Skip to comments.Culture wars - Moral majority politics comes to Great Britain (Bush Victory Infectious!)
Posted on 11/12/2004 1:46:18 PM PST by NYer
Moral majority politics, which helped sweep Bush to victory, are coming here. Muslims, conservative Catholics and evangelicals want to change Britain. Cristina Odone reports
The schoolgirl talks eloquently about how she attends the Christian Union at her school, doesn't believe it is "right" to have sex before marriage, and regards the family unit as a sacred ideal. Is this teenager a hick who attends a creationist school in the Kansas plains? No, she is a middle-class, metropolitan student at St Paul's Girls' School in west London - for generations the top choice of the fee-paying chattering classes.
The young Muslim man sits in the canteen at work and confides that he is not going to continue voting for Labour politicians who allow the media to show sex and violence on the telly and his teenage daughter to get the morning-after pill over the counter, but won't allow her to wear a veil because it conflicts with her school uniform. This Muslim is not sitting in the backstreets of Beirut. He works for the BBC and lives in north London.
In the aftermath of the US elections, the chattering classes in Britain have portrayed the moral majority in America as the peculiar aberration of a raw, uncivilised culture. The religious right that swept George W Bush to victory is, they insist, a phenomenon that doesn't travel beyond American shores.
Wrong. It's an important presence here already, as is the Muslim conservatism that Asian and Arab communities have been slowly but surely unpacking in Europe, and in Britain in particular.
A week before Americans re-elected their God-fearing president, the president of the European Commission was forced to withdraw his entire team of commissioners when Rocco Buttiglione, a Catholic candidate, condemned homosexuality as sinful and single mothers as "a bad thing". On the same day as the US election, a Muslim with dual Moroccan/Dutch nationality killed the Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh for having made a "blasphemous" film about women and Islam. And Peter Vardy, a Christian evangelical entrepreneur, last month lost a battle to take over a school in Doncaster and turn it into a city academy that would tell children that creationism - the belief that God literally created the world in six days - is a theory on a par with Darwinism (see Francis Beckett's report last week).
The politicisation of religious groups that has taken place across the Atlantic and been given impetus by the presidency of the born-again Bush may not yet find a direct parallel here; Europe offers no equivalent to the Christian right in terms of numbers of votes, or influence. Yet between conservative Catholics, the expanding Muslim community and growing numbers of evangelical Protestants, an alliance is being forged. Its aim is to protect a faith-based value system against the encroaching secularism of the west. The difficulty is that, just as the religious right believe wholeheartedly that theirs is the one true way, secularists are adamant about their beliefs and intolerant of those who do not share them. The ensuing clash of cultures will spill over into the political arena and change government policies for ever.
In a post-communist world, where the market is accepted by all, conventional political divisions over taxes, government spending and big business are giving way to more deeply felt differences on issues such as when life begins, the make-up of the family unit and the boundaries of medical science. Adrian Woolridge, US correspondent of the Economist and co-author of The Right Nation, sees Britain progressing from the class politics of the trade unions, through the managerial politics of the Blair-Brown era, "to arguments about the sort of people we are and what we value. Profound issues, in short, are coming back to the centre stage of politics."
Such issues, touching on questions of identity and allegiance, generate feverish emotions. The row over Buttiglione was furious and claimed the professional scalps of two proposed commissioners; the row over Theo van Gogh's film on Islam claimed his life. Although very few moral conservatives would sanction murder (even in America, with its killings of abortionists, such events are rare), they feel that their anger is warranted. They have witnessed what they see as the liberal elite allow abortion at 28 weeks and permit the sale of the morning-after pill over the counter; they have listened to plans to legalise gay marriage and euthanasia.
In their view, the pervasiveness of the west's secularist fervour goes beyond legislation. The moral traditionalists have watched every marketing outlet from television to billboards push their children into a precocious sexualisation; they have heard of endless books, magazines and lifestyle gurus instructing their women to go out and work and establish themselves as equal to men. And they have listened to councillors and local authorities tell them that Christmas cannot be celebrated as a holy holiday in public institutions, and that their daughters may not wear the hijab at school.
They've had enough.
They want, now, to voice their grievances and redress perceived wrongs by voting out godless politicians and voting in representatives who will draft and change policies in accordance with their traditionalist values. In this campaign, Muslims and Christians - in particular the increasing number of born-again evangelicals - have found common cause.
