Giles Fraser: Defending the faith from its cheerleaders
| NO, I am not ashamed of the gospel. But I am more than a little ashamed of the Not Ashamed campaign (News, 3 December). It comes across as just more complaining from the usual suspects. Can’t they see that most people will find it hard to take seriously anyone who continually bangs on about the existence of Christianophobia from the privileged benches of the House of Lords? Once again, Lord Carey and his friends have got it badly wrong.Furthermore, what many people suspect — and they are probably correct — is that this sort of campaign is motivated by a very narrow band of ethical concerns, led, once again, by a visceral disgust at homosexuality. When Lord Carey speaks of the need to stand up for Christianity, many of us now hear him as saying something as petty as the need to stand up for the right to be anti-gay. Well, count me out.
At the forefront of the Not Ashamed campaign is the Christian Legal Centre. Consider the cases it takes on. This week, it has been in court in Bristol to defend two Cornish guesthouse workers who refused double-bed accommodation to two civil partners, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy (News, 10 December).
A Christian lawyer was quoted recently in The Tablet, commenting on the work of the Centre: “They have not won anything, as far as I know. They also seem to have an obsession with homosexual cases.”
Lord Carey speaks as though the Not Ashamed campaign were about defending the very basis of moral Britain: “I am immensely proud of our country. I’m proud of our Parliamentary democracy under our Monarchy. I’m proud of the sense of fairness and fair play that runs throughout our nation. I am proud of our tradition of tolerance and our historic commitment to welcoming the stranger.”
These values, Lord Carey argues, originate in Christianity, and are “under attack” as the faith is publicly disparaged and sidelined. The campaign puffs itself up as a defence of the faith, but it is little more than an ill-thought-through baggage of victimhood and scaremongering.
The Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, got it right when he said: “If you define yourself by your victimhood, you’ve got a real problem. I do not believe that Christians are a persecuted group of people in this country.”
If Christianity is loosing its grip on the public imagination, it is because it has become too closely associated with resentful and narrow-minded sectarianism. Defending Christianity can require saving it from its noisiest cheerleaders.
This is not the first time that the former Archbishop of Canterbury has been criticised by Church Leaders in England, for his defence of Christianity against what he sees as an orchestrated persecution by secular society. As Canon Giles Fraser (St. Pauls’ Cathedral) here points out in his Church Times article this weekend, Carey’s shrill defence of conservative Anglicanism – mainly against any move towards the inclusion on the LGBT community in the Church and in society at large – is not merely counter-cultural, it is also totally against the tenor of the Gospel.
Carey’s campaign against what he sees as a ‘sinful’ expression of a God-give sexual characteristic has led him to follow up on his initial licensing of an anti-gay climate within the world-wide Communion at Lambeth 1998 – from which the rebellion of certain ‘Global South’ Primates has since emerged – with a continuing harassment of any attempt being made by other Primates of the Communion towards a better, more up-to-date, and Christological, understanding of what the Scriptures might have to reveal to us about the mysteries of sex and gender.
It really is time Bishop Carey left his successor to pick up the pieces of the Communion that Carey helped to fracture – by his encourage-ment of sola-scriptural idolatry and Victorian protestant tradition, at the expense of logical and Spirit-inspired Reasoning. Archbishop Rowan has a hard enough task to deal with serving Prelates within the Communion – without having to battle the maunderings of one of his most conservative predecessors.
Fr. Ron Smith