Fr Thomas Plant, Anglican Priest and Comparative Theologian

Month: September 2011

Public prayer to be outlawed in France

A dark and frightening warning for our future from France.  Say goodbye to any outdoor processions of the Blessed Virgin or the Sacrament through the streets.  Presumably, you could be arrested for saying grace before a meal outside a café or crossing yourself as a hearse passes. They are even threatening to use force. Yet you can wear a belt instead of a skirt or eff and blind as loudly as you like. This, apparently, is less offensive to the French public’s sympathies. How long before France encourages the EU to adopt and impose this oppressive legislation on its member states, I wonder? This is very much a time for solidarity with our Muslim brethren. 

Daily Telegraph: Praying in Paris streets outlawed

Praying in the streets of Paris is against the law starting Friday, after the interior minister warned that police will use force if Muslims, and those of any other faith, disobey the new rule to keep the French capital’s public spaces secular.

Praying in Paris streets outlawed

Claude Guéant promised the new legislation would be followed to the letter Photo: AFP/GETTY
Henry Samuel
By , Paris
5:56PM BST 15 Sep 2011

Claude Guéant said that ban could later be extended to the rest ofFrance, in particular to the Mediterranean cities of Nice and Marseilles, where “the problem persists”.
He promised the new legislation would be followed to the letter as it “hurts the sensitivities of many of our fellow citizens”.
“My vigilance will be unflinching for the law to be applied. Praying in the street is not dignified for religious practice and violates the principles of secularism, the minister told Le Figaro newspaper.
“All Muslim leaders are in agreement,” he insisted.
In December when Marine Le Pen, then leader-in-waiting of the far-Right National Front, sparked outrage by likening the practice to the Nazi occupation of Paris in the Second World War “without the tanks or soldiers”. She said it was a “political act of fundamentalists”.
More than half of right-wing sympathisers in France agreed with Marine Le Pen, at least one poll suggested.
Nicolas Sarkozy’s party denounced the comments, but the President called for a debate on Islam and secularism and went on to say that multiculturalism had failed in France.
Following the debate, Mr Guéant promised a countrywide ban “within months”, saying the “street is for driving in, not praying”.
In April, a ban on wearing the full Islamic veil came into force. Holland today became the third European country to ban the burka, after Belgium, despite the fact fewer than 100 Dutch women are thought to wear the face-covering Islamic dress.
Yesterday, Mr Guéant said the prayer problem was limited to two roads in the Goutte d’Or district of Paris’s eastern 19th arrondissement, where “more than a thousand” people blocked the street every Friday.
However, a stroll through several districts in Paris on a Friday suggests that Muslims spill into the streets outside many mosques.
Under an agreement signed this week, believers will be able to use the premises of a vast nearby fire station while awaiting the construction of a bigger mosque.
“We could go as far as using force if necessary (to impose the ban), but it’s a scenario I don’t believe will happen, as dialogue (with local religious leaders) has born fruit,” he said.
Sheikh Mohamed salah Hamza, in charge of one of the Parisian mosques which regularly overflows, said he would obey the new law, but complained: “We are not cattle” and that he was “not entirely satisfied” with the new location. He said he feared many believers would continue to prefer going to the smaller mosque.
Public funding of places of religious worship is banned under a 1905 law separating church and state. Mr Guéant said that there were 2,000 mosques in France with half being built in the past ten years.
France has Europe’s largest Muslim population, with an estimated five million in total.
The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

Society for the Promotion of Pagan Knowledge

A new society has been formed with an ambitious agenda.  A well-organised and highly educated cabal of zealous volunteers around the nation means to infiltrate as many state schools as it can. Its avowed aim is to inseminate infant minds with the fruits of pagan learning.
And I heartily approve.

