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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Something of a rant

As those who are interested in the subject know, Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality in Britain has withdrawn an amendment to the Equality Bill that clarified rather than changed existing law, stating that churches were exempt from discrimination legislation when appointing priests and other “religious” posts, but that they must comply with its terms for “non-religious” jobs, such as youth workers or accountants (Harriet Harman defends equality legislation following Pope's criticism)

Most of those who have commented on the Pope's remarks about the Equality Bill have agreed with him. I don't agree with him or them and I wanted to point out why - I think most of the arguments are disingenuous. An example is The churches stand for pluralism by the Bishop of Winchester. Here are just a few points he makes that drove me to obvious distraction .....

I, and some of my fellow bishops,voted against one small set of provisions in the bill in particular. Those provisions were new and did not replicate the relevant parts of existing equality legislation. They would have had the effect of changing, by stealth, the position for organised religion which was agreed and clearly established in 2003.

This is untrue - the law would not have been changed - it's already on the books.

Those who believe that the churches and faiths are wrong on various matters of sexual ethics, or in having an all male priesthood or requirements concerning marriage and divorce, want to use the law to compel us to act differently.

Also untrue - the Equality Bill does not affect these areas (check out Myth-busting: The Equality Bill and religion).

The problem of modernity is how to order ethical life in a society of strangers – or at least, a society where close bonds of kin and community are weak, and in which there is no single moral story shared by all. Baldly put, there are two options: to impose a single moral order on everyone; or to establish a social structure which encourages genuine pluralism and diversity, and generates a community of communities, each living according to their authentic moral code, the role of the state being to police the margins and mediate when moralities clash.

Ssecular democracies don't impose one moral order on all .... citizens vote, they have a voice. If society agreed with this idea of pluralism, which allowed for communities, each living according to their authentic moral code, Mormon splinter groups would be practicing polygamy and women could be stoned to death under Sharia.

The church is often accused of seeking to impose its own story, its own morality, on everybody. But we have argued consistently for a long time for the second version of a liberal society – one where difference is allowed to flourish and is not subjected to a single version of morality imposed on everyone – still less a thoroughly illiberal society where some seek to banish others from public debate.

Oh, get out of town! One example - if churches are ok with allowing different groups to live by their own moral rules, why are they trying so hard to defeat civil same-sex marriage? And as far as I can tell, this statement of the Bishop's (in the Guardian) shows no one is being banished from the debate

This is where I still think that the equality bill – for all its noble intentions and humane motivation – got the balance wrong in the provisions that were contentious in the House of Lords recently. If we are to be a thriving community of communities, how can it be right to argue that those who are employed to promote the aims and values of a community need not share – and live their lives consistently with – those aims and values. What I believe and how I act are integrally linked – and that is true of everyone, not just of religious believers.

What this promotes is a religious ghetto. I don't know about England, but in the US, at Catholic Colleges, there are teachers of all kinds ..... Jewish, atheist, gay, lesbian, etc .... that diversity and acceptance of difference hasn't exploded anyone's faith. And being overlooked is the fact that not all Catholic or Christian organizations are made of a homogeneous set of believers ..... don't look now, but there are actually dissenters.

It helps, though, to start by seeing where we agree and where we do not. In that respect, the propaganda around the equality bill – on both sides – has not helped.

Sigh :(


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Too often people confuse cathechetics with theology. University level disciplines must expose believers to various ideas even when they conflict with present teaching in order for a coherent model of God's Grace in Christ to be offered to the world.
Catechetics is the second step after kerygma where a structure of belief is offered to those being committed to following Christ. At the first and second levels the foundation is laid and a structure developed. The third level is a testing for the structure by being "buffeted by wind and waves" to make sure the foundation holds. If no testing is done one has a hothouse plant which cannot survive in the real world. The model of such is found in Jesus call of the disciples, their "being with Him" and then their ultimate testing during the Passion. Jesus had to insist on putting out to deep water when instructing the disciples. Had they insisted on hugging the shore no miraculous catch would have happened. Timid souls today hesitate to move outside the sanctuary and so lose the opportunity to catch others for Christ. Mea Maxima Culpa.

9:01 AM  
Blogger crystal said...

Thanks for the comment. I don't know much about either cathechetics or theology. I think it's good to learn about the faith but I also put stock in personal religious experience, even though it may contradict cathechetics and theology sometimes.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... you say: I don't know much about either cathechetics or theology. I think it's good to learn about the faith but I also put stock in personal religious experience, even though it may contradict cathechetics and theology sometimes."

My question is how will you know that your personal religious experience contradicts cathechetics and theology if you don't learn more about them?

8:20 PM  
Blogger crystal said...

Touché :)

2:50 AM  

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