Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Why I Won't Sign Westminster 2010 & Why You Should Read it Carefully Before You Sign

Now that Ol' Gordy has formalised what we've all known for months and set a date for the General Election we can expect nothing but political madness for the next month or so. Until recently all I have been worrying about is who to vote for. Do I stick with the status quo and vote Labour? Do I risk the all-new, shiny, fluffy, friendly Tories? Or will I be wondering if my bum looks big in the Lib Dems? Do I don my fairtrade yak hair shirt and vote Green again?

However, now things aren't that simple. The Westminster 2010: Declaration of Christian Conscience has muddied the waters. Apparently, what I should do is vote for the candidate who will do the most to ‘respect, uphold and protect the right of Christians to hold and express Christian beliefs and act according to Christian conscience’.
35 Christian leaders ranging from the well known (Ex Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey) to the completely obscure (Jonathan Oloyede or Dennis Wrigley anyone?) have released a document of conscience that they are encouraging Christians of all denominations to sign.

On the surface, this isn't a bad idea at all. The segments about core historical beliefs, support of the poor and a commitment to social justice are all aims that we can all applaud. However, once you start to read the document itself in more detail there are some problematic areas.

Take the section on Marriage (follow the link for the full text). I realise that as a Christian at the more liberal end of the scale I know that my views on marriage are not necessarily those articulated in the declaration. However, the following sentence has disturbing and contradictory implications.


"We call on government to honour, promote and protect marriage and we refuse to submit to any edict forcing us to equate any other form of sexual partnership with marriage"

So unless 'marriage' is what the declaration says it is, Christians should refuse to submit to other interpretations? Even if those interpretations are legal? Like, for example, same sex civil partnerships. We don't have to agree with our nation's laws, but we do need to obey them, particularly if they do not lead us to do anything immoral. Simply accepting other viewpoints does not equate to an immoral act. This statement on marriage is even worse when juxtaposed with one from the section on Conscience.

"We will seek to ensure that religious liberty and freedom of conscience are unequivocally protected against interference by the state and other threats, not only to individuals but also to institutions including families, charities, schools and religious communities."

What about the freedom of people who disagree with evangelical Christian teaching? Is it referring merely to religious freedoms and conscience or is it referring to all freedoms and the conscience of all people? What about the freedom of those who believe its OK for two people of the same sex to get married? Will it uphold their freedom of conscience too?

Many Christians that I know have already signed the declaration, but I'm struggling to understand the ultimate purpose of the document. It's mildly militant language reflects the partisan rhetoric of the US Christian right and is directly influenced by the recent Manhattan Declaration. However, the UK doesn't have a political party gunning for the Christian vote like the US Republicans. In the end, it seems like a high-concept equivalent of a Facebook campaign/group. And like those campaigns, it does not represent the views of all those that it claims to.

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10 comments:

Fat Roland said...

I am fully in favour of Westminster 2010. Since Ricky Martin and his awful, awful music joined the "fold", I have abandoned gayness and have replaced my posters of the Communards with signed photographs of Sarah Palin. Now *she* knows a thing or two about morals.

I've met Dennis Wrigley. In an entirely unrelated fact, my word verification for this post is "EVANGELICALTWAZMUPPET".

Tim Footman said...

It's just the "You-wouldn't-dare-to-say-that-if-I-were-a-Muslim" meme turned into an election-related press release. See cross-wearing nurses, over-sensitive B&B owners, etc.

(Incidentally, would that woman have let the couple stay in her B&B if they promised on the Bible not to do bumsex on her sheets?)

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Fat: I thought you might have vacated the gay train now Ricky Martin is onboard. Mind you, not really a surprise was it?

Tim: Quite possibly, you never know. It makes me very cross when the Mail and over-eager evangelical organisations get up in arms about those cases. Neither of them are about religious freedom or perceived persecution.

v辰原 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jongudmund said...

I found your blog via Phil Groom (who also linked to my post on the Westminster Declaration.

