Wednesday, 27 March 2013

ANTIDISESTABLISHMENTARIANISM

by Colin Bloom

Is antidisestablishmentarianism the longest word in the English language? Even if it isn't I doubt I will ever write an article with a one word title this long again.

For the record, I am not an Anglican but I love the Church of England. I've never been an Anglican but I will fight to keep it as our Nation's 'established' church. I am happy to be described as an antidisestablishmentarianist, it should be on my business card.

As a conservative (note little 'c') as well as a Conservative, it is in my instinct to want to keep what is good about our nation. Little 'c' conservatives live by the maxim, don't fix what ain't broke, and there is no argument that has yet persuaded me that our ancient heritage of having an Established church does us any harm. On the contrary, I would argue it is something to be rather proud of, and something that makes us stronger and more settled.

One of the benefits of an Established church of England is that we have Bishops sitting in the House of Lords; called the 'Lords Spiritual' they are made up of the five great 'sees' Canterbury, York, Durham, London and Winchester, followed by the next twenty-one most senior Bishops from across the Country. Whilst it is extremely rare for all twenty-six Bishops to be in the House of Lords at the same time, they are an highly influential and important bloc in the upper house.

The secularists hate the idea of a Lords Spiritual. They froth and foam at the thought that these unelected prelates, that follow some imaginary deity, have privileges that their enlightened ranks don't enjoy. They don't just want an end to the Established church, they also want an end to prayers before Council Meetings, faith schools, prison chaplains and Easter marches of Witness. The secularism agenda is clear, they want disestablishment; they probably wouldn't mind getting rid of the monarchy too. Let's face it, most are anarchists or marxists or both.

Yesterday a veteran of Parliament and I were chatting about this very subject and we concluded that should disestablishment ever get to a vote in the House of Commons, the majority of the Labour Party would probably vote in favour of it, perhaps all but one Liberal Democrat would vote in favour of it and maybe only fifty of the three hundred Conservatives would vote to break the Church and State relationship. It was, we imagined, quite an irony that if such a vote were to take place, the fate of the Bishops in the 'other place' would be precariously balanced in the hands of Conservatives MP's, a group who recently have not been best pleased with the 'tone' from the Lords Spiritual.

As I said at the beginning, I love it the way it is, and I want our Bishops to be free to speak their mind and be free to vote as their conscience leads them, their strength is their independence. Long may they enjoy the freedom to speak their minds as God leads them in the Upper House.

However, and it is a very hesitant and gentle however, the Bishops might want to work a little harder at keeping their friends and making new ones in the House of Commons and with the general populous. With great fear and trepidation I would venture that they might want to reflect on articles like this in the Daily Mail regarding Iain Duncan Smith's welfare reforms (extremely popular with the voters we hear). 

It's my hope that in four hundred years time the UK will still have a Lords Spiritual, an Established church and free thinking, independent, God fearing bench* of Bishops. I just hope we don't have to vote on it soon.

*the collective noun for Bishops really is 'bench'.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mostly anarchists and Marxists?! No mention of republicans who want an elected upper chamber and head of state (many of whom fall you're in coalition with)? Come on Colin, you're better than this

Ian Gallehawk said...

Colin,

Greetings!

Firstly, it isn't the longest word. I think the longest, "ordinary" word is actually floccinaucinihilipilification, which beats yours by one letter.

I'm far from a secularist but don't necessarily agree with your position regarding prayers before council meetings etc. Is it right that an atheist councillor should have to sit through a prayer session which he/she finds offensive? Is it reasonable to assume that somebody, who doesn't wish to sit through a prayer session, would also want to prevent somebody from exercising their democratic right to engage in a Walk of Witness (on which I nearly froze last year)?

Just as I wouldn't seek to force an atheist to join a Walk of Witness, should we force individuals to sit through a prayer session? Surely a better test of faith would be to require people to get to work 15 minutes earlier and pray in their own time before work starts? That way, everybody should be happy.

Also, we live in a multi cultural society. Most (not all) councils in London are very much mixed faith entities. How do we get around that? Have several prayer sessions in different rooms? Take it in turns? Or do we insist on only Christian prayers?

These views do not make me an anarchist. I'm not sure what a Marxist is so that's a difficult one to answer and a different debate, although, as a believer, I clearly couldn't be one.

As regards the Lords Spiritual, they are not the only people appointed to the Lords. There are many others, the reasons for whose presence leaves me baffled. In this democracy, we will all disagree with different appointments. What matters is the transparency of the reasons for the appointments. Senior members of other religions are represented in the Lords and long may that last as well.

I've just returned from a Masonic gathering. I like the idea that we meet as people, who believe in the existence of a Supreme Being, who are required to be law abiding citizens of the highest moral standards and to follow our own faiths. We meet in harmony and part in the same manner. Perhaps Masonry has a lesson of tolerance and morality, which the rest of the world would do well to copy?

Dave said...

The purpose of the Lords is very different to that of the other House!
It is to bring a check and balance to Parliament, that if not in place, gives too much power to the state!
That there are some bishops to bring representation on behalf of a huge proportion of society who hold faith, should be of no concern of atheist or secularists, who have plenty to represent such views.
There are very real moral and personal issues that legislation impacts upon, those with political alliance can be whipped into submission. We should be grateful that bishops provide an independence, and represent the values of community welfare and existence their office requires.