The full article by Mr Parris in the Spectator, to which Peter Saunders refers on his blog, is well worth reading. In terms of what faith is all about, Matthew seems to "get it" a lot better than many of we modern-day Catholics who are continually fed a rather bland and unchallenging diet of tolerance, inclusivism and trying not to upset anyone. Not that I am against tolerance and sensitivity - I think they're very important. But not at the expense of compromising Truth and losing passion: not least because without conviction and passion, we will never touch anyone, let alone convert them.
To quote parts of Mr Parris' article, "This goes to print on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. So allow me to pitch in to February’s religion-versus-secularism debate from a new direction. As an unbeliever I wish to complain on behalf of serious religious belief. Faith is being defended by the wrong people, in the wrong way... Jesus did not come to earth to offer the muzzy comforts of weekly ritual, church weddings and the rhythm of public holidays... The (Muslim) Chairman of the Conservative party, Daniel Finkelstein, the Archbishop of York, Giles Coren, the Queen and Eric Pickles [have all] expressed alarm at the advance of ‘militant’ secularism. Only a minority, however, have reaffirmed with any muscularity their belief in God...
"My 'Times' colleague Daniel Finkelstein, in a moving column well summarised by its headline ‘It’s easy to mock religion — but then what?’, as good as declares himself a Jewish atheist but goes on to assert the importance of faith and religious ritual in holding people together. Affectionately he recalls fiddling as a small child with the fringes of his father’s prayer-shawl. He thinks it good (as do I) that human beings ceaselessly struggle to find meaning and purpose in life; and deplores the illiberal ‘liberalism’ that seeks to sneer at that...
"If a faith is true it must have the most profound consequences for a man and for mankind. If I seriously suspected a faith might be true, I would devote the rest of my life to finding out... As I get older the sharpness of my faculties begins to dull. But what I will not do is sink into a mellow blur of acceptance of the things I railed against in my youth. ‘Familiar’ be damned. ‘Comforting’ be damned. ‘Useful’ be damned. Is it true? — that is the question. It was the question when I was 12 and the question when I was 22. Forty years later it is still the question. It is the only question."
|Mr Parris, defender of our faith?|
If I shopped in a store owned by Muslims, I would not necessarily expect them to stock and serve alcohol, even if that type of store was legally permitted to sell it and I was permitted in law to buy it. There would be plenty of other places to go buy my booze. Just as there are plenty of bed and breakfasts whose owners would not be being forced to act against their deeply-held beliefs by renting double beds to homosexual couples. If a committee to which I belonged held Buddhist meditation at the beginning of its meetings, or some other sincerely-motivated prayer ceremony, I would politely sit through it or at the most assert my right to wait in another room until that part of proceedings was finished (supposing no human sacrifice or the like was going on of course, which seems rather unlikely). I would not storm off to the nearest court to protest. In the same way, I wouldn't turn up at a mosque and demand to be married there whether I met the criteria for their definition of marriage or not - there would be other options available to me. As far as I can see, that is what rubbing along together in our society means, and the essence of true tolerance, one that gives us all the right to passionately defend and even promote our beliefs but not at the price of denuding others of theirs. The whole concept of "individual rights" has been twisted and hijacked for the interests of a minority, in a way that is often frightening.
It's all barmy really. And the barmiest thing is that when it comes to a true human right - the right to life, based not on some arguable definition of when an embryo becomes a person, and not on a misdefinition of a foetus as being somehow part of a woman's body, but on the undeniable fact of simply being a human life in existence - we are happy to dismiss it, even though without this basic right to life no other human rights exist in the first place.
Hey-ho. I've strayed from my first point (the vital, life-changing importance of religious belief, which believers should stand up for and agnostics have no right to denigrate or patronise) to a second (the hypocrisy of what our society today labels as tolerance and liberalism). I said I was virus-ridden and muzzy-headed! Having said that, the two points are essentially related, because the only way for the first point to flourish is for the second one to be got right. And getting the second point wrong, the true nature of tolerance and human rights, means that many of we Christians today are not the witnesses for our faith that we should be - either because we're misguided as to those concepts ourselves, or because we're frightened.
Let's hope my muzzy-headedness has cleared by tomorrow, or that my driving examiner has eaten a lot of Weetabix for his breakfast. Apologies to those of my friends who have already been treated to the video below!