Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Cranmer is off out for a glass or two of red.

That may be a little lie.

Mayor Boris alone is worth a more substantial toast.

His Grace wishes all of his faithful readers and loyal communicants richest blessings for the New Year.

Farewell to the Noughties – a depressing decade of decay

Good riddance. Cranmer has hated them. It has been a decade for His Grace in which things have gone from bad to worse – personal trauma and catastrophe, bereavement of family and very close friends, national humiliation, oppression, and most recently coming face-to-face with a blubbering mass of evil intent on destroying him: the black dog has been for one or two long walks, and there have been times His Grace yearned to return to ashes and dust. It has also been the only decade in history which Labour have managed to hold on to power continuously, and the evil they have done will live on after them. As much as one loathed much of what Tony Blair represented and did, he was at least credible and charismatic on the world stage. Gordon Brown is a national embarrassment. Perhaps inadvertently, perhaps by design, between them these two professing Christians have created a context which is unequivocally hostile to the Christian faith, and they have robbed us of our historic liberties: equality is the new religion, closely followed by man-made global warming. And any dissent from these tyrannical creeds creates such a jarring dissonance that one is pilloried, slandered and ultimately burned at the stake.

Yet the Conservative Party has been complicit, and Cranmer has no hesitation in highlighting its spectacular failures in opposition. The Party has chopped and changed leaders so often that the general public has scarcely had time to put a face to a name. They have limped from the demise of the ‘don’t-tie-my-hands’ John Major, through the trendy baseball-cap-wearing William Hague, on to ‘the quiet man’ who was Iain Duncan Smith, then to the undeniable ‘something-of-the-night’ Michael Howard, and then ex nihilo came David Cameron, with whom Cranmer had dinner just a fortnight before his election as party leader. He is no fool, and knows what must be done. To be out of office for 13 years and go through five leaders will rank among the lowest points in the party’s history: it has been another aimless foray into the wilderness which will rank with that of 1850-74. It is now up to David Cameron to lead us to the Promised Land.

The decade has been punctuated by the seismic and unforgettable – the destruction of the World Trade Centre will one day surpass the shock and slaughter at Pearl Harbour in the American historic consciousness. The evil was latent, but it spawned a new era of overt ‘global terrorism’, and jihad entered the Western vernacular. London was hit by its own atrocity in the summer of 2005, and very nearly indeed we came to a Christmas Day spectacular on Flight 253 to Detroit. We are a nation at war, and our soldiers are dying weekly in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they are not really sure why. Closer to home, duck houses, moat cleaning, mortgage flipping and Sky sex movies brought our Parliament to its lowest ebb since Cromwell last purged it. As the world was convulsed by its own labour pains with tsunamis, earthquakes, disease and famine, financial armageddon hit like an asteroid, and the punitive taxation consequences will be felt by generations to come.

The Noughties have been a depressing decade of decay: civilisation has become more uncivil; lies have become truth; justice has ceased to be just.

And what of the 2010s, or two-thousand-and tens?

Firstly, let us get the collective name right. The decade must be called the Twenteens. Forget the inconvenient fact that 10, 11 and 12 are not ‘teen years: the name will catch on thereafter. You read it here first.

Cranmer has predicted 10 events of the Twenteens below. Granted, some are born of his present pessimism, and one or two are tongue in cheek.

But, surely, things can only get better?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cranmer’s 10 predictions for 2010

His Grace is not a prophet new inspired; he has no time for crystal balls and horoscopes. But he would like to contribute his thoughts on events and occurrences for the coming year, which will be as defining and pivotal for him as for the nation.

1. The General Election will be held in May, after one of the most personal, negative and vitriolic campaigns in history. It will result in a Conservative victory, and David Cameron will have a majority of 23.

2. The Green Party will win Brighton Pavilion, and UKIP will win Buckingham. Caroline Lucas will work closely with environment minister Zach Goldsmith: Nigel Farage will resume the mantle of party leader from Lord Pearson.

3. Gordon Brown will resign and Alan Johnson will become leader of the Labour Party. He will see it as a ‘caretaker’ role, but will in fact lead the party into the 2014 general election.

4. Government will be difficult as David Cameron has alienated so many backbenchers that they feel no obligation to be loyal. In a context of high unemployment, rising interest rates and falling house prices, the administration will be dogged by internal debates on spending cuts versus tax increases and mired in debates about the European Union. When the time comes to fulfil the manifesto pledge to cut the number of MPs at Westminster by 10 per cent, it will be ‘kicked into the long grass’ as Conservative backbenchers refuse to countenance a policy which will see the merging of some of their constituencies and an end to the tradition of parliamentary boundaries not crossing county borders.

5. Israel will attack Iran in order to halt its development of a nuclear bomb. Barack Obama will do nothing to dissuade Israel, but he will publicly condemn the action.

6. The world will be rocked by a high-profile political assassination. It will be linked to al-Qa’eda.

7. In the media and in Parliament, the Church of England will be perceived to have been surpassed by the Roman Catholic Church as the voice of orthodox Christianity in England.

8. There will be a new technological development and the fusion of multiple platforms which will lead inexorably to people living more hypnotic and addictive virtual lives in order to escape the spiritual emptiness, cynicism, tedium and depression that they associate with reality.

9. His Grace will be offered a peerage and will enter the House of Lords flanked by Baroness Thatcher and Lord Ahmed.

10. Jesus will not return. The world will not end.

The security call to profile and screen Muslims


The ignorance displayed by those who are demanding 'separate lines' for Muslims at airports is really quite astonishing. They appear to think that Muslims may be discerned by appearance; that it is straightforward racial profiling; that all Muslims will look like Mohammed Atta - the stereotypical Middle-Eastern type, though he would have made it easier if he'd had a beard in the style of Richard Reid.

Like Christianity (and Atheism), Islam is a missionary faith: it seeks converts irrespective of ethnicity. Conversion requires internalisation of the new belief system, which implies a new reference point for one's self identity and is a matter of belief and social structure — of both faith and affiliation. There are no absolute rules on dress or appearance. Unlike for orthodox Sikhs, the beard is not sacred: Muslims may worship Allah and be faithful to the teachings of Mohammed and still use a Gillette G2 Contour. The Islamist terrorist in our midst can be as anonymous and undiscernible as the paedophile who lives next door. And the more consumed they are by their depravity, the more dedicated they are to their perversion, and the more skilful they become in concealing the stench of corruption that is at their heart.

So let us put aside the childish 'anti-Muslim' backlash, for it is as irrational as tarnishing all Roman Catholics with the depraved thinking of the murderous IRA. But let us at the same time not be afraid to demand that the law of the land be applied to all equally, and that must include Muslims. Women wearing burkas should not be accorded security privileges denied to the rest: where security is concerned, where lives are at risk, there should be no exemptions to the inconveniences which are inherent in the application of the necessary regulations to ensure safety.

Muslims may be black, brown, white or yellow. They may or may not carry a Qur'an or a prayer mat; they may or may not sport a beard. And only a minuscule percentage of British Muslims hold to the 'extremist' Wahhabi or Salafi interpretation of Islam: it is as representative of Islam as the Jehovah's witnesses are of Christianity.

So let us remind ourselves that all religions have their sects and cults, some dangerous, some not; and that what we face is a Branch Davidian sect of Islam which seeks to undermine the peace and security of the Realm. If we have learned anything from the centuries of religious bloodshed which have defined our nation, it must surely be that religious prejudice is spiritually destructive and, ultimately, politically unsustainable.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

William Ewart Gladstone born 200 years ago today

On 29th December 1809 a baby was born who was to become one of the UK’s greatest ever prime ministers, William Ewart Gladstone. He entered the world at 62 Rodney Street, Liverpool, and served as an MP for more than half a century. He was four times Liberal prime minister between 1868 and 1894 and, as iron sharpens iron, was pivotal in the honing of the greater greatness of Benjamin Disraeli. William Gladstone was responsible for numerous reforms and innovations including the modern budget, the secret ballot, legislation regulating Victorian railways, school attendance and the provision of universal education. He founded the Church Penitentiary Association for the Reclamation of Fallen Women, along with Bishops Wilberforce and Bloomfield. His personal devotion to High Church Anglicanism undoubtedly contributed to the survival of the Church of England through a tumultuous era (arguably moreso than the present), and he was cited by Winston Churchill as one of his greatest inspirations.

