Saturday, 30 March 2013

Are Christians Really "Marginalised"?

Lord Carey has today written a piece for the Daily Mail which has been quite badly reported. Whilst some have reported on him suggesting Christians are "persecuted", he is pretty clear that he understand such suggestions are exaggerated (and that is putting it kindly).

The real issue he seems to be getting upset about is that Christians are being marginalised in this country. But when you read his article it becomes obvious that what is really upsetting him is the erosion of Christian influence over our Government. He's upset that the Parliamentary chapel might be converted to an all-faiths prayer room. He's mad that the Government might be dividing marriage into religious and civil parts (he is actually a bit behind there, that was their plan prior to the consultation and they are now not creating said difference). And he's upset that teachers might be sacked due to same-sex marriage (something the Government has been clear they don't want but something his colleagues over in the Catholic Church have confirmed they will do [i.e. sack those who openly support it!]).

Lord Carey isn't upset about Christians being marginalised. He's concerned we are heading towards a separation of church and state. Which shows just how kooky politics in this country is. We have an established Christian church whose head is also our head of state. We have set seats in our legislature for members of the established church but for no other religions. We have hundreds (if not thousands) of church schools educating our young people. With the end of the Liberal Democrat dream of Lords reform, none of these things are remotely threatened. In fact former leading members of our established church can say just about anything they want and be assured it'll be reported on in every news source we have (no matter how loony it might be). And yet in Lord Carey's eyes Christians are "increasingly marginalised". Oh to be marginalised!

Now that is not to say that there isn't an increasingly toxic attitude among many secularists towards Christians and certainly any look at the comments on liberal news sources on things like this particular article will show a deep, and growing, hatred held by many towards the religious. I won't attempt to deny this. But perhaps the churches need to realise that it is articles like this that help increase people's negative feelings towards them.

The trap many Christians seem to fall into is believing that having their opinions ignored (i.e. on equal marriage) is the same as being "persecuted". To them not being able to enforce their beliefs on others is worse than their beliefs being enforced on others. It is hard for those of us who regard Christians as just another breed of fanboys (like Trekkers or Whovians) to really understand that they really believe they are right. But if nothing else shows this clearly it is their absolute certainty that what they tell you to do is good for you.

Meanwhile yet another attack on my way of life is about to be unleashed from a Christian. But remember, he's not trying to "marginalise" us. No sirree. He loves us, and loves us so much that he has decided how we should live our lives.

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Who Is Engaging In An #EqualMarriage Edit War On Caroline Dinenage's Wikipedia Page?

Wikipedia edit wars are usually not pleasant. However most Wikipedia editors are willing to at least engage in discussion as to the rights and wrongs of their edits. Unfortunately someone is editing Tory MP's Caroline Dinenage's Wikipedia page without discussion and using a Westminster IP address.

Last month a note was added to her page about how she voted on the Government's same-sex marriage bill.

"On 5th February 2013 MP Caroline Dinenage voted against in the House of Commons Second Reading vote on marriage equality in Britain."
It was an uncontroversial statement making no inference or comment. It is simply a fact. Someone, perhaps rightly, disagreed over its inclusion. However their IP address is and they reversed the edit without comment.

That IP address is known to be one used by Parliament. When their reversal was itself reversed due to the controversial nature of their IP address they simply did it again.

It was brought to my attention out of concern for just who in Parliament might have such an interest in hiding how Caroline Dinenage voted on same-sex marriage. And so I got involved, opening up the issue for discussion on the Talk page in the hopes of engaging some debate as to the worthiness of this edit's inclusion. Instead my attempts have been met with silence as the Parliamentary proxy continues to re-edit the web page.

Needless to say I'll be watching the page like a hawk from now on and will continue my efforts to get some discussion on this rather than allow this vandalism to continue. Get involved!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Same Sex Marriage Bill Passes Committee Stage... Sadly Unamended

The rather flawed Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has been sent back to the House without a single successful amendment. Whilst some have crowed about how all the "wrecking amendments" failed (yes, I'm looking in Stonewall's direction as always) I'm deeply disappointed that not one of the issues I have with the bill has been resolved.

I felt the House of Commons committee stage was the most likely place amendments could be successfully made to make this same sex marriage bill into an equal marriage one. It is not the end of the battle for a better bill but it is certainly a blow to the chances of improving it.

It is weird, if not quite unexpected, that the more popular marriage equality has become and the closer to reality it is, the less happy I become. Perhaps because I had hoped I could finally put this thing behind me and move on with my life and I find that as soon as I stop paying attention the clever people I thought had this in hand have dropped the ball.

