Thursday, 18 October 2012

Faith replacing 'Faith?'

The Leader of the Labour Party made an interesting speech recently. He began by telling his listeners that he did not believe in God, but then he went on to state that he did believe in a whole raft of the very things those of us who do believe in God, also believe in. He describes Britain as a nation which holds to 'compassion' and 'principles' even though it is no longer a nation of 'faith' in religious terms. He declared that he had 'faith' in justice for all, making the world a better place, moral behaviour (a bit of a facer that, given the actions and attitudes of most politicians of any stamp) and a great deal more.

An indication of just how the 'leaders and shakers' as they consider themselves have moved from any understanding of religion is his call to "put our 'faith' in his Party." It is a strong indicator of what has happened as secularists have maintained their constant attacks and negative teaching and imaging of anything religious. As a far greater philosopher than I once said, "The absence of faith does not mean the absence of belief. In the absence of faith people will believe in anything." Political ideology has replaced religion for many, not because it is better (except maybe that it doesn't mean they have to get up and go to church on a Sunday) but because they can identify with some aspect of it more easily than they can with religion. For the same reason we see a massive following for "The Environment" and anything to do with "saving" it for "the future." As G K Chesteron said of the Christian faith, "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

I wonder how many followers of Mr Milliband's new 'religion' realise that its roots lie deeply embedded in the Welsh Methodist Chapels, or that its 'ideals' are those very same tenets taught by Methodist Sunday School teachers? It might come as a surprise to most of them. Even the zeal with which they now embrace the 'new morality' and attack Christians for 'bigotry' can be traced to those fiery 'Chapel' ministers and their utter belief that everyone else was and is wrong - only they can see and know the 'truth.'

I would certainly agree with Josephus that the churches have lost out in the propaganda war being waged for the hearts and minds of the nation. As Augustine of Hippo once described the concept of the Christian understanding of the Trinity as an "enigma, wrapped up in a mystery," for most today in Britain, years of badly constructed, badly presented and taught "Religious Education" has resulted in no one understanding anything about it at all. Even those who attend 'religious schools' such as the one Josephus mentioned yesterday in his comments, are apparently failing to teach the core understanding of what 'faith' in God is really all about.  Faith is not about avoiding issues, it is about addressing them guided by the tenets of that faith. This is where I do have a problem with the 'faith' Mr. Milliband proposes, since down this road, eventually, one finds those whose belief in the rectitude of their 'beliefs' overwhelms their moral code, their principles and all sense of justice. And it is a problem suffered by every 'faith' whether religious or secular. There will always be those who are so committed to their vision they will go to extremes and even those that don't go that far, will ignore the right of objection from everyone else and impose their solution unilaterally.

An example of this was presented to me last night on FaceBook. It was drawn to my attention that a NUS 'solidarity' group are planning to join a TUC 'march' on Whitehall. One member of this group was whipping himself into the most amazing frenzy over the Prime Minister's having dismissed the planned march as 'a Labour sponsored walkabout.' He had, by this time, posted an exceptionally inflammatory video rant on YouTube, and his posts on the FaceBook invitation page had reached the stage (and language) of the religious zealot planning to carry out a suicide attack. I shall be very surprised if this idiot hasn't already had a visit from the Security Squad, and if he hasn't perhaps we should be asking why not!

This is the kind of fanatic who leads to others being killed, injured or branded as 'terrorists' or getting criminal records. This is the sort of moron whose 'faith' in his ideology - whatever it is  - turns any slight into an excuse for a violent response.

According to the article on Mr Milliband's 'faith,' Britain is either leading a trend or defying one. The abandoning of religion in favour of ideologies and causes is happening there on a scale not seen anywhere else in Europe or in the world. I'm not sure what the cause of this is, but I suspect there is a very complex set of factors in play here. One I have already mentioned, the churches themselves have not fought their corner effectively and most people today really don't understand what it is they are being asked to believe or practice. As Chesterton said, "it has been found difficult and not tried." That seems to be especially true of our 'political class' who seem to have no idea at all about the real 'practice' and 'faith' that is Christianity. It should be, as Chesterton says, less a 'practice' and more a love affair. Then you begin to grasp what it is really about and, as Mr Milliband wishes to do, to 'make a difference in the world.'

On that score though, you can only do it be practicing in full what you truly believe. That, I think, is where all our so-called leaders come up against a problem. Christ's saying in the Gospel of Mark, that it is easier for a camel to pass through the 'Eye of the Needle' than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom was both a joke and a serious comment on how many find reducing their own circumstances in order to help others is a major stumbling block for the rich than many realise. It was a 'joke' in the sense that the 'Eye' he was referring to is a small wicket gate in the wall of the Old City of Jerusalem (some archeologists identify it - it still exists - as the oldest in the city wall). A camel might be persuaded to pass through it - but asking a rich man (as the story in Mark recounts) to sell his entire estate and give away the proceeds ... Not going to happen.

Maybe Chesterton was right on the money. The 'new' faith means we can be 'comfortable' about not making sacrifices to help others - as long as we believe we are 'making a difference.' And who better to be able to believe they are making one, than the ministers, MPs and foot soldiers of a political ideology? But, what they bring us is not necessarily a 'faith' of tolerance, morality or the promise of improvement. It is more likely to be one of intolerance of disagreement, enforced political correctness and marginalisation and persecution of anyone who dares to disagree. I doubt it will be an improvement on Cromwell and his Presbyterians ...

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