Gladstone believed that Christianity was the crucial issue of the age, the political problem being how to make the Church of Laud survive in an age of universal suffrage. He opened the gate to democracy, and his liberalism was an attempt to retain moral control by abandoning what he perceived to be an untenable political religion. In the gap left by Newman’s destruction of the national regeneration which Oxford Anglicanism had promised in his youth, Gladstone came to see the parliamentary process rather than the Established Church as the agent of moral unity.

And how are we commemorating the bicentenary of the birth of this colossus of nineteenth-century politics?

How are we remembering the achievements for justice?

How are we honouring his political greatness?

How are we celebrating his learning?

How are we revering his memory and commitment to God?

How are we respecting his aspiration and vision for the dignity of all human beings?

How are we valuing his contribution to public life in seeking to relieve poverty and misery through education?

We are establishing a £500,000 Islamic Reading Room, the aim of which is ‘primarily to inform non-Muslims about Islam’.

St Deiniol’s in Hawarden, North Wales, is the unique library founded by Mr Gladstone for the pursuit of ‘divine learning’. They say that the move to create a dedicated space for Islamic study, and increase the stock of Islamic material, is ‘faithful to Gladstone’s spirit’.

Gladstone’s spirit?

Was that not dedicated to Jesus Christ, the Son of God?

Yet an ‘Islamic Reading Room’ is to be the living monument to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of one the Church of England’s greatest.

When this project was announced earlier this year, stones were thrown through the chapel windows.

Cranmer does not advocate damage to private property or any such act of violence.

And he applauds all educative programmes for Muslims as for all peoples everywhere.

But he has damned if he can understand why one of the greatest thinking Anglicans since the Reformation should be commemorated by the library he founded with the establishment of a room dedicated to the cause of Islam.

But doubtless such incredulity is ‘Islamophobic’.

Yet raising such a monument is rather like commemorating the quatercentenary of the death of William Shakespeare (in 2016) with a bowdlerised performance of Tamburlaine.

God forbid.

YHWH, that is.

Anglicanism in England is presently far more vulnerable than Islam: it is in far greater need of ‘reading rooms’ dedicated to educating the masses of its origin, reason and purpose. Rather than educating Christians in a deeper understanding of Islam, Gladstone would have been more urgently concerned to educate Muslims in a deeper understanding of Christianity in the hope that they might find salvation.

But that is now considered an unacceptable imposition, an insensitive pursuit; indeed, ‘racist’.

Gladstone’s devotion to Christianity quickened his spirit to preach the gospel in season and out. His love of the Lord inspired him to great reforms to alleviate poverty and ameliorate the plight of the poor. He was acutely concerned with the rescuing and rehabilitation of prostitutes. And he was uncompromising in his criticism of the Qur’an, of which he once said in the House of Commons: “So long as there is this book, there will be no peace in the world”. To him, as to many Victorian Christians, it was an ‘accursed book’.

But the expression of such sentiment is now a crime; indeed, it doubtless constitutes ‘religious hatred’.

William Ewart Gladstone was not merely a politician of conviction; he was an eminent scholar and a gifted theologian who was unafraid to speak his mind in an era of religio-political revolution.

Take him for all in all, we shall not look upon his like again.

At least not in Downing Street.

Monday, December 28, 2009

David Cameron's church

Courtesy of the delightful Ruth Gledhill at The Times (from whom Cranmer was sorely tempted to accept an invitation to meet a few months ago), this is the church at which David Cameron worships.

It is St Mary Abbots, the Parish Church of Kensington(-on-Sea?).

Their website says: ‘Past worshippers have included Isaac Newton, the Scientist, William Wilberforce, the anti-slave campaigner, and others such as George Canning, Beatrix Potter, Joseph Addison and HRH Princess Louise. In 1997 it became a focus of mourners for our late parishioner, Diana, Princess of Wales, with the lighting of many thousand votive candles and a remembrance service with over 1,000 people in attendance.’

While His Grace hopes (and prays) that this bizarre video is not indicative of the church’s spiritual life and worship, he asks his readers and communicants honestly to consider what their response might be if such a video had been made by the church of a more 'fundamentalist' (would-be) Christian MP, Kulveer Singh Ranger's gurdwara or Baroness Warsi’s mosque.

It is mesmerisingly cultish. Not only does there appear to be an abundance of scarlet-clad cardinals in the virtual congregation, but Silent Night is inexplicably sung in PC-Eurocentric German.

Is this meant to attract worshippers? Is it supposed to communicate something of the joy of Christmas or the ineffable wonder of being born again?

If this were indicative of Anglicanism in Kensington, Cranmer might be tempted to seek refuge at The Holy Ghost and St Stephen’s...

The shame and humiliation of Londonistan

Cranmer has resisted (for three days) the temptation to comment upon the alleged plot to bomb the Detroit-bound Northwest Flight 253 from Amsterdam by a man alleged to be Nigerian and who is also alleged to be a co-religionist of Mohammed intent on murdering 278 people.

But the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is worrying on a number of levels:

1) He was already on a UK ‘watch list’.

2) He had already been refused a visa to enter the country following an application to study at a fake college.

3) He was on a US ‘watch list’.

4) Al Qaeda had warned of a terror attack four days before the incident, posting a video online from Yemen saying: 'We are carrying a bomb to hit the enemies of God.'

4) Concerns had been expressed both to Nigerian and US authorities by the man’s own father, who was concerned by his son's extremist behaviour.

It beggars belief that this man was not stopped before he boarded the Amsterdam-Detroit flight on Christmas Day. The plot was thwarted only by luck.

It also beggars belief that we still have a security system in place which inconveniences millions of air passengers but quite clearly does not stop the determined jihadi terrorist.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

David Cameron's New Year message

2010 approaches... Cranmer has been sent the New Year message of the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

'2010 will be election year. After all the false starts and speculation, now we know for sure that the country will have a chance to vote for change this year. Within days, the gloves will be off and the arguments will begin. But as we enter this year of intense political activity, I think it's important for all politicians to remember something. While those in the Westminster village might eagerly be limbering up for a frantic few months of speeches and launches and strategies and tactics - and all the hoopla of today's politics - most people in the country will be contemplating the prospect of months of electioneering with emotions somewhere on a scale between indifference and dread: and that is something we need to change. But we'll only do that if we recognise the reasons why politics is broken.

'First and foremost it's because the expenses scandal is not a chapter that comes to a close as we move into a new year. It is an ongoing reminder of a deeper breakdown in trust between politicians and the public. And this has many causes. Politicians who think they have the answer to everything and just can't bear to leave people alone to get on with their lives. Politicians who can't bring themselves to recognise any good in their opponents and refuse to work together to get things done. Politicians who never admit they're wrong and never acknowledge that they've made a mistake. A sense that Westminster has become so much about point-scoring, positioning and political dividing-lines that people and their real-life problems are completely left out. These are some of the reasons that politics is broken.

'I'm sure I've been guilty of these offences on occasions, and no doubt will commit them again. But we shouldn't stop trying to get it right just because we don't always succeed. Over the past few years, we've tried in the Conservative Party to do things differently. We voted for Tony Blair's school reforms because we agreed with them even though we could have inflicted a damaging defeat on the Government. We've encouraged our parliamentary candidates to set up social action projects in their communities. We've opened up politics through open primaries to select potential MPs and held open Cameron Direct meetings all over the country where people from all parties and none can come and ask me questions. We took swift action on expenses and were the first to pay money back where that was the right thing to do. And we've consistently pushed for TV election debates, whether we've been behind in the polls or ahead in the polls. But there's a huge amount more to do if we want to rebuild trust. So let's try and make this election year the moment to start fixing our broken politics. Let's bring real change to Westminster and the whole political system. A big part of that is about policy: policies to reform expenses and the way Parliament works; policies to redistribute power from the political elite to the man and woman in the street; policies to make government more transparent and accountable.

