In revolutionary countries you expect to find desecration: churches turned into lavatories or reformatories, their sanctuaries wrecked and defiled, their bells pulled down and melted, and their crosses tumbled to the ground by commissars, as the Young Pioneers jeer.
Yet not all revolutions are so unsubtle. Those who intend to succeed move more carefully, smiling as they destroy. It is not true that nobody learns anything from history. Jacobin radicals—for all modern revolutions are really heirs of Robespierre and Fouché—have learned from their failures. Why annoy people into opposing you? Why risk turning nuisances into martyrs?
In modern Britain, officially a Christian kingdom whose symbol of authority is the Crown of St. Edward surmounted by a cross, Christian law and morals have been ruthlessly dethroned. But those who did it did it with a kiss rather than with a sword. They brought desecration but called it redecoration or modernization. And by the time the truck had carted the broken pieces to the landfill, it was too late to protest.
Wander through official London and you will see a Christian city. Though now surrounded by many towers of Mammon, the great dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the many towers and spires around it still give a Christian character to London’s skyline. What is more, the main buildings in which the civil and criminal law are resolved and meted out are specifically Christian. The Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand resemble a medieval monastery. A stone figure of Christ stands above its highest arch. Lower down are sculptures of Solomon and the early Christian king and lawgiver Alfred the Great.
The Old Bailey, the Central Criminal Court, has above its main portal the words “Defend the Children of the poor, and punish the wrong-doer.” This is a quotation from Psalm 72 (verse 4, Miles Coverdale version). Its dignified Great Hall is adorned with the words “Moses gave unto the people the laws of God.”
The Houses of Parliament (where laws are made) are founded upon the original St. Stephen's Chapel, which is why Parliament’s benches face each other, as in the choir of a church. They contain a consecrated and functioning chapel to this day. Sessions still begin with prayers, though they are now less sonorous and musical than they once were. The Central Lobby is decorated with murals depicting the four Christian patron saints of the nations of the United Kingdom: George, Andrew, Patrick, and David. The quarter chimes of Big Ben are based upon Handel's aria (from the Book of Job) “I know that My Redeemer Liveth.” And the monarchy itself is legally based upon a wholly Christian coronation service. The anointed and crowned monarch is presented with a copy of the Bible.
But all this counts for nothing, as a Christian doctor, David Mackereth, is the latest to discover. A judge has endorsed his removal as a benefits assessor for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) because he would not bow down in the House of Transgender. In July, while training for a DWP job, Mackereth told a supervisor that he would not “call any six-foot-tall bearded man madam.” He said he would refuse to refer to claimants who were born male as “she,” or those born female as “he.” Shortly afterward, Mackereth was dismissed.
He took his case to an employment tribunal (a specialized court dealing in employment rights), arguing that he had been discriminated against for his Christian beliefs. This month, he lost his case. The employment tribunal declared that Mackereth's view was offensive and discriminated against transgender people. It ruled that objections to transgender rights “are incompatible with human dignity.”
The judge said Mackereth could not permit his belief that “God created male and female” to influence his work. He concluded that Mackereth’s views were opinions rather than serious beliefs. Mackereth intends to appeal, but I don’t hold out too much hope for him. A whole string of foster parents, nurses, and wedding registrars have already found that Christian beliefs have no more status in the courts than any other opinions.
I realized that Christianity had been formally dethroned back in 2011, when a Christian couple in the city of Derby, Eunice and Owen Johns, were barred from acting as foster parents by the authorities, and the courts upheld this. Mr. and Mrs. Johns were not treated this way because they had said or done anything, but because they refused to promise to tell any children in their care that they approved of homosexuality. Their exclusion from doing something they loved and seem to have been good at was not because of any positive action, but because they would not say they loved Big Brother and the whole revolution in thought which our new order now demands.
The judges, if I have rightly understood their ruling, said the couple's views did not necessarily flow from their Christianity, and thus didn't qualify for the protection granted to “minorities” by Equality Law. But this was a technicality alongside the heart of the judgment: The court said that British society was largely secular and that the law has no place for Christianity.
Although historically this country is part of the Christian West, and although it has an established church which is Christian, there have been enormous changes in the social and religious life of our country over the last century…We sit as secular judges serving a multicultural community of many faiths. We are sworn (we quote the judicial oath) to “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”
A little while before there had been a similarly striking and rather militant judgment by Lord Justice Laws in the case of relationship counselor Gary McFarlane. He said “Law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot …be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.”
Equality and diversity, the official aims of the modern British state, have relegated Christianity to being just one of many religions, no more and no less to be respected than any other, and maybe weaker than some—because who is afraid of the Archbishop of Canterbury?
The Crown and Cross remain on the badges of police officers and on the coats of arms displayed in courts and prisons, Parliament and government, military bases and nuclear submarines. But they do not really mean anything. The revolutionaries just thought it better to leave them there, because people tend to care more about appearance than about reality.
Soren Kierkegaard is alleged to have said, “A passionate tumultuous age will overthrow everything, pull everything down; but a revolutionary age which is, at the same time, reflective and passionless, leaves everything standing but cunningly empties it of significance.” It is a fitting motto for the British Revolution, which has emptied every symbol of its former nature so that nothing is any longer what it claims to be.
It is close to success. When the next coronation comes (may it not be soon!), the world will see just how much the old constitution has been hollowed out since 1953. But until then, we will have to get used to a British state which counts itself as secular while retaining a few Christian symbols as a sort of nostalgic costume jewelry. This modern and enlightened new regime, the very reign of reason, couldn’t care less about the Resurrection, and doesn’t believe in it. Yet it thinks the law should take the side of a six-foot bearded man who wants to be called “Madam” against someone who thinks this is silly.
And all this happens under a government which refers to itself as “Conservative.” Expect no action from them. If you are surprised, in such a country, that a “Conservative” government is no such thing, then you have much to learn about modern England.
Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.
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Photo by Colin via Creative Commons. Image cropped.