"There is an informal coalition between people of faith and people who are looking for some kind of value framework," agrees the Bishop of Leicester, Tim Stevens. "People of different faiths can coalesce around a number of freedoms which we believe make for human flourishing. We can coalesce around the notion of freedom from poverty, fear, injustice - and, too, from consumerism. We are looking for some way of assigning value to human beings that is more than their place in the market."
In Warwickshire, Nuala Scarisbrick, administrator of Life, the anti-abortion charity, finds "a marked sea change in the past few years. Our volunteers and paid staff, once predominantly Christian, are today members of every religious group, from Islam to Hinduism and even Buddhism. They believe, just as Christians do, that one of the fundamental principles in their ethics is the right to life, and are prepared to fight for the right of the unborn."
Inayat Bunglawala, spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain, agrees: "More devout Muslims will want to see the government take a stronger line on abortion - rather than as things are right now, which leave it to the individual MP's conscience. Similarly with gay marriages. Even mainstream Muslims draw a line at gay marriages. They want government to support the family unit."
A "pro-life" stance is a litmus test for religious conservatives; abortion is also the issue that gave them their first important victory, with the limit at which a legal abortion can be obtained being reduced from 28 weeks to 24. Indeed, following the publication this summer of photographs of a 12-week foetus, many politicians, including Lord Steel, who drafted the original abortion law, were moved to talk of further reducing the limit for a legal abortion.
Secularists, worried about such hints of religious retrenchment, are determined to hit back. They have, argues Richard Appignanesi, author of Introducing Existentialism, "found a fundamentalism of their own - political correctness". From banning religious messages on Christmas cards through talking of partners instead of spouses and then, more recently, calling for St Mary Magdalene school in Islington to change its name, which was deemed "divisive" in a multicultural society, the "thought police" have produced what Appignanesi calls "the slam-ming door of the liberal mind". Secularists, he believes, show as much of an interest in indoctrination as the religious groups they hate so much.
The liberal chattering classes find themselves at loggerheads with an ever more self-confident and vociferous constitu-ency today. Following 11 September 2001 and the introduction in the UK of anti-terrorism legislation regarded as targeting their community, British Muslims have become far more conscious of their rights and far more vocal about their demands. "The first real clash of cultures between Muslims and the liberal secular values took place with the Rushdie affair," says Ziauddin Sardar, the Muslim commentator and author of Desperately Seeking Paradise. "That saw Muslims becoming vocal. Then after 11 September they became more assertive as well. They began seeking and winning access to the corridors of power, they managed to get the proposed Religious Discrimination Act on the government agenda; and the Muslim Council of Britain sent a delegation of two to deal with Kenneth Bigley's kidnappers in Iraq."
Meanwhile, some of the Christian churches are showing evidence of similar assertiveness. While the traditional Anglican and Roman Catholic churches are losing members among both laity and clergy, the growth in evangelical congregations has become phenomenal. Many attribute this popularity to the Alpha course, a ten-week, 15-session, back-to-basics introduction to Christianity. The course, according to the London-based agency Christian Research, has been taken by 1.6 million Britons (not least Jonathan Aitken). Its success (since it was founded in the UK 23 years ago, the course has produced offshoots in more than 150 countries) has kept the coffers filled and the propaganda machine churning.
Earlier this year, 1,500 billboards, 3,000 buses and 290 taxi tip-up seats across the country sported a text message: "IS there more to life than this?" alongside the words "The Alpha Course: explore the meaning of life". Alpha's basic principles are simple - faith in God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and a life ruled by the Bible. This black-and-white code includes no to abortion, no to sex outside marriage, and no to gay sex ever. (Gay people need to be healed, teaches Nicky Gumbel, Alpha's leading light.)
Alpha also engages members in what can only be described as exercises in self-affirmation - endlessly repeated choruses about how they have been chosen by the Holy Spirit, and how theirs is the Only True Way.
This assertiveness training has produced a batch of graduates who burn to spread the word. Given that most Alpha recruits come from the professional middle classes, their missionary zeal should be taken seriously: these lawyers, bankers and businessmen have the wherewithal to politicise their personal faith.
In Tony Blair, Britain has elected its most religiously devout prime minister since William Gladstone. In a foreword to a book about Labour Christians, he wrote: "Religious beliefs and political beliefs will achieve nothing until people are prepared to act on those beliefs." The Prime Minister's close personal relationship with God has come up repeatedly, most recently in his supposed conversion to Catholicism; it has also spilled into his politics.