'But it's not all about policy. It's also about character, attitude and approach. It's about how political leaders actually behave, the example they set and the lead they give. It's about doing as well as talking - real social action in our communities, not just pontificating from an ivory tower. And my resolution this new year is to work harder for a new politics in this country. I don't want to mislead people: there's an election campaign coming, and I think it's reasonable for political parties to point out the consequences of their opponents' policies, records and judgments as well as the benefits of their own. The House of Commons - particularly on set-piece occasions like Prime Minister's Questions - is an adversarial place. But let's make sure the election is a proper argument about the future of the country, not some exercise in fake dividing lines. Let's at least recognise the good intentions of our opponents. Let's be honest that whether you're Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, you're motivated by pretty much the same progressive aims: a country that is safer, fairer, greener and where opportunity is more equal. It's how to achieve these aims that we disagree about - and indeed between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats there is a lot less disagreement than there used to be.

'Of course the area where there is greatest and most sincere agreement between political parties is our shared support for our mission in Afghanistan. I know that we will never take for granted the bravery of our armed forces, and as we prepare to fight the political battles at home, we will keep in mind constantly the humbling courage of those who fight the real battles for us overseas.

'So let's make 2010 the year for a new politics. Let's be positive about our own policies as well as pointing out the consequences of our opponents' policies. But above all, let's be honest about the problems facing the country and how we can solve them. Yes, there will be an election this year: that much is certain. And we can be certain too that the arguments will be fierce. But let's make it a good clean fight. And once the battle is over, we will need to rise above our differences and come together because that is the only way - strong, united leadership is the only way - we will sort out Britain's problems, halt our decline, and give this country the success that I know we can achieve.'

Obama’s Christmas Tree celebrates mass murder

Why is China's ‘Chairman’ Mao Zedong – arguably the bloodiest tyrant of the 20th century – hanging from the White House Christmas Tree?

What would be the reaction if the Christmas Tree outside 10 Downing St were decorated by a picture of Adolf Hitler?

Or Stalin? Or Pol Pot?

If we are now using Christmas to commemorate those who are roasting on the hottest fires in Hell, let us have baubles sporting the faces of Hirohito, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il Sung , Lenin, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Francisco Franco...

Ah, of course. It is not intended to be a Christmas Tree, but a Holiday Tree.

And a Holiday Tree can commemorate anything and anyone.

So why not celebrate someone responsible for the deaths of 50 to 80 million of his countrymen?

And why not have a drag queen as well?

Just who is Hedda Lettuce?

Deck the Halls with death and campness fa la la la laaaaaaaaaaa, la la la laaa.

And what hubris has possessed President Obama that he has consented to an ornament with his head etched in stone at Mount Rushmore, alongside those of Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson and Roosevelt?

The First Lady has explained how this has come about. She says: "Our starting point was a very simple idea (...quite...). That we include people in as many places, in as many ways as we can. We took about 800 ornaments left over from the previous administrations. We sent them to 60 local community groups throughout the country and asked them to decorate them, paying tribute to a favorite local landmark, and then send them back to us for display here at the White House... in the new year, we all intend to renew this effort and continue this kind of outreach, so that everyone feels like they have a place here at the White House."

Ah, that’s nice.

Perhaps the Prime Minister should make everyone feel like they have a place in Downing Street. He could sent his balls to various ‘community groups’ in the UK, and then watch them come back carrying the faces of Gerry Adams, Abu Hamza, Myra Hindley, Jonathan Ross and Jesus Christ.

And the one they would censor is Jesus.

Just in case he caused offence.

It is all apparently the work of a chap called Simon Doonan, which might explain the glorification of Hedda Lettuce. But it is incomprehensible that America has come to tolerate and even embrace the marketing of evil. The Christmas Tree has returned to its pagan roots, and the wise have become fools as they glorify amorality and atheism. They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. They have exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man.

Is it any wonder that God has given them over to a depraved mind? Is it any wonder that they have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity?

President Obama declared in Turkey last April: "We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation." He is enabling an anti-Christian agenda to permeate the US which is revising America's religious history, minimising the role of religion, passing ‘progressive’ legislation and turning a blind eye to issues like the lawsuit to remove the national motto ('In God We Trust') from the walls of the new Capitol Visitors Centre in Washington.

Rather like our own government, President Obama is slowly eradicating the Christian foundations of his nation upon which their historic liberties rest. He does not simply deny Christianity; he disdains it.

Obama honouring Mao on a Holiday Tree is just a Communist glorifying a Communist.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Joy to the World

...the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

The birth of the Son of God was heralded by the angel of the Lord, accompanied by the shekinah, the glory of God, and was followed by a multitude of the heavenly host singing praises. And for whose benefit was this magnificent display? Kings? Presidents? Politicians? Religious leaders?

No, it was all for a few lowly shepherds – humble, poor, obscure and unnamed rustics of whom nothing more is heard in Scripture thereafter. While today’s puffed-up prelates court the wealthy, famous and influential, so today’s wealthy, famous and influential seek out the private chapels and grand palaces of these prelates as the perfect stage for their displays of religiosity. But not these shepherds. No, the Lord deemed them worthy because they were lowly. They were not body-beautiful celebrities, gifted communicators, powerful decision makers or authoritative opinion formers; they were simply ordinary men, and the Lord chose them to be among the first to know that the Christ was born; that the Messiah had entered history; that the Son of God had come to redeem mankind - Immanuel.

Joy to the World, the Saviour reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

And as we spend the coming months yearning for the General Election, it is apposite to reflect that one day the Government will be upon His shoulder. The real deliverer and the real fulfillment of the needs of humanity is human, one of us, flesh of our flesh. He is born to rule, born to be a king, conceived of the house and lineage of David. His name is Wonderful – a mystery of divinity in humanity; Counsellor – the oracle of wisdom; the mighty God – the Word was not just with God, but was God; the Everlasting Father – not the same person as the Father, but of one substance with the Father; the Prince of Peace – bringing a peace that passes understanding.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Cranmer wishes all of his regular communicants, all of his intermittent guests, and all of his occasional readers, a joyful and peaceful Christmas.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pope venerates Homer Simpson

‘Santo subito!’

Following the announcements that Pope John Paul II and Pope Pius XII have moved a step closer to sainthood, the Vatican has approved an ‘heroic virtues decree’ for Homer Simpson, published as 'Aristotle's Virtues and Homer's Doughnut' in L'Osservatore Romano.

Te Deum laudamus!

To be declared venerable, a church investigation has to conclude that the person in question lived a life of exemplary holiness and heroic virtue.

Just has there have been objections from Jewish groups about Pius XII, so Evangelicals have objected to the 'excessively crude language, the violence of certain episodes or some extreme choices by the scriptwriters'. They have demanded that the Vatican open up its archives in order that there may be a full investigation into Mr Simpson’s suitability for veneration. He has, after all, only been on our screens for 20 years. It seems a little premature to find virtue in 'Simpsonian theology', but it appears to be infinitely preferable to His Holiness than the ‘Liberation’ sort: Homer Simpson's religious confusion mirrors that of modern man, the Vatican has said.

The decree specifically mentions a number of religion-themed episodes, including one in which Homer calls for divine intervention by crying: “I'm not normally a religious man, but if you're up there, save me, Superman!”

Homer's religious confusion are 'a mirror of the indifference and the need that modern man feels toward faith'. The paper says: “Homer finds in God his last refuge, even though he sometimes gets His name sensationally wrong.”

But L'Osservatore Romano is persuaded that ‘these are just minor mistakes (because) the two know each other well.”

So, according to the Vatican’s newspaper, it does not matter what you call God – Jehovah, Allah, Krishna, Waheguru, Yoda or The Force – the name is a minor matter in the great scheme of things.

The venerable Homer Simpson now awaits miracles to be attributed to him.