I do not want to still be moaning about this for another 10 years so I shall return to the fray and get on with lobbying the Lords anew in the hopes of putting this to bed once and for all. I might be a tiny little insignificant armchair campaigner, but at least I'll be an agitated one for the next few months.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Don't Cry For Cardinal O'Brien

So the game is up. Cardinal Keith O'Brien may not have specifically admitted what he has been accused of but he has "apologised" for his sexual conduct falling "beneath the standards expected".

"However, I wish to take this opportunity to admit that there have been times that my sexual conduct has fallen below the standards expected of me as a priest, archbishop and cardinal." 
"To those I have offended, I apologise and ask forgiveness. To the Catholic Church and people of Scotland, I also apologise."   
"I will now spend the rest of my life in retirement. I will play no further part in the public life of the Catholic Church in Scotland."
It did not take long for some LGBT commentators to suddenly feel sorry for him. As with Nigel Evans, it doesn't take long for an opponent to be taken to our bosom just because they are gay (although let's be honest, Cardinal O'Brien is probably not "gay". For once "suffering from same sex attraction" might be appropriate)
Cardinal O'Brien hasn't just been accused of having a bit of a roll in the hay when he shouldn't have. His accusers have suggested inappropriate sexual advances. Does Lord Rennard deserve our compassion more than jeering (Christians need not answer this one)? Can you imagine anyone being allowed to suggest something like that if the victims had been female? No. But because he was doing it to people of the same sex, and has now come clean, suddenly he is deserving of our compassion??

This man preached hate against us for many years. He has admitted to sexual misconduct and he is accused of far worse. If he gets to live a quiet retirement out of the public gaze then he should count himself lucky. He doesn't need any further compassion from us.

That sad little man will sadly not get what he really deserves in the afterlife. Sometimes being an atheist really does suck.

A Catholic Brain Dump

John Cornwell is the writer of "Hitler's Pope"; a book not without some controversy. So when he writes an article for the Daily Mail, which spells out some of the current controversies within the Vatican and postulates that Pope Benedict XVI resigned to bring an end to them, we should read it with a degree of scepticism. But it is an interesting description of the troubles that continue to haunt the upper echelons of the Catholic church.

A lot of the reporting on the Catholic church's scandals is based more on a puerile sort of rubber necking than actual concern for the victims, for the church or for those of us whose relationships and lives get attacked by Catholic cardinals and bishops on a near daily basis. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother to care (considering I'd probably open a nice big bottle of champagne should Catholicism suffer some sort of major calamity). But unfortunately, whilst we have people like Cardinal O'Brien trying to influence our Government, we must care about the internal workings of this religion.

Speaking of Cardinal O'Brien... the claims against him remain unresolved and so we must give him the benefit of the doubt in terms of what may or may not have happened. However it is interesting reading one of his accusers remarking on the "cold disapproval" they experienced when they reported their concerns, and that he was warned about the damage his accusations might cause to the church. Which only goes to shows how little the Catholic hierarchy has learnt from previous controversies.

And when one speaks of Cardinal O'Brien one can't help thinking of one word in particular: hypocrisy. If the allegations are true then Cardinal O'Brien has been one of those irritating people who tell us how we must live but fail to live up to their own standards. I saw this blog the other day on the subject of "Hypocrisy is now the only sin... ?" and found it missed the point somewhat whilst still pointing out some real problems with the media narrative. It suggests the problem people have with the Catholic church and people like Cardinal O'Brien is that they aren't living up to our expectations. But that isn't hypocrisy, that would be a naive belief in the goodness of people. No, the problem is that they are not living up their own expectations whilst they continue to demand others follow what they teach. And quoting Brendan O'Neill. Really?

"But I am concerned at how accusations of sexual wickedness have replaced political, moral or theological critiques to become the No1 shortcut to getting one over on people or groups you don't like."
Surely this acts in reverse too. Until very recently the church hardly engaged with homosexuality with political, moral or theological critiques and instead thrived on accusations of sexual wickedness! Now we should expect better of the church's opponents? That is hypocrisy in itself. Ultimately people are flawed (and whether you believe that is because they are part of a "Fallen" world or part of nature is neither here nor there on that front) and that is the cause of all these problems. But where I differ from Christians is that I believe people can become better through their own will in the here and now rather than be redeemed in the hereafter by the blood of Christ. Thus I probably hold us all to a higher standard than Christians do. There is no being let off the hook for your own actions in my worldview....

Which leads us neatly on to this fascinating letter on why Bishops might cover up abuse. It is this sort of insight that a lot of the media narrative has been missing.