Under Blair's stewardship, new Labour stealthily and successfully claimed territory that had traditionally been Conservative. With words such as "good" and "bad" seeping into speeches, with talk of moral responsibility and educational ethos, new Labour stole the high horse from right under the Tories. It could well prove a shrewd move: Thomas Frank, one of America's most acute observers, warns that the 21st century will be a time when "good wages, fair play, the fate of a trade union - all these are distant seconds to evolution, abortion, gay marriage".
Armed with the conviction that their value system stems from a transcendental authority, people of faith have set to work to transform our society. Their crusade against the moral bankruptcy of western Europe may soon shift from being a rallying cry to become government policy.
Catholic Ping - please freepmail me if you want on/off this list
The only problem is that all the majority parties in the UK are under the impression that the secularism is the way forward... Considering the current political situation in the UK, it may take ages before this sentiment seeps through to the mainstream politics.
Tony Blair knows it is one of the most delicate of subjects. When asked about it he squirms and tries to change to a more comfortable line of inquiry. But quietly the Prime Minister is putting religion at the centre of the New Labour project, reflecting his own deeply felt beliefs that answers to most questions can be found in the Bible.
The Observer can reveal that Blair is to allow Christian organisations and other 'faith groups' a central role in policy-making in a decisive break with British traditions that religion and government should not mix.
The Prime Minister, who this weekend becomes the longest continually serving Labour Prime Minister in history, has set up a ministerial working group in the Home Office charged with injecting religious ideas 'across Whitehall'. One expert on the relationship between politics and religion described the move as a 'blow to secularism'.
Blair's move is believed to have the strong support of the two other leading Christian members of the Cabinet, David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, and Paul Boateng, Chief Secretary of the Treasury.
The working group will be chaired by the Home Office Minister with responsibility for what is called 'civic renewal', Fiona Mactaggart. The members will include Estelle Morris, the former Education Secretary who is now the Arts Minister, and Christian organisations including the Evangelical Alliance. Known as the Faith Community Liaison Group, it will have an input into controversial policy areas such as faith schools, which are allowed to select their pupils on the basis of their beliefs, and religious discrimination.
Blair, a committed Christian who keeps the Bible by his bed, knows he is taking a risk by revealing the importance he places on religion in informing his politics. He also knows that many of his key officials feel uncomfortable about the central role that God plays in his life. There were furrowed brows of consternation when Blair, asked who he would answer to for the deaths of British soldiers, replied: 'My Maker'.
Alastair Campbell, Blair's communications director, said 'We don't do God' when the Prime Minister was questioned in a recent interview with Vanity Fair about his religious beliefs. When Blair wanted to end his televised address to the nation at the start of the war in Iraq with 'God bless you', he was advised against it...
[Click link above to read the rest of the article]
We should all keep Prime Minister Blair in our prayers.
It's interesting that abortion is the litmus test, just as it is here. Interesting too that the question is whether there is any measure of human worth other than market value. It sounds to me as if the Brits are very much on the right track.
The three shouldn't be grouped together. The bastard child of the pagans has entirely different goals than the other two do.
Beautiful, huh? The author lumps together people who are pro-life or pro-family with the islamic nutjob who gunned down Van Gogh.
What the hell, theyre all religious.
Britain is blessed to have a man like Tony as their P.M.
I'm not going to concentrate on the arguments focusing around what "swept" G.W. to power nor statements about Islam in this article.
I am going to state I believe this increased focus on values, on Faith, on country etc.. I find to be beneficial. If that focus sweeps Europe it'll be to their benefit.
Europe has a culture of Death. If we are to survive the threat of terrorism we have to have a strong culture of Life. We have to desire Life or else we have no reason to resist these murderers. The world is long overdue for an awakening. It would seem G.W.'s election may have started a domino effect that has potential to grow.
Maybe tactical alliances with Muslims on some moral issues makes sense, but Christians should definitely reject any appeal to violence similar to Muslim doctrine on jihad.
Trying to build a coalition with Muslims is just foolish. They don't want a decent, moral society, they want a Sharia-governed hell.
Please tell me that most Brits hate this rag.
Well, as impassioned as you are about the matter, he is not a servant of the anti-Christ.
He is one man standing up to prevent his entire country from being destroyed over terrorism under tremendous opposition from all corners.
If you choose to ignore the good done by this man, that is your choice. I will take the opposite view, thank you.
If I were designing a campaign in England, I'd concentrate on law and order issues rather than broader moral questions. I'd appeal to the fear of street crime and home invasion. Stir in a little anti-French nationalism, and build from there.