It is hoped that his beatification might coincide with that of President Obama in 2011. Homer Simpson's canonisation is expected the following year, after normal church rules which prevent the process applying to cartoon characters were dispensed with.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Where is Lord Adonis?

Have you seen this man?

The country has a bit of snow and the trains stop, the roads are gridlocked, airports are at a standstill, Eurostar is paralysed and thousands of people are left stranded all night, huddled in their cars, unable to get home.

Some have even frozen to death.

How does Norway cope? Or Sweden? Or Finland?

Do their schools close every time it snows?

Does their transport infrastructure seize up?

Do they limp from crisis to crisis as chief executives and quango directors are hauled before a baying media to explain themselves?

Whose job is it to keep the arterial roads open?

Whose responsibility is it to ensure that snow-ploughs and gritters are dispatched?

Some councils undoubtedly have their act together, but others are performing abysmally.

Why is no-one collaring the Secretary of State for Transport?

Indeed, where is he?

Or would he just blame his 2008 predecessor Geoff Hoon? And would he just blame his 2007 predecessor Ruth Kelly? And would she blame her 2006 predecessor Douglas Alexander? And would he blame Alastair Darling? And would he blame Stephen Byers? And would he blame John Prescott?

Doubtless he would just blame the decades of Tory underfunding.

The turnover in this department of state is indicative of a much deeper problem.

There is no long-term transport strategy because the department can only think in terms of 12 months at a time: the average duration of a transport secretary.

So it is not Lord Adonis’ fault.

Or Geoff Hoon’s, or Ruth Kelly’s, or Dougie Alexander’s, or Alastair Darling’s...

It is the BBC’s for not making this an issue, for not scrutinising accountability, for not criticising Labour, for not pursuing Lord Adonis to the four corners of the earth to explain himself.

And before communicants point out to His Grace that the inclement weather cannot be blamed on this Labour government, he would like to make it clear that he is fully aware of this.

As the Prime Minister has said, it is China’s fault.

UPDATE Tue 22 Dec 9.00am:

The Sun has managed to track down His Lordship - he is holidaying in The Alps. Obviously, he wanted more snow. A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Andrew Adonis is monitoring the impact of bad weather on transport extremely closely while on a short family break over Christmas."

That's okay then. It's reassuring to know that we are being monitored.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Televised election debates will open the floodgates of litigation

There are pros and cons to this development, all of which are now a heated topic of fierce debate on all the political blogs.

But Cranmer is a little bemused.

In the United Kingdom, we have a party of government and an official opposition. The leader of one of these parties will be the next prime minister.

Nick Clegg may have produced the best Christmas card, but he does not have a cat in hell's chance of being the next prime minister.

So why is he granted three debates along with the Prime Minister and the Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition?

And since he has been granted such, why not the leaders of the DUP, the UUP, the SDLP, Plaid Cymru and the SNP?

Or Sinn Féin?

For they too will be contesting seats in their respective corners of the Kingdom.

And if these, why not UKIP, since they came a very respectable second in the recent Euro-elections?

And if UKIP, why not the Greens, since they also have councillors and assembly members?

And if the Greens, why not the BNP?

Or Respect?

And don't the English Democrats now have a mayor?

And what about the Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern?

And are not José Manuel Barroso or His Excellency Herman Van Rompuy of rather more political significance than any of these minnows at the next general election?

What exactly are the broadcasting criteria for deciding which political leaders are granted the (bountiful) gift of airtime to espouse their policies to the electorate? There is no precedent; there are no statutory guidelines.

By including Nick Clegg, the broadcasters have now left themselves vulnerable to a series of legal challenges. And a protracted and diversionary judicial review of televised political debate in the UK is the last thing our democracy needs.

Gerry Adams to preach on forgiveness

Cranmer has been wondering why Gerry Adams has chosen now to disclose that his father was a serial abuser – emotionally, physically and sexually.

It is a curious sincerity which seeks now to give solace to others who may have so suffered, only to discover that the real reason might have something to do with the fact that his own brother is presently being sought by the police for sexually abusing his daughter, and that Gerry Adams has known about it for years: he says he believed his niece from the outset, but strangely did nothing about it.

And then it transpires that Channel 4 have invited the IRA chief to present a television programme about Jesus. The Sinn Fein leader is being filmed on a 'personal journey to discover the real Jesus'. He will also examine Christian teachings on 'love, forgiveness and repentance'.

No doubt he will find an Irish republican christology: the Jesus who visited Ireland and, draped in the tricolour, helped to drive out the invading hordes of Britons.

But Gerry Adams on forgiveness?

How can the unrepentant preach on forgiveness?

Victor Barker, whose 12-year-old son James died in the 1998 Omagh bombing, said: 'Asking Gerry Adams to speak about love and forgiveness is like asking Myra Hindley to lecture on child-minding. I think it's a big mistake and completely misguided. Channel 4 is being used by Mr Adams. It is offering him a platform for doing what he does so well, of coming across on camera as a genuine, peaceful person who wants to promote peace and love.'

Mr Adams' programme is one of a seven-part documentary series called The Bible: A History. Each part will be presented by commentators from 'very different backgrounds'. Channel 4 said Mr Adams would 'explore different perspectives on Jesus and how he is presented in the Bible'.

Ralph Lee, head of 'specialist factual' at Channel 4, said: 'This film will offer an insight into how a man so strongly associated first with conflict and then with peace in Northern Ireland has reconciled his religion with the decisions he has taken in his life. I think it will offer a rare perspective on the relationship between religion and conflict.'

Rare, indeed.

It beggars belief that Channel 4 have decided to help rehabilitate the man who has been president of Sinn Fein for 26 years and directly implicated in the murder of almost 2000 people. What is Christian about planting bombs which kill children and pregnant women?

Lord Tebbit, who was himself injured and his wife permanently disabled after the 1984 IRA bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, burst out laughing when he heard about Mr Adams' programme.

He said: 'I wish him well. And I hope he also comes across the doctrine of hell and the consuming of pernicious unrepentant murderers and sinners in general by the fires of hell for all eternity. What will he do after that? A programme about pigs discovering cleanliness?'

This is not a programme about exploring Jesus, but of exploiting him.

Channel 4 should be interviewing those who have survived three decades of Gerry Adams’ murderous campaign. Therein lies the reality of the struggle for forgiveness, for Cranmer would far rather hear of the dark and bitter years endured by the Anglican Tebbits as they try to live each day a life of faith which demands forgiveness against every instinct of the flesh, than the hypocritical pious platitudes of professing Roman Catholic Gerry Adams – however much he may have been abused by his father.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Rage Against The Machine beats Joe McElderry to Christmas Number One

It sounds really quite petty and spiteful, but it is all really thoroughly honourable and perfectly democratic.

There was a certain expectation that Joe McElderry’s ‘The Climb’ would be the 2009 Christmas Number One; a sort of divine right coronation of the anointed winner of X-Factor reality TV pop. And so an internet-driven protest based around the accursed and damned Facebook set out to challenge the omnipotence of Simon Cowell and the hegemony of Syco and Sony Music’s manufactured pop which mesmerises the TV-addicted masses every Saturday and Sunday evening and persuades them that what they watch is what they might like to hear at Christmas.

And it has worked for four years.

But X-Factor Christmas songs are not like the ones Cranmer used to know, where the tree tops glisten and children listen – ‘Little Town’, ‘Mistletoe and Wine’, ‘Saviour’s Day’ and ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ have been supplanted with egocentric indulgence for too many years – ‘A Moment Like This’, ‘When you Believe’, ‘The Climb’ – it is all too blandly saccharine and all about me, me, me.

What about Him?

Not that the ‘song’ by Rage Against The Machine is about Him, of course. He hasn’t had a look-in since Sir Cliff gave us the delightful ‘Saviour’s Day’ in 1990.

And ‘Killing in the Name’ is a quite dreadful, expletive-ridden, most un-Christmassy racket which is as far removed from music as politicians are from the plight of the people.

