Showing posts with label Parliament. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Parliament. Show all posts

Friday, 5 April 2013

WHEN IT COMES TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM, WE MUST NEVER, EVER RELAX

St Mary Undercroft, the servants' chapel beneath Parliament
by Colin Bloom

When it comes to religious freedom in the UK, the US and around the world, we must never, ever relax. David Cameron calls them aggressive secularists, he's right, but they are so much worse than that. They will never stop, never grow tired, never give up, never give in until they reach their goal of what they call 'ending religious privilege'. They won't be satisfied until God and all his followers are ultimately driven out of public consciousness.

Nearly a millennia years ago the Kings of England lived in the Palace of Westminster and the Royal court worshipped in St. Stephen's Chapel. Nowadays St Stephen's is the main entrance into Central Lobby, where written into the tiled floor are the opening lines from Psalm 127. "Unless the Lord builds the House, the workers labour in vain."

Deep in the bowels of Parliament is one of the most beautiful Christian chapels in the country. Called St Mary Undercroft, it was originally the chapel for the Palace servants and staff, whilst the Royalty used St Stephen's Chapel, it was the King's servants who went down into the Undercroft. Fittingly, it's still the case today that servants of the King, Christ the King, can still meet for Christian worship, prayer and services. It is still the case that Parliamentarians and their families, with permission, can have a Church of England marriage in the Chapel.

Recently there has been much furore because of a threat by a Labour MP to try and get St Mary Undercroft turned into a multi faith, or non faith room. An attempt that we are soothingly assured will not get very far because the status of the chapel is that of a 'Royal Peculiar' meaning that only the Queen can change its designation. We've been here before, we've had soothing words and reassurances but the relentless tide of secularism still comes in.

Let me describe what a Secular United kingdom will look like:

No Chaplains in Military bases, hospitals, schools, police stations or prisons. No faith schools. No prayers before Council Meetings and before Parliament. No Lords Spiritual. No Church of England as the 'Established Church'. No state occasions that included anything spiritual; if the Royal Family survived (and they probably wouldn't under these liberal totalitarianists) but if they did, Royal Weddings would have to be in a Registry Office, the next coronation would be held in Windsor's Civic Centre. No charitable status for faith groups (why should we give tax breaks to people that believe in fairies). No funding going to World Vision, Tear Fund, the Red Cross, Cafod, Save the Children, Christian Aid etc etc. No Easter March of Witness in your Town Centre, no public plays of the Passion. If you believe in anything supernatural, you would have to do it in your own buildings with the doors and windows shut! A Secular UK would be a soulless, grey and ultimately harsh place.

I've written about being an antidisestablishmentarianist before, and I am more convinced than ever that we need to do more than just stand our ground, we need to start taking back the ground that has been lost. We do not want to create a theocracy, we live comfortably with differences of opinion, but when we see acts of cultural and religious vandalism brought into our spaces, we cannot be neutral, we must wear what the Apostle Paul calls the 'Full Armour of God' and fight back.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

POLITICS OR THE WORK OF GOD - I HUMBLY SUBMIT YOU CAN DO BOTH

by Colin Bloom

One of my favourite films is Amazing Grace, the story of how my political hero, William Wilberforce worked with others to make the slave trade illegal. Last night, as a family we watched it together. I never get bored of seeing it.

There is a powerful scene where Wilberforce, Pitt the Younger, Hannah More, Thomas Clarkson and Olaudah Equiano and a few others from the Clapham Sect are dining together; Wilberforce is graphically shown how the slaves are chained and transported to the plantations across the Atlantic.


Mr Clarkson turns to Wilberforce and says, "Mr Wilberforce we understand that you are having problems choosing to do the work of God or the work of a political activist."

Hannah More then says, "We humbly suggest that you can do both."

How many thousands of other 'Wilberforces' have asked themselves the same question and were advised to do one or the other? As if politics and faith operate as completely separate entities. What would our world look like if we had more Hannah Mores that encouraged them to do both?

So, if you are passionate about politics and are what Wilberforce would call a 'Real Christian' then consider joining a political party, get involved and perhaps even consider standing as a Local Councillor, MEP or Member of Parliament. You could be the next William Wilberforce!

I humbly suggest you can do both!

Monday, 18 March 2013

PLEASE SHUT UP AND LISTEN



At midday every Wednesday in the House of Commons, the weekly fisticuffs between the Leader of Her Majesty's Opposition and the Prime Minister begins again. If you have ever watched it, you will know that it would be better described as the politico's pugilistic preprandial punch up.

For as long as I can remember it has always been like this; before 1997 it was twice a week until Tony Blair, rightly in my view, reduced it to just Wednesdays. With few exceptions, these exchanges are a tragic witness to the Parliamentary culture we are possibly becoming. A cold, aggressive, tribal culture, more suited to the terraces of a lower league soccer club than to the mother of all parliaments. If Members of Parliament are supposed to be 'honourable', you wouldn't know it from the midweek mudslinging.

It was William Wilberforce who said that alongside dealing with the slave trade, he wanted to see a reformation of manners. If the House of Commons in the 18th Century was a rowdy as it often is today, it is easy to see why he yearned for such an ambition.

For the most part, questions are asked not to extract a meaningful or thoughtful answer, but are asked to trap or embarrass the other person. Regardless of whatever the answer is, the questioner comes back with another pre-rehearsed statement aimed at building on the crippling effect of the last. This is the way of things, but it serves no purpose whatsoever. It turns what could be quite a helpful part of our legislature's week into little more than a cross between a  Punch and Judy show and TOWIE*.

To his credit the Commons Speaker John Bercow, has done a great deal to try and address this problem. Like a stern class tutor, scolding primary school children, he occasionally chides the class by pointing out how pathetic they look to the viewers at home. Maybe he should introduce the 'Speaker's Naughty Step' behind his chair, where Members of Parliament who are braying too enthusiastically should be sent until they learn to calm down.

The Greek philosopher Epictetus is quoted as saying “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” Good advice for everyone, especially for those in positions of leadership, and particularly for those in politics. Certainly for when they are inside the chamber.

Imagine a democracy where politicians listened, and not only listened but actually heard what was being said to them. How would the world look if those in power actually heard the voices of the people above the shrieking of their adversaries, or perhaps the roaring of their inner demons?

If like me you are sick of the knock about, tired of the noise and want something better. Write to your MP and ask them what they think could be done, also write to Speaker Bercow thanking him for what he trying to do, but ask him to go further. If we can see Wilberforce's dream of a reformation of manners in the House of Commons, you never know where it might spread.

*The only way is Essex (apparently!).