Sunday, May 18, 2008

A moral vision?

There is a growing confusion within the mind of the Queen's ghillie and it is evident in his every utterance.

Yesterday the Prime Minister sought the support of the elders of his Church. From reports it seems he claimed to share its "vision" and this vision was for a "good society".

I hear that Mr Brown's father was a minister of this Church whilst my father abandoned the same Church when he emigrated to England. He lays claim to a welcome in its ranks, one which I forfeited when I sought its disestablishment - but that is a matter for another day.

Mr Brown stated, so far as it is possible to ascertain, that he believed the current generation would "...honour the dream of the scriptures: that justice will roll like water and righteousness like a mighty stream."

In claiming a mandate from the Scriptures, he seeks to follow the path of his predecessor. Some time ago I castigated this man as a clanging bell following his address to the Catholic Church. I will for the moment set aside the question of whether justice and righteousness can be pursued by means of war, by costly investment in explosive substances.

As a son of the manse Mr Brown deserves to be treated with a modicum of seriousness. That I will do. I believe that both men perceive their movement to be influenced by Christian Socialism, to trace its roots to William Blake as much as Thomas Paine.

This was a noble movement that gave justification to Chartism and steered Labourism away from the curse of Karl Marx. Its heart is the belief in human equality, in the dignity of each person. God is "no respecter of persons" stated the Apostle Paul. You have made man "a little beneath the angels" stated the Psalmist. Those of us born to privilege did not always perceive so quickly that God is no respecter of privilege, that no man has a claim to more rights than any other man. Yet it was the teachings of the gospel that made slaves, that made working people demand their rights as human beings.

It is an honourable cause and an honourable history; but to lay claim to it is not, of necessity, to have an understanding of it.

It is distressing therefore that today Mr Brown has set himself against this Christian tradition, against the expressed concerns of many within many different churches. Indeed his learned article in The Observer highlights the curious double-mindedness to which I referred earlier. Mr Brown takes time out from his many duties to discuss a matter that is to go before the HofC tomorrow, a measure which proposes to allow scientists to create creatures who would be part-human, part-animal. It is stated that these creatures would never be allowed to be born and indeed would be extinguished at the 14th day of their existence, having been cultured outside the womb.

Mr Brown states not once but twice that he has respect for those who oppose this measure out of religious conviction. He then states that the scientists who wish to engage in this act of creation are engaged in a moral endeavour and will perform their work with a sincere respect for religious beliefs.

His argument is learned but it is not well-made; nor is it closely woven. Indeed it must be asked: did he write this piece in advance of writing his address to the Church of Scotland or after doing so? For in addressing the Church he stated that a consistent, ethical core within religions showed:
"...we are not moral strangers but there is a shared moral sense common to us all".

It must be conceded that at no point in his address did Mr Brown claim to have a religious faith of his own. Perhaps he does not; perhaps his quoting of Scriptures is merely another attempt to face several ways at once. An atheist, such as Mr Clegg, could have addressed the Church as he did.

Now to nub of the matter. Mr Brown's forebears affirmed the dignity of human beings as derived from these self-same Scriptures. Their successors within the Churches would appear to believe that the creation, within the laboratory, of embryos that are part human and part something else offends against this self-same human dignity; that it makes the creation of human life, the definition of humanity, as a matter that scientists can determine. I am no scientist but it is evident that the objectives that are sought from this research might well be achieved by other means, perhaps not so fast - although it is evidently misleading to state that there will be results and useable medicines or operations next year or the year after or even within a decade.

I am seeking to deal with Mr Brown in a reasonable manner even though every fibre within me screams in horror at the nature of the experiments that are to be performed. It is one of those matters that no Minister would have dared to broach with our dear Queen for fear of giving irrevocable offence to her sensibilities - and yet in this modern age it is a commonplace of discussion.

It is evident that his statements on Saturday and his writings on Sunday contradict each other. On Saturday there is a shared moral sense common to us all. On Sunday the moral sense of people of religion - and I suspect many others - is deeply flawed. It gains the respect of the Prime Minister but he cannot regard it as moral or ethical as he sets himself against it.

It is this Prime Minister who is deeply flawed, not the moral sense of those who have thought at greater length about such matters than him.

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