But if Joe McElderry can be created by Syco, forged by Cowell and packaged by Sony as a Christmas commodity, why cannot a group by the name of Rage Against The Machine be created ex nihilo, forged by Facebook and packaged by the new democratic media?

Their 'song' may be truly awful, but its beauty lies in the rebellion; its authenticity in the protestant spirit; its integrity in the little man conquering the Goliath that is the modern music machine.

Cranmer would like to make it clear that he has absolutely nothing against Mr McElderry (or Mr Cowell), and would like to say that the X-Factor winner has an undoubted Christmassy voice which is infinitely preferable to the din of Rage Against The Machine. And His Grace is loath to deprive either Mr McElderry or Mr Cowell of a Christmas present.

But this is people-power: the rough and raw laity versus the slick high priest of the dark arts of music promotion.

One wonders why the people can be so organised about something as trivial as the Christmas No1, but not quite so passionately strategic in their politics.

Perhaps the reason lies in the concealed reality behind this chart battle. For the supreme irony is that both Joe McElderry and Rage Against the Machine are signed to Epic Records, which is part of Sony BMG.

As far as the recording colossus is concerned, they win either way.

So if your motive in downloading Rage Against The Machine was to humble the Sony behemoth, you have failed.

And seeking to wipe the smile off Simon Cowell’s face or deprive Joe McElderry of an instant Number One is indeed a little spiteful.

Perhaps this is why the people cannot be bothered to protest, rise up, and democratise their politics. Sony is a metaphor for the European Union: its tentacles are everywhere, its fingers are in every pie and all roads lead to Rome.

Cranmer makes the Catholic Herald ‘must-reads’


Wonders will never cease.

A Christmas miracle.

Or a gift.

One of His Grace’s posts has been raised by The Catholic Herald to the exalted status of ‘Morning Catholic must-reads’.

Nothing politically weighty or overly theological, you understand. But the trivial and humorous is a start.

Bless you, Mr Coppen, for your sincere Christian witness and generous ecumenicity. Would that others might follow your example.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christian teacher sacked as she is told that sharing her faith is 'bullying'

As Cranmer retires for the evening, glowing with festive merriment after a few glasses of Shiraz and the news that the Conservative Party is on course for a landslide, he hears from The Daily Mail of a Christian teacher who has lost her job after simply discussing her faith and offering to pray for a mother and her sick child:

'Olive Jones, a 54-year-old mother of two, who taught maths to children too ill to attend school, was dismissed following a complaint from the girl’s mother. She was visiting the home of the child when she spoke about her belief in miracles and asked whether she could say a prayer, but when the mother indicated they were not believers she did not go ahead.

'Mrs Jones was then called in by her managers who, she says, told her that sharing her faith with a child could be deemed to be bullying and informed her that her services were no longer required.

'Her dismissal has outraged Christian groups, who say new equality regulations are driving Christianity to the margins of society.

'They said the case echoed that of community nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended last December after offering to pray for a patient but who was later reinstated after a national outcry.

'Coincidentally, Mrs Petrie lives nearby and has been a friend of Mrs Jones for some years. Mrs Jones, whose youngest son is a Royal Marine who has served in Afghanistan, said she was merely trying to offer comfort and encouragement and only later realised her words had caused distress, for which she is apologetic.

The softly spoken teacher, who has more than 20 years’ experience, said she was ‘devastated’ by the decision to end her employment, which she said was ‘completely disproportionate’.

'She said she had been made to feel like a ‘criminal’, and claimed that Christians were being persecuted because of ‘political correctness’.

'Speaking at her home in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, she said: ‘Teaching was my dream from the age of 16. It is as if 20 years of my work, which I was passionate about, has gone. It is like a grief.

‘I have been sleeping badly and been in a daze. I haven’t even got around to putting up a Christmas tree or decorations. So much for Christmas cheer.’

'Mrs Jones shares her comfortable four-bedroom house with her husband Peter, who is also a teacher and heads the maths department at a local state secondary school.

'The house provides few clues about her strong beliefs. There is a small wooden cross on one wall, a few plaques carrying religious texts, and some Bibles in the sitting room which she used in her studies for a diploma at the Pentecostal Carmel Bible College in Bristol.

'She is a regular churchgoer, attending her local Church of England church most Sundays, but she also occasionally opts for more lively evangelical worship at the college.

After training to be a teacher at Aberystwyth University, where she met her husband, and a period bringing up her children – student Rob, 24, and soldier James, 23 – she returned to teaching in state secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

'Oak Hill Short Stay School where Olive Jones worked. She lost her job after offering to pray for a sick child.

'Wanting to concentrate more on family life, she began a part-time job more than four years ago at the Oak Hill Short Stay School and Tuition Service North, which caters for children with illness or behavioural difficulties.

'She had no formal contract but was scheduled to work to a timetable for about 12 hours a week at the school in a converted bungalow and one-storey prefabricated block in nearby Nailsea.

'She prepared lessons, taught and marked work for about six children between 11 and 16 who had problems ranging from leukaemia to Attention Deficit Disorder. In reality, however, pupils were frequently unavailable for lessons, and she says she often found herself working as little as 20 hours a month.

'As she was technically a supply teacher, she was paid £25 an hour plus mileage and had to submit a timesheet. While she was working, she was paid about £700 a month before tax and pension contributions by North Somerset Council, and received payslips.

'Occasionally she would teach one or two sick children at their homes, and from September she made half-a-dozen visits to one child in a middle-class area who she was tutoring in GCSE maths.

'On the fourth visit the girl stayed in her bedroom because she did not feel well enough for lessons, so Mrs Jones chatted to her mother and raised the subject of her faith, saying she believed God had saved her life.

'The teacher said when she was a teenager she had been driving a tractor on the family farm near Carmarthen in Wales when it slid down a slope but came to a halt just before tipping over.

‘I shut my eyes and thought I was going to die,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘Then there was a sound of a rushing wind, like that described in the Bible, and then total stillness.

‘I was convinced it was a miracle. I shared my testimony to encourage the mother to believe that there is a God who answers prayer. I believe I have a personal relationship with God, who is a constant source of strength.’

'Unbeknown to Mrs Jones, the mother complained about her comments to health authorities in the mistaken belief that they were her employers. It appears, however, that these criticisms were not passed on to Mrs Jones.

'Unaware that there were any problems, Mrs Jones’s fifth lesson with the child passed without incident, but when she returned for her sixth session towards the end of last month, things went awry.

'She said that although the girl came downstairs in her dressing gown, she could not face a lesson, so the three of them chatted over cups of tea about books they were reading. Mrs Jones once again referred to the incident involving the tractor and spoke about her belief in Heaven.

‘I told them there were people praying for them, and I asked the child if I could pray for her,’ said Mrs Jones.

‘She looked at her mother, who said, “We come from a family who do not believe”, so I did not pray.

‘I asked the mother if she wanted me to cancel the next lesson as her daughter had not been feeling up to maths, but she said no.’

'She left on what she thought were good terms and returned to the unit to do some more work, but within a few hours she was told that the head of the unit, Kaye Palmer-Greene, wanted to see her in her office.

‘I suspected it must be serious as Kaye did not normally see people without an appointment,’ said Mrs Jones. ‘When I got to her office I was told to wait outside.

‘Then the unit co-ordinator Karen Robinson came out and said I would have to come back later. I could tell by her face I was in big trouble.

‘I asked her if I was being sacked but she refused to comment. I drove to a Tesco car park and sat in the car and called a few friends to ask them to pray.’

About an hour-and-a-half later she was told she could go back to the office, and she went in holding a Bible. ‘You could feel the tension in air,’ she said. ‘I was so frightened I could hardly breathe.

‘I was a total wreck. I was shaking and in shock. I had never experienced anything like this before. I had a faultless record. It was horrible, one of the worst experiences of my life.

‘They were very strict and firm. Kaye was mostly silent while Karen read comments from the parent from a sheet of A4 paper. One thing the parent said was that I had demanded a cup of tea, which I hadn’t.