Don’t worry: I’m not talking about white-robed beardies evangelising about the joys of human sacrifice (as if modern pagans would do anything so risqué anyway), or some sort of Society for the Propagation of Pagan Knowledge.  The group in question has adopted the far more comforting moniker of ‘Classics for All.’
Latin masters around the country have moaned for decades about the need for a sound classical education to be restored to state schools. But no more kissing of gleaming marbled rumps: this worthy charity puts money where their mouths have been, giving grants to support Latin teaching by volunteers in primary and secondary schools.
In return for their efforts, they can no doubt look forward to plenty of sneering accusations of elitism from the educational establishment. Note that it is always one particular elite, a middle-class liberal elite, that makes such calls. To me, they sound patronising: Latin’s too hard, the lower orders won’t cope, so let them learn woodwork. Or better still, something suffixed by ‘studies,’ invariably easier than the subject from it derives. So, business and computer studies is egalitarian, mathematics elitist; they can manage tourism studies, but not geography, Hispanic studies but not Spanish, religious studies but not theology, sports studies but not biology and of course, classical studies but not Latin.  As it happens, none of these subjects are easy, but the only people who believe that they are all equal in the eyes of the world are their teachers and right-on headmasters. Parents and, more worryingly for students, universities think otherwise. And so, by fobbing pupils off with A-levels and GCSEs that the people who matter don’t take seriously, lefty educationalists perpetuate the very social immobility that they claim to abhor.
So, Latin as a tool for social justice? Well, yes, frankly. But it is far more than that. We all know the routine arguments about how it helps with English literacy, the learning of foreign languages, etc..  But far more important than any of that is that classical wisdom forms the very backbone of European civilisation. Without it, one cannot hope to understand the origins of European literature, art, architecture, history, philosophy or languages. In short, it is an essential part of our national and European identity. Our country has been fumbling around for its lost identity for decades, digging desperately behind flag-draped cushions on the infested sofa of capitalism. The Agora and the Forum surely offer better places to start than the nihilistic marketplace of consumerist celebrity culture. A classical education shows that there is so much more to life than this. The glories of the ancient world give hope for the future, as much as its horrors give prophetic warnings.
For the Christian, there is even more reason to support the work of this charity. Even the most rudimentary study of early Church history and patristics will show how dependent Christianity is on Greek philosophy and Roman law. This besides the facts that Greek is the language of our principal scriptures and Latin was the lingua franca of Western Christendom until only fifty years ago. As St Paul’s encounter at the Areopagus in Acts shows, ancient pagan wisdom has permeated the Christian faith from its very origins. We fail to understand this at our peril.
So, a promise and a plea. The promise is that I will try, if my incumbent next year lets me, to start a Latin or Greek class for children in my church. The plea is that my fellow curates and any other able clergy think about doing the same. Or if you can’t do this, then at least consider giving some money to Classics for All. The vastly deeper appreciation of our native culture, history, language and religion that a classical education bestows, along with the kudos and hence social mobility it could give working class children, are gifts that once given can never be taken away.

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

I have often wondered whether the Church of England might be the spiritual wing of the Labour Party, but I never thought of the Church Times as the Socialist Worker – until 26 August, when a Trotskyite tirade by one Dr Northcott was juxtaposed with Simon Parke preaching that all property is theft.
Presumably the editor thought Northcott’s political musings suitable for publication because of the bit of Christianity tagged on at the end.  Yet it would take a cynic indeed to believe, as Northcott opined, that the wicked Tories want to destroy state education, the NHS and the notion of society, or that their economic policy is intended as a clandestine assault on democracy.  I think I last heard such conspiracy theories from a Marxist undergraduate in 1997.
Dr Northcott is right that capitalism is partly to blame for the recent riots.  But his argument is insufficient because the rioters are also the product of a Labour government which poured unprecedentedly vast (borrowed) funds into welfare, education and the health system.
A more balanced analysis might suggest that we are suffering from the worst elements not just of capitalism, but also of liberalism and socialism.  The best of liberalism instils self-criticism, the worst self-justification; the best of capitalism a work ethic, the worst greed; the best of socialism care for the weak, the worst a sense of entitlement.  Combine that sense of entitlement with a lust for luxuries and the belief that one’s actions are beyond reproach, and you have exactly the ‘sheer criminality’ that the Prime Minister has diagnosed.
Socialists do not have a monopoly on social justice, and many of Dr Northcott’s fellow Christians voted Conservative in the belief that poverty will be lifted only by reducing the dependency of the poor on the State.  Measures to this end include boosting economic prosperity, restoring the nuclear family to its position as the base social unit, and returning to the quality of education lost when grammar schools were closed in the name of leftist ideology.  It is uncharitable to write these off as crypto-neoconservative moneygrabbing.
As an aside, after Dr Pridmore’s drubbing in that week’s Letters, where he dismissed most worship songs as the vacuous trash that they are, he may be pleased to know that many ordinands still believe that the Church should be bringing the best of culture to the poor, rather than the worst to the rich; some rebels even dare secretly to long for the day when the Church of England was still the Tory Party at prayer.