You make some very good points about the utter lack of logic displayed in the WmD.

Also your commenters are hi-larious. Twazmuppet is now in my vocabulary.

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Hi Jongudmund,

Thanks for the comment. Twazmuppet is a term I wish I'd coined.

I had a read of your thoughts. There is so much wrong with this Declaration that the mind boggles...

Jongudmund said...

Yeah I read your comment. I've only had one person disagree with me so far.

Is it wrong that I feel disappointed?

Daz said...

Well don't feel disappointed any longer I disagree!! Darn if I had known about it I would have voted for it! Doh!

May I just refer to the first statement with regards the honouring of marriage and not having to submit to any other form of sexual partnership etc. Erm.... let me see- as Christians I'm pretty certain we believe that the Bible is the word of God and the information on how to live our lives the way God wants us to is contained within the Bible ( I take it you agree because if we disregard Gods word and replace it with what we feel is more comfortable for us you may as well just forget the lot).

So if you believe the bible Im afraid that the issue of other sexual partnerships out side of Biblical marriage is out of bounds according to the bible. If you dont believe the Bible then you can follow whatever you want :)

But why are you surprised that Christians want to sign up to what the foundation of their faith (ie the bible) states so clearly. Just because the Media have made things more acceptable it doesn't mean that the Christian faith has to change you know. You can agree to disagree, thats what living in a free country like ours is for.

Besides the gay lobby have gone down the route of making their views law etc so why cant christians go down this route too? We are all equal you know whether you happen to agree or not. Debate Debate Debate! :)

I wonder if you will remove this comment as I dont happen to agree with you. mmmm I wonder!

9/10ths Full of Penguins said...

Daz, I won't go in to massive detail - except to say that what we call marriage today (Christians included) bears little resemblance to traditions/rules referred to in the Old Testament anyway. It can be argued that the specific rules laid down are not normative to today's culture.

Just as the way we deal with eating goats in their mother's milk and mildew in the home. (Have you ever knocked your house down and burnt it to get rid of mould? The OT says you should)we need to apply the rules of the OT to the context of the whole message.

As to taking your comment down, you should know by now I'm not afraid of people disagreeing with me. The only reason I ever take a comment down is if it's saying something illegal, personal or massively offensive. Even then, I'd think twice ;)

Daz said...

Oh my goodness dear brother. How on earth can you compare goats and mildew to " a man shall not lie with another man".

Still saying that along the same vein. I don't think we have seen Jesus turn water into wine recently so maybe that was not true either? Or actually it is more acceptable via today's society these days to be an "Escort" maybe that's OK today and we should ignore Gods teaching on prostitution. Actually I haven't seen many shepherds recently following stars perhaps we should discount that too? Or in fact it seems to be acceptable these days to be a "Gangster" and commit drugs, stealing, cheating and killing- maybe that's OK too? after all its a different era yes? so why not.

As you can see there are lots of things today's media are pushing. But as you know I am a terrible Christian and I don't hate anyone but even I know that if you change the rules of God just because they don't quite fit into today's society and make us uncomfortable, if you decide that actually God didn't know what he was talking about and actually we know better because it was just "cultural" and really the Bible doesn't apply .... well we may as well give up the lot. Because I don't want to follow a man because a man is imperfect and quite frankly doesn't know jack from me so is that what you feel is right?! Maybe you do and that's cool as we do live in a free society. just don't get so annoyed when people disagree and actually say- well hey I believe in the word of God.

God ( the Bible) was quite clear Biblical and godly marriage within Christianity is between a man and a women. Don't take my word for it read the Bible. And if you disagree then fair play we all sin after all me included. God doesn't have levels of sin its all the same to him. Just don't try and convince people its what God Wants!

Wow- Considering how poor a Christian I am I thought that was fairly eloquent! :) Of course I know you don't agree but isn't that half the fun?! God Bless bro. Daz xx