteful as this prospect may appear, it is nevertheless preferable to blanket imposition of the utterly amorphous vagaries of whatever Zeitgeist has seized Notting Hill.

Anonymous said...

@DrAndroSF, I go to a church where many of "these third world savages" (your phrase not mine) are the backbone of devotion in the parish. From South India, the Phillipines, and various parts of Africa they come with little by way of physical wealth, but evidently well formed and ardent in their Catholic faith. We, the so called natives, had betrayed and trashed what was left our own culture long before any new immigrants came. It began at the Reformation in fact, but the weakened, liberal Protestantism that was left by the nineteen-sixties and seventies had no power to hold another generation, so it has collapsed under the weight of its own vacuity. Immigration has little to do with it. Whatever was of value in the traditional British way of life was the gradually waning vestige of Catholic truth and grace, and that does include the social teaching of the Church, which is far from trumped up, stretching back as through all the popes and saints to the Apostles and Jesus himself (unless you want to ignore much of the Gospels and Epistles).

I do actually think that it was a mistake (and consequence of British imperial arrogance in the sub-continent) for the British government to hand out passports with right of residence en masse to Pakistanis some decades ago, but that is a separate question. The British Empire was not based on Catholic principles or foundations in the first place, and it had no mandate or special blessing from the Lord. The Church is truly international, and God can raise up children from where he likes. Without immigrant priests from the developing world we will soon have none to give us the sacraments here. When St. Augustine of Canterbury came from Rome, he chastised the native Christians for blaming the immigrants of the day (the Angles, Saxons, Frisians and Jutes who are mostly our ancestors) for the collapse of the Church, rather than reaching out to the newcomers and converting them by the witness of their own faith and holiness. He would say the same to us now.

I do wish "traditionalists" would embrace the entire tradition, not just the bits that suit their private political stance.