The Church of England this week, in its own convoluted way, voted to reject a proposal to allow female bishops. For reformers and modernisers in the Church this was a set back and a disappointment, but life, and their faith, will go on.
However from a PR point of view it was a calamity. The vote seemed out of step with the society in which the Church operates, and it has opened itself up to accusations of being out of touch with modern Britain. And there may be something too this. It’s probably worth pointing out here that I have no religious affiliation. I am no theologian and the merits of the ruling will no doubt be debated by very clever people on specialist forums.
The point is the Church is going to get an awful lot of flak, especially from elements of the Left and Progressive Guardian reading types. But the very fact that the CoE are even having the debate shows how far they have come, and how far behind the other religions are. How many female imams are there? When did you last see a senior female rabbi? Are many Hindu ceremonies led by women?
And yet, where’s the outrage, especially from the Progressive Left? Surely they should be up in arms at this institutionalised patriarchy? How many column inches are given over this is inequality? The silence is deafening.
There is a huge double standard in the way the chattering class view religions and their followers in Britain, and it seems to be born out of a patronizing, almost colonial era view of other cultures. For many, religion is a quaint superstition. Believers wear silly clothes, pray to sky fairies and blindly follow magic books. In short, it’s something less advanced cultures do. However being the tolerant champions of diversity that they are, they keep quiet. Oh they might stifle a snigger behind closed doors, or roll their eyes when nobody is looking, but they’ll show respect.
But British Christians, especially white British Christians, are another matter. Respect and tolerance? Forget it. They’ll make jokes about inappropriate priests they wouldn’t dream of making about a rabbi. Go to a fancy dress party dress as the Pope? It’s hilarious. The reason; they think Brits should have ‘grown out’ of religion by now. Religion, remember, is for other cultures to cling too. These cultures will of course ‘catch up’ one day and grow out of it too, but we should know better by now!
This is not to say that Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus don’t suffer discrimination and prejudice daily. Of course they do. I grew up in Hounslow, I know better than most how intolerant and spiteful different groups can be towards one another. But the attitude of many in the Progressive Middle Class is deeply offensive to all. It publically belittles and sneers at the faith of Christians, while paternalistically patting other faiths on the head and says “awwww, isn’t that sweet, to think, we used to be like that”.
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