Thursday, November 13, 2008
Cranmer uncovered a plot over a year ago to undermine
the Anglican foundations of Parliament with a multi-faith
mish-mash of puja, salah, prayers, meditations and incantations.
It seems his article was prophetic, for there are indeed
‘plans to end the dominance of the Anglican faith at
the daily opening of Parliament’. Instead, it is intended
that a plethora of gods would each take it in turn to
receive the prayers of the politicians in an approach
which is to be ‘modelled on BBC Radio 4's Thought for
God help us.
Why Parliament – one of our greatest institutions –
would wish to model any of its practices upon those
of the BBC – one of our most inept – is quite incomprehensible.
Until, of course, one considers that both are concerned
with managing decline in an era obsessed with image.
Parliament’s own website hints at the change as the
‘Prayer’ section says: ‘there is currently no multi-faith
element’. ‘Currently’ is ominous. The proposed change
will involve a rotational approach to daily prayers.
On Mondays, the Christians will invoke the name of Jesus;
on Tuesday the Jews can do YHWH; on Wednesday it will
probably be Allah – just to get the monotheists out
of the way first; on Thursday the Hindus can have Krishna
– unless they prefer Vishnu, Brahma or Shiva (possibly
more apt); Friday the Sikhs get Waheguru; and the Buddhists,
as ever, will not really be bothered.
It is convenient that Parliament sits for five days
and the six ‘great world religions’ conveniently condense
to one each day. Unless, that is, the Buddhists begin
to make demands, in which case there will need to be
a six-day rolling timetable.
But this whole notion is fraught with difficulties
and bodes ill for religious harmony. For which expression
of Christianity will be manifest on Mondays? Anglican?
Orthodox? Roman Catholic? Scottish Presbyterian? Baptist?
Methodist? And how will time be apportioned between
Orthodox, Masorti or Reform Judaism? Will consideration
be given to Sunni, Shi’a and Sufi sensitivities, or
to the Hindu denominations of Vaishnavism, Shaivism,
Shaktism and Smartism?
And what happens to the Jedi Knights? How could Parliament
justify alienating the stated faith (according to the
2001 census) of hundreds of thousands of British people?
The Committee of Peers who are examining the plans
include Lord Brabazon of Tara and Lord Rana. This is
the sort of trendy development that comes as a consequence
of abolishing all those peers who could trace their
lineage back to the 16th century and beyond, to when
the prayer traditions of Parliament were established.
The whole fabric of Westminster is Christian: the faith
is intricately woven into the traditions and practices
of Parliament, and it would be a perverse and destabilising
act of vandalism to abandon the settlement.
In the House of Lords, prayers are led by a senior
Bishop of the Church of England (Lord Spiritual). Prayer
in the House of Commons is presently read by the Speaker's
Chaplain, and the form of the main prayer is as follows:
"Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to
our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament
and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance
of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly
through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy
ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices
keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve
the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come
and your name be hallowed. Amen."
Cranmer is persuaded that increasingly there will be
less need in politics for those with degrees in law
or economics, and that there will be more jobs for those
with advanced degrees in religion. They will be needed
to advise on how to neutralise the concerns of Catholic
voters; they can help convince fence-sitting Jews that
you are a true-blue friend of Israel; they can persuade
the Muslims you really are a friend of Palestine; they
can warn you against seeking the endorsement of contentious
clerics of all varieties. In short, the ‘faith and values
guru’ will be of more use than a dozen lawyers or economists.
The religious-imaging specialists will know every important
pundit and have the email address of every influential
imam in the land, and they will become indispensable
components of political campaigning.
In the coming years, all parliamentary candidates,
not to mention hundreds of would-be peers or senators
or whatever they are to be called, will call upon the
services of the theologians.
But none shall be Anglican.
From "Archbishop" Cranmer