Thank you! President George "Dubya" has been given an additional 4 years to correct the problems infiltrating our society from the moral irrelantists. For those watching the elections from the outside, Bush's victory must have resonated. "His" values are "their" values. Such encouragement gives rise to hope. With hope, comes prayer. With prayer, comes victory. God willing, these adherents of moral principle in Great Britain may one day overcome the tremendous shift towards secularism, in Great Britain.
If voters in Australia-of all places-can elect a pro-family, pro-faith member of congress, then I'm sure that the UK can replicate that accomplishment on a much broader scale.
All it will take is a little time and effort.
There is no way one can refute the fact that we as Christians share a common enemy with Islam in the secular PC left. We are constantly complaining about the demise of our value system which made this nation at the hands of the liberals, and it is this same PC ideology that motivates the Jihadists to declare their fatwas against the west.
Remember, Jesus is a prophet in Islam - and history is replete with instances of Muslims defending Christian sites of religious significance. The monastery at the foot of Mt Sinai comes to mind - Mohammed himself declared that no Muslim would allow any harm to come to that place, even during the Crusades - and his personal guard kept watch over the monastery. Muslims put people of faith above those without, regardless of what that faith is. Yes, they still want to kill us all, but they'd kill the secularists first.
It isn't too large a stretch to imagine that if the west were to actually live up to its' religious values instead of what we are seeing today that OBL's movement would wither away and die. They see the west as being "Godless", can you blame them for that? We see them as barbarians due to their lack of placing any value upon human life and their seventh century way of living. There's a lot of educating that needs to be done on both sides about the other.
Once that happens, both sides will see who the true enemy is. The Left.
"Christians share a common enemy with Islam in the secular PC left."
Essentially correct, but at the moment both are tactically allied. In Holland there are first fissures in that alliance but I'm sceptic.
Should the Christian Conservative build alliances (at least tactical) with the religious Islam? I think that's very difficult since there is no unity in Islam, there are no contact persons (like the pope for the catholics) although I also believe that most of them share very respectable values with us. Never in the life can we join forces with the life-detesting extremists, the sympathizers of terrorism which are bred in the slums of European metropoles (I guess supported by government welfare).
The impossibility of alliances with Islamic powers does not mean that their forces remain unused against the Left. I'm just waiting for Turkey joining the European Union (a project of the Left): How would the Commies dictate their "values" to the Turks. A gay pride parade in East-Anatolia? Too funny! I predict nothing else as the end of the European Union as we know it, a free trade zone is enough.
I pick that up to by the end of the 2nd paragraph and quit reading.
Nice objective article.
If Miss Odone thinks that Thomas Frank is a prescient writer, she has a lot of problems. Frank is the sociologist or something who couldn't understand why Kansans keep voting for Republicans. Apparently Miss Odone doesn't get it either. It's highly amusing to hear liberals on one hand call conservatives greedy, rapacious despoilers of the earth and then on the other call them obsessed with religion which values morality over filthy lucre. Well libs, which one is it?
"He is one man standing up to prevent his entire country from being destroyed over terrorism under tremendous opposition from all corners."
Abortion alone has murdered more Britons than will ever be killed by terrorists. Making war on terror is easy - it allows morally defective politicians to salve the bad consciences that result from their complicity in the genocide that goes on under our noses.
"If you choose to ignore the good done by this man, that is your choice."
Good? What is good? - killing people?
"I will take the opposite view, thank you."
That is your prerogative under the current relativist zeitgeist - the "right" to be wrong.
My assessment of G.W. AND Blair stands.
The Liberals' grouping of muslim fanatics with Christian morality-based politics is proof 'they dont get it'.
But it is fascinating that as usual, America leads the way.
Well said. I agree with you.
Three cheers for PM Tony Blair and GWB, 2 men of morals, faith and courage.
I do hope the moral uprising that swept America will also sweep Great Britain and the whole of Europe. Well, I can at least hope for Great Britain...
This article is the first mention I've heard of Tony Blair being overtly religious. Interesting.
Yes, I am nervous about the Muslims being included, too. Conservative, perhaps they are. "Demanding new rights" makes me VERY wary. Pagans have separate and mutually-exclusive goals all their own.
I think Rocco Buttiglione is a right and honorable man. I would also note that here in England the Catholic churchs generally are full every Sunday (and I'm in Brighton!) but the Anglican churchs (went to a few before I cottoned on that they were Anglican-Catholic!) tend to be empty or filled with only over 70s -- no young Anglicans in the churchs
Look how the MSM are lumping together Evangelical Christians and Muslims in Britain.
Yes, but this is the New Statesman. It's our equivalent to "The Nation".
Ugh. There ought to have been a "Barf Alert" then.
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