‘Then she said that my testimony and mention of prayer had distressed her and her daughter, and she didn’t want me to tutor in their home again. Obviously, if I had known she was upset when I had first mentioned my testimony I would never have brought it up again. But I had no idea.

‘I don’t push my beliefs down other people’s throats, and I apologise for any unintentional distress I may have caused.’

'Mrs Jones said that during the meeting Ms Robinson told her that talking about faith issues in the house of a pupil could be regarded as bullying.

'Ms Robinson also asked Mrs Jones why she had ignored her advice not to pray or speak about her faith at work, a reference to an occasion three years ago when the teacher had prayed for a girl with period pains.

'The girl appears to have complained and Ms Robinson had told Mrs Jones to be more professional, but Mrs Jones said there had been no written warning.

‘Karen then said I had been an exemplary maths teacher, but my services were no longer required. As I had no contract, they could tell me to go just like that.

‘They also told me that had I been on a contract, I could be facing disciplinary proceedings. But they never told me the grounds for that.’

'Mrs Jones was advised by a friend to contact the Christian Legal Centre, an independent group of lawyers funded by public donations that defends Christians in legal difficulties.

‘I am not angry with my bosses, as they are trying to interpret new equality and diversity policies,’ she said. ‘But I am angry with the politically-correct system and about the fact that you can’t mention anything to do with faith to people who might find it of use.

'My main concern is the interpretation of the policies concerned, which seem very ambiguous.

‘An atheist may think that you shouldn’t speak about anything to do with faith to students if it is not your specialist area, but it is not really clear.

‘It is as if my freedom of speech is being restricted. I feel I am being persecuted for speaking about my faith in a country that is supposed to be Christian.

‘I feel if I had spoken about almost any other topic I would have been fine but Christianity is seen as a no-go area. It felt as if I was being treated as a criminal. It is like a bad dream that had come true.’

'She said that although she was clear that she had been sacked, she had recently been approached by a senior education official who had said the complaint was still being investigated and had suggested a meeting.

'She said she believed the approach had been triggered by the involvement of the Christian Legal Centre, and she was now taking legal advice about how to proceed.

'Andrea Williams, a lawyer and director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: ‘The story of Olive Jones is sadly becoming all too familiar in this country. It is the result of a heavy-handed so-called equalities agenda that discriminates against Christians and seeks to eliminate Christian expression from the public square.

‘Olive Jones had compassion for her pupil and finds herself without a job because she expressed the hope that comes with faith. It is time for a common sense approach to be restored in all these matters.’

'She said that although Mrs Jones was not on a contract and had occasionally taken time out from her teaching duties during term time, the Centre would argue that she had effectively worked continuously for the unit for nearly five years and should have had some protection under employment law.

'Mrs Williams said the human rights lawyer Paul Diamond – who represented Heathrow check-in worker Nadia Eweida, who in 2006 was banned from wearing a cross around her neck – had been instructed in the case.

'Nurse Caroline Petrie described Mrs Jones, whom she met through her church more than four years ago, as a ‘caring, honest and lovely person’ whose gentle voice and manner were perfect for dealing with sick children.

'She said she had been shocked that the teacher had been dismissed without being allowed to consult a lawyer first.

'Nick Yates, a spokesman for North Somerset Council, said: ‘Olive Jones has worked as a supply teacher, working with the North Somerset Tuition service. A complaint has been made by a parent regarding Olive. This complaint is being investigated.

‘To complete the investigation we need to speak to Olive and we have offered her a number of dates so this can happen. At the moment we are waiting for her to let us know which date is convenient for her.’

Copenhagen Accord is no accord at all

It has failed.

All the bell-ringing on the planet could not save it. The fervent prayers of the most righteous Rev Nicky Gumbel were not heeded. Even the Messiah-President Barack Obama has fallen short of glory.

There was some deal done with India, South Africa, China and Brazil because 'deep cuts in global emissions are required according to science'. And they have agreed 'to hold the increase in global temperature below 2 degrees Celsius'. But nothing is legally binding, and nothing can be scrutinised by any external agency.

Global government has failed.

And make no mistake, this conference was about the establishment of a world government to enforce the provisions of whatever was agreed at Copenhagen. For the first time in an international treaty, the word 'government' was used of a global enforcement agency. Since nothing was agreed, there is no such agency, and no such enforcement.


But it will come.

The agenda is pre-ordained. There is a UN body dedicated to the cult of global warming. The Conference of the Parties, which consists of national environment ministers, has the authority to redistribute $2 trillion worth of indulgences 'carbon credits' from the rich nations to the poor, bypassing national parliaments. And these vast sums will flow through the World Bank, which has considerably augmented global regulatory oversight since the financial collapse this year.

The move to world government was once covert: it was the exclusive domain of the conspiracy theorists, End-Times fanatics and eccentrics. With the G20 summit modernising the WTO and empowering the IMF; with the Copenhagen Accord moving towards the establishment of a pseudo-religion to avert the turmoil of a global catastrophe; with the 'President of Europe' declaring the first year of global governance, we appear to have an emerging New World Order.

We have reconstructed the Tower of Babel.

Judgement is inescapable.

Friday, December 18, 2009

‘Poor Joseph’ advertisement provokes worldwide fury

An Anglican church in Aukland New Zealand has come up with this advertisement to celebrate Christmas. And the reverberations have been global.

According to its website, St Matthew-in-the-City ‘enjoys thinking outside the box, exploring innovative liturgy, progressive ideas and topical issues’.

Well, they’ve hit fool's gold with this tripe. It is so far ‘outside the box’ that they have lost sight of the divine mission cuboid.

Their purpose is aimed at ‘challenging stereotypes’ about the birth of Jesus Christ.


The advertisement has been condemned as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘disrespectful’. But St Matthew-in-the-City is ‘an inclusive church’, which means, they say ‘that all are welcome to attend, and that all are welcome to receive communion no matter what church or faith (if any) they are from.’

Excellent. A church which gives the body and blood of Christ to the unrepentant degenerate and the idolatrous unregenerate. This is part of their ‘progressive Christianity’, which explains the provenance of the advertisement.

The church's vicar, Archdeacon Glynn Cardy, said the aim of the billboard had been to lampoon the literal interpretation of the Christmas conception story. He said: "What we're trying to do is to get people to think more about what Christmas is all about. Is it about a spiritual male God sending down sperm so a child would be born, or is it about the power of love in our midst as seen in Jesus?"

Who, pray, believes that God ‘sent down sperm’?

Lyndsay Freer, spokeswoman for the Catholic Diocese of Auckland, said the poster was offensive to Christians. She said: "Our Christian tradition of 2,000 years is that Mary remains a virgin and that Jesus is the son of God, not Joseph."

It is perhaps unsurprising that the Roman Catholic Church finds this advertisement particularly offensive, for it is a direct assault on their ‘ever virgin’ belief, to which Cranmer does not subscribe. He happens to believe that Mary and Joseph would have enjoyed a perfectly normal, regular and healthy sex life, and as a consequence Jesus undoubtedly had siblings. The descendents of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob tend not to have the hang-ups and complexes about sex which have so bedevilled much of the Christian world through the syncretised Hellenistic obsession with separating the spirit from the flesh.

Archdeacon Glynn Cardy and St Matthew-in-the-City have got their much-longed-for debate. But it is not about the miracle of the Christ-child and the wonder that God became man: it is not edifying and does not in any sense bring glory to God. It is a tawdry, crude and gratuitously offensive ejaculation which resonates with a sex-obsessed age and lacks only used condoms strewn over the duvet in a Tracey Emin fashion.

And Cranmer can hardly wait for a billboard showing Mohammed in bed with the nine-year-old Aisha...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Christmas Cards of our Political Leaders

The Prime Minister's chosen image is pagan and political. A liliputian door of Number 10 supplants the Star of Bethlehem. The Druids used to hang holly on windows and doorways to fend off evil witches and spirits. It is also associated with maleness (its feminine counterpart is ivy) and is considered to bring men good luck and protection. The Druids regarded holly as a symbol of fertility and eternal life: it was thought to have magical powers. The Romans decked the halls with its boughs during the festival of Saturnalia.
David Cameron's chosen image is partisan, political and frosty. The pinnacle of the Palace of Westminster within the party's logo supplants the Wise Men searching for the Son of God.

