By Peter Mullen, CEN
Mr Cameron has taken advice from Baldrick and hatched a cunning plan. We must first congratulate the prime minister on his ingenuity in finding fresh ways to destroy the Conservative party. Not content with the measure of destruction wrought by John Major in surrendering what was left of our national sovereignty to the EU superstate in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1992, Cameron is waging war on our traditional institutions. His zeal for homosexual weddings has split the Tories in parliament and throughout the land. We recall John Major’s nice line in abuse when he referred to those members of his own party who opposed further integration into the EU as “bastards.” I don’t know that Dave can match John’s creativity in the use of invective, but I’m sure he has a term for those 136 Tory MPs who voted against homosexual marriage. There is the much-abused word “maverick,” but this only makes us wonder how the Tory party descended so far into the pit that now the only term for a traditional conservative is “maverick.” The faithful are now described as renegades, and we live in Orwelliana.
Why did Cameron propose homosexual marriage? Was he bent on a suicide trip? No – he is too clever and ambitious for that. And this is where his cunning plan comes in. Cameron and his cronies have done the modern equivalent of consulting the entrails. They have listened to the focus groups. So now they know on which side their ciabatta is olive-oiled. They have been told that traditional Tories – real Tories – no longer form the bedrock of the party and that many are over 65 which, in our ever-so-yoof-full modern society, qualifies them for the geriatric ward if not for the anteroom to the crematorium.
The new generation of Conservatives is made up of slick young men and fashionable young women. They are not Tories in the sense we always understood by that word; anything Johnson and Coleridge would recognise as Tory, or even anything Keith Joseph and John Redwood would recognise. Today’s Conservative party activists are libertarians who have fully accommodated all the social “reforms” in public policy of the last forty years. They cut their teeth on women’s lib, so to speak. Their catechism was “Diversity.” Contradictorily, because they do not discern the essence of the body politic, they are also vigorous enthusiasts for the Big State. Their shibboleths are the NHS and state education. And they love it when an interfering government prescribes what is morally right and compels them to be free. Cameron and the rest of his junta are comparatively young and quite happy to hang around until the old guard departs for the Great Carlton Club in the Sky.
The reason I regurgitate all this lugubrious history is not out of any residual affection for the Conservative party, but because these things are an exact replica of what is happening in the Church of England. Here too there is a cunning plan which seems to be working very well. As we all know, there were for a couple of centuries three main parties in the church: High, Low and Broad. There was for the most part peaceful co-existence among these groups, with only the occasional outbreak of hostilities. But during the 1960s the balance of power changed decisively. “Liberal” theology, like sexual intercourse according to Philip Larkin, began in 1963 with the publication of Robinson’s Honest to God. This was succeeded by a cataract of demythologising and debunking texts such as the Secular Meaning of the Gospel and the Myth of God Incarnate.
The climate was relentless progressivism which showed itself in perpetual liturgical tinkering and the church’s backing for the tide of social policy innovations as these affected contraception, abortion and homosexual law reform. The good old C. of E. was no longer the Tory party at prayer and, if not quite or not yet, the socialist party at the barricades, it aspired at least to become the Lib Dems at the sherry party. The consequences of this revolution have been far-reaching and irreversible. The High churchmen were defeated on the issue of women priests and the consecration of women to the episcopate is a done deal. Liturgical reform brought a new babel in which no two churches conduct the same services. So much for “All the realm shall have one use.” Liberals were in the van of liturgical reform, trumpeting their Alternative Service Book 1980 as “the greatest publishing event in 400 years.” In the true spirit of liberalism, they banned this book of variants a mere twenty years later. The Low party, forever characterised by the solemn elevation of the collecting plate at 11am Matins, faded away. And the thriving Evangelical movement has commendable disregard for the commanding bureaucracy and tends to do its own thing.
I coined a slogan to advertise the contemporary C. of E. ABSOLUTE RELATIVISM RULES OK. In one of his last interviews as Archbishop, Rowan Williams urged the church to listen more attentively to what our present society is saying: effectually that we should catch up with secular opinions about diversity. I imagine a rewrite of one of Our Lord’s farewell discourses in which he instructs his disciples: “Go forth, make unto yourselves that which is called focus groups and hearken unto them.”
The Liberal – really totalitarian – regime is now completely established, almost. The modernised, bureaucratised bishops have simply promoted one another these last forty years, achieving their present hegemony. Most clergy can always be relied upon to vote in their own interest and support whatever wheezes invented by the bishops. Admittedly, there is a little local difficulty with the House of Laity in the Synod, but this will soon be extirpated by a small gang of bishops behind closed doors – with a little help from Frank Field MP.
What are traditionalists to do? I shall follow the advice of C.H. Sisson:
“They can stay and fight their corner, struggling for an intelligibility which might come again, and will come, if it is the truth they are concerned with. They can sit on pillars in some recess of the national structure, waiting for better times. Or they can let their taste for having an ecclesiastical club carry them into one or other of those international gangs of opinion – that which has its headquarters in Rome or that which has a shadowy international meeting-place in Canterbury. For my part, I shall prefer those who stay and fight their corner, content to be merely the Church in a place.”
Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen was for fourteen years Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill and St Sepulchre-without-Newgate. He is Chaplain to four City livery companies and to the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers Association. He is the author of some forty books, the most recent "The Gospel of Political Correctness" published by Bretwalda (£7.99 November 2012) Peter is a priest in the Diocese of London, currently assisting at St George's Harrow
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