Archbishop Vincent Nichols has now given his seal of approval to David Cameron’s recent attempt to get the Christian vote onside. So, here is a question: do you really think the archbishop should have done that? Or are you, like me, more than a little sceptical about the sincerity of Mr Cameron’s recent words? Pumping his fist in the air, apparently, he said: “I think there’s something of a [Christian] fightback going on, and we should welcome that. The values of the Bible – the values of Christianity – are the values that we need.” He referred to former Archbishop George Carey’s warning that Christians face gradual marginalisation, which he uttered after Bideford town council had been banned by a court order from opening its proceedings with prayer. Referring to this case, Mr Cameron pointed out that the Government had responded by amending the law. He also indicated, very interestingly, that if necessary, the law might be changed to allow Christians to wear the cross and crucifix at work.
Does this mean that he is in the process of executing a new U-turn, having given the strong impression that his Government was becoming, in the words of the splendidly named Daily Mail columnist Alexander Boot, “the most aggressively atheistic government in our history”? I hope so, of course: but if so, he had better begin by telling the Home Office to stop opposing the BA check-in clerk Nadia Eweida and the nurse Shirley Chaplin who have gone together to the European Court of Human Rights to claim that they were discriminated against when their employers barred them from wearing the cross. Cameron says that “if the ECHR does uphold the ban we will consider what further action we must take. We could potentially change the law, though our view is that the existing Equality Act gives people the right already.” Well, if he really thinks that, why are Government lawyers opposing these women in Strasbourg? Is this a case of the right hand (Tory) not knowing what the left hand (Lib Dem) is doing? Or is he speaking with forked tongue?
Sorry, I don’t buy this great pro-Christian declaration of the Prime Minister’s. Someone compared it last week with George Galloway’s successful attempt in Bradford to exploit the Muslim vote by strongly implying that he was himself a secret Muslim. One of his leaflets began thus: “God KNOWS who is a Muslim. And he KNOWS who is not. Instinctively, so do you. Let me point out to all the Muslim brothers and sisters what I stand for.” This really does look to me like Cameron pointing out to all the Christian brothers and sisters what he stands for: just the same as them, really. The difference is that Galloway got away with it. It seems to me that Christians have to make sure that Cameron doesn’t. If he allows us to wear the cross in public, that’s fine. But the institution of marriage is entirely another matter, and it’s on a quite different level of importance. He recently told church representatives gathered at Number 10: “I hope we won’t fall out too much over gay marriage. There’ll be some strong arguments and some strong words.”
Well indeed there will. This is where it matters. Throwing us a little tidbit here and there is not, I sincerely trust, going to buy us off, despite Archbishop Nichols’s welcome for Cameron’s smooth overtures. I prefer the stance of another bishop, Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, who got much nearer to the root of the matter when he said at his Chrism Mass last week that “The laity [that’s us] … have an enormous task of transforming a society marked by a ‘dictatorship of relativism’, of which the attempt by the Government to redefine marriage was one of the latest signs.”
This was, of course, a reference to the former Cardinal Ratzinger’s famous last sermon before he was elected Pope, the following extract from which, with all due humility, I diffidently suggest to Archbishop Nichols as being a passage he might well with profit read, mark, learn and inwardly digest:
How many winds of doctrine we have known in recent decades, how many ideological currents, how many ways of thinking… The small boat of thought of many Christians has often been tossed about by these waves – thrown from one extreme to the other: from Marxism to liberalism, even to libertinism; from collectivism to radical individualism; from atheism to a vague religious mysticism; from agnosticism to syncretism, and so forth. Every day new sects are created and what St Paul says about human trickery comes true, with cunning which tries to draw those into error (cf Eph 4, 14). Having a clear faith, based on the Creed of the Church, is often labelled today as a fundamentalism. Whereas, relativism, which is letting oneself be tossed and “swept along by every wind of teaching”, looks like the only attitude [acceptable] to today’s standards. We are moving towards a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognise anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one’s own ego and one’s own desires.
However, we have a different goal: the Son of God, true man. He is the measure of true humanism. Being an “adult” means having a faith which does not follow the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties.
Mr Cameron’s “rebranding” of the old principled but sometimes rebarbative Toryism does indeed sometimes look like following “the waves of today’s fashions or the latest novelties”. But is it fair to accuse him of “dictatorship” in this? Surely, that’s the opposite of the impression he wants to create? The fact is, however, that the word “dictatorship” is all too appropriate to describe his underlying attitude: therein lies the brilliance of the Pope’s original analysis. Relativism isn’t soft and accommodating: it’s ruthless and unbending. A dictator is someone who imposes his will with an iron fist, even though it may be in a soft and cuddly glove. The old dictators were greatly given to “democratic” plebiscites and elections, which they always won with 99 per cent of the vote. Mr Cameron’s version of that is the “consultation”, which is carried out with the proviso that whatever we say when we are consulted, it will make no difference to him: he is going to do it anyway. It is clear that the Coalition for Marriage’s petition (see here; if you haven’t signed it, do so now), judging by its present rate of growth, will end up with well over half a million signatures: it will be one of the highest totals ever attracted by an online petition.
But Mr Cameron, the Dictator of Relativism, will ignore it. His attempts to get the Christian vote, however, do seem to show that he realises he may have a problem with us, and that we need to be appeased. We must do nothing (and neither must our bishops and, especially, archbishops) to indicate that we have been taken in by his attempts to pacify us. A luta continua: the struggle goes on. We mustn’t weaken now. Cameron, for all his soft words, is still the enemy.