Faith, Freedom and the Future
by Michael Nazir-Ali
Wilberforce Publications, £12.99
The former Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, does not shy away from bold pronouncements. On the issue of “designer babies” – deemed a “disaster for society” – he concludes that “we have had enough of children being the recipients of endless, fashionable social experimentation”. A piece about the magistrate Richard Page being required to “receive ‘remedial’ training” after declining to place a child with a same-sex couple ends with the following remark: “This smacks to me of the ‘re-education’ camps so beloved of totalitarian Marxist states … [Is] freedom of speech and belief only for a liberal elite with politically correct views?”
Looking at society more broadly, the bishop complains that “a false, progressivist anthropology has led to a baptising of things as they are, to an emphasis on acceptance and inclusion, and to an overly optimistic view of cultural change as tending to be for the better.” Why, he wonders, can we not take “more seriously what is wrong with human nature”?
At times, there is something of the jeremiad about this volume but, more frequently, we can discern a positive belief that people of faith should pursue critical and constructive engagement with contemporary values and practices. Sometimes they will cheer and sometimes they
Bishop Nazir-Ali talks of a Christian vision that can support the social order but is also at liberty to stand “against culture” or be a “transformer of culture”. Religion is not “merely dry-as-dust ritual, law and theology”, and the Gospel provides an ideal antidote to current woes and a widespread alienation from our source of existence.
Needless to say, the bishop is offended by an “aggressive form of secularism which seeks to exclude religious discourse from the public square” and he counters this by covering an ambitious range of issues. They include marriage, euthanasia, the state of the Anglican Communion and the West’s encounter with Islam. You are unlikely to agree with all of Bishop Nazir-Ali’s positions but it would be a shame to miss him holding forth.
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