The image chosen by the Speaker is indulgent, egocentric boring and bland. No tinsel, tree, frost or holly. The Bercow family supplant the Holy Family.
The image chosen by Tony Blair is surprising: one might have expected such a passionate convert to Rome to have made an effort to draw attention to the birth of Jesus. Cherie and Tony supplant the Madonna and Child.

And the image chosen by Nick Clegg says everything one needs to know about the Liberal Democrats.

Update: 18:00.

His Grace confesses to being a little miserable at the moment, and he couldn't begin to explain why. He regrets using Mr Clegg's card to make a partisan point. On reflection, this was unkind and wrong.

In fact, after pondering all these cards for the day, Mr Clegg's is actually the most sincere - he may himself be an atheist, but his card is the only one to mention 'Christmas' and it is evidently drawn by one of his children. There is nothing 'PR' about it: it is not glossy, tacky, political, partisan or pretentious.

So His Grace was wrong, and he apologises to Mr Clegg.

Merry Christmas one and all, including the Liberal Democrats.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Douglas Carswell introduces EU Referendum Bill to Parliament

Douglas Carswell has committed the unforgivable sin. He will now spend the next parliament in purgatory and an eternity in political hell.

He has announced on his blog that has introduced a Bill in the House of Commons that would give the people a direct vote on Britain's membership of the European Union; the European Union Membership (Referendum) Bill.

He says:

All three political parties promised us a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty. Yet it never happened.

For thirty years, it's been left to politicians and diplomats to determine our Euro policy. No one under the age of 53 has had the chance to vote in a referendum on it. I think now it's time to let the people decide.

Naturally, given how government controls Parliament (as opposed to the other way around), my Private Members Bill faces an uphill struggle to become law. But it puts down a marker. It breaks the Westminster taboo. What has been unsaid for too long is now in print on the Order Paper.

If it is too late to have a vote on the Lisbon Treaty - and I think it is - then we need to have a vote on Rome.

This isn't just about Europe. It's about making politics link more directly to the people. It’s about direct democracy and people power.

My Bill is backed by MPs from all parties. And even by MPs who support the EU, but fear it lacks legitimacy without a vote.

Surely the only reason to oppose such a referendum must be fear of the result?

'Let the People Decide' is a familiar refrain.

Zak Goldsmith may have inherited his father's fortune and genes, but Douglas Carswell Sir James Goldsmith's true political progeny.

What a Whig!

Supreme Court decrees what it is to be Jewish

A boy was refused entry to JFS - an Orthodox Jewish secondary school (formerly the Jews' Free School), in Brent, north west London - because he was not a Jew according to the definition set out by the Chief Rabbi. The boy's father is Jewish by birth, but his mother is Jewish by conversion which was conducted under the auspices of the Masorti movement - a progressive synagogue which is not recognised by the Orthodox.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the admissions policy of JFS amounts to race discrimination.

Rabbi Tony Bayfield, head of the movement for Reform Judaism, said that he was delighted that the admissions policy of JFS - 'which actively de-legitimises our converts and our rabbis' - has been confirmed as unlawful and unacceptable by the highest court in the land.

But he added:

“Many of us continue to have serious reservations about the applicability of the Race Relations Act to matters of Jewish status and the involvement of the courts in matters which should be the preserve of the Jewish community. There are considerable potential dangers to going down this road.

“We also have reservations about the applicability of a ‘faith test’ to Judaism. It is an impractical solution, ill suited to a religious culture. However, we will live with a faith or practice test as by far 'the lesser of two evils'."

Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism, said: “Liberal Judaism welcomes the decision of the Supreme Court. Liberal Judaism has consistently argued that Jewish identity is primarily about thought and deed rather than biology."

Both the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Equality and Human Rights Commission also welcomed the ruling.

But what of the Orthodox?

Is it for the courts to tell the Orthodox what it is to be orthodox?

Is it for state judges to decree that ethnicity has to be separated from religion?

Is it really for a secular court which has existed for all of five minutes to overturn 3,500 years of Jewish tradition?

Is this not the time to rise up against Labour's 'equality' legislation which is undermining the very foundations of our liberal democacry?

It is noteworthy that Lord Phillips only recently revealed that he is himself an ‘ethnic’ Jew, and he chose to announce his Jewish ancestry in a London mosque where he welcomed the encroachment of shari'a law in England.

His fellow judge, Lord Brown, was one of the four dissenting judges. His observation is chilling:

"The root question for the Court is simply this: can a Jewish faith school ever give preference to those who are members of the Jewish religion under Jewish law? I would answer: yes it can. To hold the contrary would be to stigmatise Judaism as a directly racially discriminatory religion. I would respectfully disagree with that conclusion. Indeed, I would greatly regret it."

It is really quite astonishing (though perhaps unsurprising) that the first major case upon which the new Supreme Court has ruled has delivered a judgement which is effectively anti-Semitic.

Perfidious Albion.

Duke Amachree – sacked by Wandsworth Council just for mentioning God

Last night there was a candle-lit prayer vigil outside Wandsworth’s Town Hall. It was not for the success of the Copenhagen Climate Summit, the starving of Africa or the homeless of London, but for a former employee by the name of Duke Amachree, 53, a ‘gentle, intelligent and compassionate’ father of three, who was dismissed in July after 18 years of loyal and diligent service as a homelessness prevention officer.

His offence?

He mentioned God in the workplace.

Mr Amachree was assisting a woman with her housing needs. She spoke to him of her illness, which doctors had pronounced incurable. Moved by compassion, Mr Amachree, considered by all who know him to be a sincere and kind-hearted man of faith, offered comfort by commenting that sometimes the doctors do not know everything and he encouraged her to consider putting her faith in God. Two days later he was handed a letter informing him he had been suspended, had his ID pass confiscated and was escorted from the premises. Amazingly, Mr Amachree’s solicitor was even told in a meeting prior to the dismissal that it was not advisable to say ‘God bless’ either.

Good God. Christ Almighty. Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

A million times every day in thousands of places of work the name of the Lord will be taken in vain and blasphemed. But when it is invoked faithfully, it appears now to be a dismissible offence.

At least in Wandsworth.

Would a Muslim be sacked for saying Inshallah?

Don’t go there.

So incensed were Mr Amachree's family, friends and fellow employees at the draconian actions of Wandsworth Council that last week they launched the ‘Justice For Duke’ Campaign.

The Christian Legal Centre, which is supporting Mr Amachree in this case, like hundreds of others across the UK, said that in its experience Wandsworth’s treatment of Mr Amachree was one of the most ‘astonishing for the extreme treatment of a long-serving employee when there was no breach of contract and where the supposed “misdemeanour” was the merest mention of God’.

And they ask: “Is this really the Britain we live in?”

Yes, sadly, it is.

Certainly for nurses, teachers, pupils, police officers, foster parents, registrars, adoption agencies and employees of British Airways.

And it is a climate created by New Labour and the (now) faithful professing Roman Catholic Tony Blair. How could it be that the man widely judged to be the most devout prime minister since Gladstone has done more to undermine Christian liberties than any challenge to the faith on these islands in more than three centuries?

Labour have been so intent on legislating for ‘equality’ and tolerance towards every intolerant minority that they have ceased to realise that they have simultaneously legislated for the intolerance of the tolerant Christian majority.

When Christians dare to be convicted, they are portrayed as bigots. When they articulate a view with which others may disagree, they are dogmatic. When they fall short of perfection, they are pilloried and cast as hypocrites. When they defend the unborn, they are unenlightened. When they oppose animal-human embryos, they are anti-science. When they express concern over the fatherless, they are homophobic. When they speak up for the poor, they are wishy-washy liberals. When they defend faith-based education, they are intolerant. When they seek to uphold marriage, they are ‘right wing’ reactionaries.