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

BBC ‘News’: Dawkins says science is better than myth

Two interesting facts: Dr Dawkins was never professor of biology, but had a chair made up for him in ‘public understanding of science.’ Now that he no longer holds the chair, he is not entitled to style himself ‘professor’ at all. So it says a lot about him that he still does.
Besides, isn’t science grounded in the indispensable myth of empiricism: that finite data can lead to an absolute conclusion?
And while many might like to do away with the fiction of human rights – that a universal code devised by liberal Europeans applies across all cultures – I suspect that Dawkins would not be among them. Nor do I see science offer an alternative.
Surely all our supposed truths are grounded in some sort of unprovable collective consensus that one can only call ‘myth’?

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

Materialism and abortion

The Guardian is absolutely spot-on in its condemnation of the consumer culture’s effects on children. So why does it maintain a ruthlessly market-driven approach to abortion?
At present, the organisations which give supposedly unbiased information to women considering terminations are the very ones which receive money on execution of the deed – and only then. Surely, a vested interest.
Organisations, for example, like that named after the eugenicist Nazi-sympathiser Marie Stopes, who sent love letters to Hitler and disowned her child for marrying someone with poor eyesight. The Guardian practically beatifies her as the patron saint of women’s rights, but if they really wanted to follow in her footsteps (or goosesteps), maybe they should just start an AH fan club.

‘My body, my choice’: you couldn’t ask for a more consumerist mantra. And OK, it’s excusable when it really is only ‘my body’ at stake. In that case, there are many reproductive choices already available: you can choose contraception, for a start, or even choose not to have sex with someone you wouldn’t have a baby with.
But when it’s not just ‘my body’ but another human life at stake, the consumerist attitude is sickening. Life should not be terminated for the sake of convenience: whether for the sake of a hare lip or a sparkling career. If people want rights, they also have to take responsibility for their actions.
Of course, that goes for men just as much as women. All this stands in favour of that ultimately anti-consumerist institution of marriage, which is surely one of the strongest means of social justice: the unconditional commitment to fidelity is a guarantee of stability to women and children, who suffer far more than adult men from the isolating effects of a society driven by a consumeristic approach to sexuality.
The bottom line of this approach is that unimpeded sexual expression is a fundamental human right, and procreation an unfortunate side-effect.  To the Christian looking at the natural world, such thinking is plain topsy-turvy.
I am not suggesting that we ban abortion, only that it is a necessary evil.  The Christian ideal would be a world where abortion was unnecessary: where rapes did not happen and mistakes were not made.  But this is not the real world, and state-regulated abortion is better than back street rackets.  But if Britain is more than just a nominally Christian country, we must move towards the ideal, and aim to cut the obscene number of abortions carried out in this country seemingly without remorse.
When infants are terminated with a market-driven, utilitarian disregard for the sanctity of life, arguments about the effect of consumerism on children seem rather hollow.

UK children stuck in ‘materialistic trap’

The opinions represented herein are those of Thomas Plant only.

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