Monday, 27 June 2011

God’s place in a humanist society (17) [Locul lui Dumnezeu într-o societate umanistă]

No matter how obsolete concepts like ‘God’ or ‘faith’ appear to be in today’s ultra-secular Britain, political leaders sometimes find themselves compelled to speak about religion.

Beautiful churches (like the one in the picture***) may be emptier and emptier (unless they are Catholic and frequented by Polish or other Eastern European emigrants), yet they are still visible. And what they stand for is also visible.

There are instances – most often created by the media, as religion is of no interest for most Britons – when prefabricated ‘religious hot topics’ are unavoidable for politicians.

Be it an irreligious society like the British one has become for the past decades, members of the ruling class – in a country where the head of state (Monarch) is the formal head of a religious institution (Church of England) – sometimes have to explain themselves.

After hiding his papist leanings while in office – a Catholic Prime Minister (PM) would have been such a heresy in Protestant Britan, wouldn’t it? – Tony Bliar’s (this is no spelling mistake :-) started parading his belief.

He has been quite vigorously speaking in defence of his faith and of religion in general for the past years. However, from an Orhodox Christianity perspective, his twisted understanding of Christianity is utterly irrelevant.

His confession “I have always been more interested in religion than politics” (in his book: A Journey) can hardly do anything else but offer more loads of anti-religion ammunition for hardline British atheists.

Then, the son of Church of Scotland minister, Gordon Clown (no mistake here either :-) also claimed that religion is at the center of his Government. He praised Catholic for “being UK’s conscience” but stopped short of becoming a Catholic. At least until now.

These days David Chameleon (-:) is in charge at Downing Street 10. Even before the last elections, he diplomatically tried to distance himself from the (apparent) religiousness of his predecessors:

My own faith is there, it's not always the rock that perhaps it should be. I've a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments.

That’s quite a confession of faith, yet here are some other chameleonic addings:

I think that it’s perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, but I think the teachings of Jesus, just as the teachings of other religions, are a good guide to help us through.”

Help us through what?! Chameleon, Bliar & Clown see religion as a mere instrument, meant to help us trough (even through a political career), and ‘Jesus’ is no more than a character – a teacher as good as the founders of other religions.

I suppose I sort of started life believing that one’s individual faith was important, but actually the institutions of the church were less important. I do think that organised religion can get things wrong, but the Church of England and the other churches do play a very important role in society,” he adds.

Organised religion can get things wrong, while personal religion not?! I don’t understand. But the fact that I don’t understand doesn’t mean that I blame Chameleon, nor the other two PMs before him, of anything.

This is the way in which self-described religious people in a humanist society understand religion. They happen to be political leaders, and their outlook on life and religion is not worse, nor better than that of most Britons.

It would be pointless to accuse them of knowing nothing about Our Lord Jesus Christ, as long as even the ‘institutions of organised religion’ in the UK (Church of England, Church of Scotland, Catholic Church etc) know so little about Him.

What I find culpable is their chameleonism. They find it necessary to include references to religion in their public discourse, skilfully trying not too seem ‘too religious’ in their effort of proving that they are not altogether religiously indifferent.

From this perspective, Ed Miliband, the current Labour Party leader, appears worthy of praise for his honesty. He puts it bluntly:  “I don’t believe in God personally.”

His subsequent explanation doesn’t water down his atheist stance: “Different people have different religious views in this country. The great thing is that, whether we have faith or not, we are by and large very tolerant of people whatever their view.

There’s no doubt that Britain is one of the tolerant countries in the world, nevertheless, Ed Milliband seems to forget that during the glorious years of New Labour rule (1997-2010) more and more British Christians complained of being discriminated.

Two other important political leaders of today’s UK claim to be atheists. One is former Foreign minister David MilibandThe other is deputy PM Nick Clegg.

Both have been accused of a ‘lesser insincerity’ – one has already sent and the other considers sending their children to faith schools.

Only fanatical atheists could blame them for making pragmatic choices. Over and over again, studies show that faith schools are the best in Britain, and even Ed Milliband thinks that these institutions do “a fantastic job” in educating children.

The Lord and none else could know what will happen to Britain with such leaders. Blair claimed to have known Him and to have constantly prayed to Him, while Chameleon says (meaning to emphasize the idea of not being like Bliar) that he has “no direct line to God.”