And when they mention God in the workplace, they are offensive extremists and eccentric odd-balls.

Commenting in Parliament about increasing prejudice and incidences of discrimination against Christians, Harriet Harman said: “This is really just a matter of basic good practice and common sense. There is nothing in any law or guidance that requires people to act daft.”

Common sense expressed towards Christians in their places of work would be welcome indeed: it would be an excellent Christmas present for us all.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christian registrar loses appeal over 'gay marriage'

The victory was shortlived - 17 months, to be precise.

Christian registrar Lillian Ladele has lost her appeal against a ruling that she had not been discriminated against by being disciplined after she refused to conduct same-sex civil partnerships in north London.

She became a registrar in 2002, when state-authorised unions were an exclusively heterosexual affair. When the law changed, she felt she could not carry out such ceremonies 'as a matter of religious conscience'.

She claimed she suffered ridicule and bullying as a result of her stance and said she had been harassed and discriminated against by Islington Council.

An employment tribunal found that the council had unlawfully discriminated against her, but this was overturned by the Employment Appeal Tribunal, which said there was no basis for concluding that any discrimination had occurred.

Last month, Ms Ladele's counsel, James Dingemans QC, told the Master of the Rolls, Lord Neuberger, Lord Justice Dyson and Lady Justice Smith at the Court of Appeal that she had never wanted to undermine the human rights or respect due to members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender communities. But he pointed out that human rights laws must also be there to protect people with committed views about marriage.

It appears not.

Or at least for Christians.

Perhaps if Ms Ladele had been a Muslim, her appeal might have been successful. For it is an odd country indeed in which a Christian registrar can lose her job for upholding the orthodox teaching on marriage while Muslims may win massive payouts for being obliged to handle bottles of alcohol, cook sausage and bacon or dispense the 'morning after' pill , or sell an 'unclean' Bible in the normal course of their jobs.

Dismissing her case, Lord Neuberger said: "It appears to me that, however much sympathy one may have with someone such as Ms Ladele, who is faced with choosing between giving up a post she plainly appreciates or officiating at events which she considers to be contrary to her religious beliefs, the legislature has decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy, such as the United Kingdom, include outlawing discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on grounds of sexual orientation, subject only to very limited exceptions."

But Mr Dingemans told the appeal judges that Ms Ladele believed marriage should be "between one man and one woman for life to the exclusion of all others". He added: "Modern human rights jurisprudence was not intended to obliterate religious beliefs held for millennia."

But the EAT found that the council was not taking disciplinary action against Ms Ladele for holding her religious beliefs, but because her refusal to carry out civil partnership ceremonies involved discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

They said: "The council were entitled to take the view that they were not willing to connive in that practice by relieving Ms Ladele of the duties, notwithstanding that her refusal was the result of her strong and genuinely-held Christian beliefs."

Cllr Ruth Polling, Islington Council's Executive Member for Equalities, said: "This is very welcome news. The judgement is the right one as it confirms all public sector employees must carry out their duties without discrimination and Islington was right to insist this of all our staff. We are delighted it provides much-needed clarity for employers across the country."

Since the legislature has also decided that the requirements of a modern liberal democracy include the right of a woman to terminate the baby within her womb (which is a 'facility' or a 'service' provided by the NHS), Cranmer awaits the day when Christian doctors and nurses will have their exemption on the grounds of religious conscience removed

Rt Rev Stephen Venner: “The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.”

The Bishop to HM Armed Forces has been castigated, mocked and pilloried for making this comment, which was just one sentence in a lengthy interview. In isolation, it appears crass and insensitive: one MP accused him of offering ‘'comfort and succour to our enemies’' with his remarks, and another criticised him for not talking about the loyalty and boosting the morale of our troops.

Unsurprisingly, the Bishop has found himself besieged by a media which is incapable of digesting anything more than a trite soundbite, and scorned by those journalists who are bound by their own bigoted prejudice that nothing good can come out of the Church of England. And so there are puerile histrionics and shrieks of horror that an Anglican bishop would ever have asked if the Nazis could be admired for their conviction. And we move directly to reductio ad Hitlerum, as Godwin’s Law is manifest once again, and self-righteous hyperbole seeks to constitute the final word.

The Bishop said: “We’ve been too simplistic in our attitude towards the Taliban.”

He explained: “There’s a large number of things that the Taliban say and stand for which none of us in the west could approve, but simply to say therefore that everything they do is bad is not helping the situation because it’s not honest really. The Taliban can perhaps be admired for their conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other.”

The Bishop was actually not saying anything different from what the Foreign Secretary said earlier in the year.

But Colonel Richard Kemp, a former commander in Afghanistan, said the bishop was being naïve. He said: “We clearly need to understand our enemy but that is more of a military issue rather than a religious one... There are many who will not be persuaded. Their central creed and ethos is about violent oppression which comes from a politics of extreme religion that has very little to commend it in terms that we would recognise or appreciate. In many ways it is a mistake to compare their faith of extreme holy war with the kind of religion of peace and understanding that the bishop follows. They certainly wouldn’t show understanding of his faith.”

The Colonel fundamentally misunderstands Christianity: we do not show peace and understanding to our enemies on the basis of reciprocity: loving others is not conditional on getting some love back. And his assertion that this is more of a military issue than a religious one is naïve: to ignore the fount and inspiration of the ‘politics of extreme religion’ is to risk making the Iraq mistake all over again.

One may simultaneously both despise and admire: one may hate and love, loathe and respect. There is no doubt that the Taliban have been responsible for public beatings, amputations and executions and have launched bomb attacks on the civilian population in Afghanistan. But these are people – men and women, husbands and wives, bringing up children in tightly-knit families in accordance with the patterns of a belief system which have been passed down from generation to generation for centuries.

One cannot change this with bombs and bullets.

There is no doubt that they believe they are fulfilling the purposes of God: they are at war with the Crusaders, and wish to die a martyrs death to spend eternity with 72 virgins in everlasting happiness. They are dying in the noblest of causes in the hope that their reward will be bountiful. Sadly, they are ignorant of the fact that the Qur’an makes no mention of 72 virgins anywhere in any sura.

They are victims of a religio-political lie: they are brainwashed to self-sacrifice in the name of Allah for the cause of the Caliphate.

And the bishop simply sought to remind us that it is ‘unhelpful to demonise them’. He adds: “We must remember that there are a lot of people who are under their influence for a whole range of reasons, and we simply can’t lump all of those together. To blanket them all as evil and paint them as black is not helpful in a very complex situation.”

By drawing attention to the Taliban’s conviction to their faith and their sense of loyalty to each other, the Bishop is following the example set by St Paul at the Areopagus, where he proclaimed:

"Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.

"The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 'For in him we live and move and have our being.' As some of your own poets have said, 'We are his offspring.'

"Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by man's design and skill. In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."

When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council. A few men became followers of Paul and believed. Among them was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus, also a woman named Damaris, and a number of others.

This is a model for proclamation. St Paul does not condemn their idolatrous false religion: he begins by commending their ‘conviction to their faith’. By employing the language of reason and invitation rather than reproach and condemnation, he offers the Church a model for proclamation in our own ‘multi-cultural’ time. He quotes the Greek poets and sees the light within their philosophy, and he builds on this to articulate the name of the God who is the source and destination of their quest for salvation.

If Greek philosophy can be a legitimate discourse for evangelism, then so can Islamic theology, however perverted a particular interpretation may be. If St Paul were to preach to the Taliban today the God of love who sent his own son to die in order that we might live, he might well have begun with their ‘sense of loyalty to one another’.

Of course, we are at war. Perhaps the Bishop’s discourse might have been better received and articulated during peacetime. But Cranmer cannot help wondering why this single sentence has circumvented the world, causing so much pain, offence and grief, while a far more important observation by the Bishop went largely unreported.

He said the Government has ‘a moral duty’ to ensure that the army is properly equipped.

Perhaps we might hear a little more about the Government’s moral deficiency in this respect. Or perhaps a few journalists might like to commend the Bishop for pointing this out?
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