Contrary to what many have assumed, engaging in interfaith dialogue...
A two-year interfaith commission has come up with a report that is bound to cause a little bit of controversy.
The 150-page report actually makes for fascinating reading and I will need to take some time to go over it again – to get all the nuances. But the main hits which will be picked up by the media, include the following:
- Britain is no longer a Christian country
- Faith schools are socially divisive and selection on the basis of faith should be cut back
- Anglican bishops in the House of Lords should be cut back and replaced with those of other faiths and other denominations. The report states; The pluralist character of modern society should be reflected in national forums such as the House of Lords, so that they include a wider range of worldviews and religious traditions, and of Christian denominations other than the Church of England, as recommended by the Royal Commission on the Reform of the House of Lords.
- The Coronation service should include those of other faiths
- Religious radicals should be allowed to speak in University courts
- Thought for the Day on the BBC should include non-religious messages
- School assemblies should be replaced by ‘time for reflection’
- There should be a national ‘consultation’ to draw up a kind of 21st Century Magna Carta to determine what British values are
- Where a religious organisation is best placed to deliver a social good, it should not be disadvantaged when applying for funding to do so, so long as its services are not aimed at seeking converts
The C of E are not happy. Nicky Morgan the education secretary is not happy. The National Secular Society are not happy. Lots of people will be unhappy – for different reasons.
Whilst there are actually parts of the report that are helpful and suggestions that make sense, I would offer the following critique.
An inter-faith group comes up with a report that recommends more inter-faith control. What a surprise!
Any of us who have served on these kinds of committees and groups know exactly what is to be expected. It is a Disneyesque view of human society and religion which tells us that we are all basically the same, we all get along and its only the few odd bods and ‘bad guys’ who prevent us living in total harmony.
The inter faith model only works in the minds of those who essentially regard all religions as the same, all human beings as basically good and who think that if only they can get to implement their particular version of utopia then it will happen.
Is Britain a Christian country?
It is true that in one sense Britain is no longer a Christian country. The fact that the majority of people do not attend church (did they ever?), the increase in other religions (particularly Islam – which seems a major focus of the report) and the ever-increasing demands of secular humanism are indicators that much of Christian Britain has disappeared.
However there is another sense in which Britain very much remains a Christian country. That is our foundation on which we are built, it is our historical heritage and maybe, before we give up on that that, we need to know what we are selling our heritage for.
The secularist nirvana and the interfaith paradise are as yet untested pipe dreams
The secularist nirvana and the interfaith paradise are as yet untested pipe dreams, fed to us by those already in positions of power and establishment. For those of us who believe that Christianity is the source and therefore the best guarantee of our Western liberal democracy, it is profoundly dangerous to remove the foundations and walls, without knowing what we are going to replace them with.
The report in effect suggests replacing the Christian foundations of our society with a vague inter faith potage that is dominated by the values and principles of secular humanism. For example the report states that people are 'free to express their beliefs and practise a religion, providing they do not constrict the rights and freedoms of others'.
This sounds good until you ask the question who determines the rights and freedoms of others? What about someone’s freedom to be racist? Or someone’s freedom to marry whoever they want? Or the freedom to engage in sexual perversity? Or make oneself rich at the expense of others?
The danger is that we end up creating a secular state where the State acts as God, and where the powerful, rich elites determine the ‘rights and freedoms' of others according to their own fashions and fancies. Religion that is reduced to the level of a knitting group or a golf club may be harmless, but it is also fundamentally useless.
A seat at the table
Overall I would suggest that Christians especially need to be very careful before going along with this report. Some of us may be offered a seat at the table, but that’s no use if we don’t get a say in the menu! For example in the section on religious worship in schools the report states 'In this connection we applaud the joint initiative in Scotland between the Humanist Society Scotland and the Church of Scotland to work together for an inclusive ‘time for refection’.' Again it sounds nice, but at best it is waffle and at worst it is Orwellian distortion of the English language. An ‘inclusive’ time for reflection is nothing of the sort. It only includes those who buy into the humanist agenda (including the humanists in the church) and excludes any one who dares to disagree with that agenda.
The danger is that we end up creating a secular state where the State acts as God
Britain’s liberal democracy and its values of freedom, equality and tolerance are based upon Christianity. This report is indicative of a well-meaning inter-faith movement that is in danger of becoming a Trojan Horse for the new ‘Human Rights’ religion of the metro-elites. It is the poor, the marginalised and the ordinary people of this country who will suffer most if we allow our country to be taken over and destroyed by this untried, untested new faith. I prefer to stick with Jesus and his Word.
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