What matters is that, to a great extent, Britain’s elected leaders (+ the Royal Family) are as irreligious as most of the nation. Neither the elite, nor the electorate could steer the other party in another direction.

*** NOTĂ: The pictured church is the Catholic Cathedral of Westminster, London, the first Catholic place of worship built (1895-1903) in England after the English Reformation. The credit for this photo, taken in February 2011, belongs to my reader Mihai Gociu.

[For all the episodes of this series, and all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate episoadele din această serie şi toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Anonymous said...

What about Prince Charles and orthodoxy? e.g. (an old article, but...):
verry interesting....

MunteanUK said...

@ C.L. (part one)

Thank you for posting this very relevant link here!

...and thus reminding me that I could have referred more to the faith 'professed' (more or less sincerely) within the British Royal Family.

The topic is very interesting - even for the majority of secular Britons - as it encompasses two aspects:

(a) Firstly, a personal one - anyone's faith should be a personal matter, protected by privacy rights.

Should the British royals make an exception or not? Could the Brits claim a right to know everything about the Royal Family?

Taking into account the fact that the Monarchy is a 'national liability' costing British taxpayers some 40 milion pounds per year, many would argue that the royals should have some of their freedoms 'restricted' in exchange for this 'good life'.

As long as Britons are interested in who dates who, who marries and divorces who, how many beers Prince Harry had one evening etc, I suppose that everyone finds it natural to be 'fully informed' about religion in the Royal Family.

(b) Secondly, there's a matter of 'state interest'. The British Monarch is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England, therefore must be Anglican.

Renouncing this faith would equal renouncing the rights to the Throne, and marrying a non-Anglican would also be problematic for those in line of succession to the British Throne.

The Heir of the British Throne is explicitly forbidden to marry a Catholic; I assume this restriction comprises all other Christian denominations and religions.

Queen Elizabeth II married Philip, the current Duke of Edinburgh who had been born Prince of Denmark and Greece and was Greek Orthodox.

However, the marriage couldn't take place before Philip converted to Anglicanism.

Among other things, the Duke of Edinburgh is now involved in the activities of an association called the "Friends of Mount Athos," however, it would be too much to say that he is still Orthodox.

On the other hand, nor should we simplistically 'judge' him for having renounced Orhtodoxy.

We don't know what's in his heart and whether he repented and is now a 'secret Orthodox'.

MunteanUK said...

@ C.L. (part two)

After such a broad introduction in the previous comment, I can now refer to your question - the relation of Prince Charles to his father's former faith...

...that is to what we know as being the only 'true faith', and not a mere possibility among a myriad of possible choices in life.

I am familiar with the Prince's 'interest' in Orthodoxy, and be sure that this aspect of his life hasn't remain unnoticed by British Orthodox believers:

It is also known that Charles has been 'exposed' to Orthodoxy since early childhood and that his paternal grandmother would become a nun in later life:;wap2

Nevertheless, this 'interest' in Orthodoxy can be purely an intellectual fascination as he is also 'interested' in many other things:

- Aston Martin automobiles
- alternative medicine
- Asian and Oriental philosophy
- Saxon villages in Transylvania
- ecological architecture
- gardening and farming
- the 'threat' of global warming
- freedom of Tibet
- sports (polo, water-skiing etc)
- many philanthropic causes
- etc etc etc

I am not worried so much about his official description of being a "practicising Anglican" - it's only natural that he keeps this appearance as Heir to the Throne:

What I find worrisome is his rather syncretic view of religion.

Charles was once thought to be planning a replacement of his title 'Defender of the (Anglican) Faith' with a new title 'Defender of All Faiths'.

This could possibly imply some form of 'multicultural' Coronation ceremony:

His 'religious interests' are too 'mingled' if I were to put it in a politically correct manner:,_Prince_of_Wales#Philosophies_and_religious_beliefs

On the other hand, it's worth wondering if his religion is not some form of 'environmentalism':

Although I wouldn't rush to consider him 'Orthodox', Prince Charles remains an interesting character.

We can merely put together some 'bits of information' about his religious beliefs.

It would be silly to claim that we know something else than what he officially admits - that he is a "practicising Anglican"

Who else than the Lord Himself could truly know what lies within the Prince's heart?

Only He has direct access to the depths of all human souls!

Anonymous said...

thank you for the answer.
and, yes, only God knows His plans for...everybody, including ...everybody.