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The Voice of Protest and the Voice of the Lord(s)

In the week that the government announced its latest welfare reform attack and Iain Duncan Smith sneered that he could live on £53 a week if he had to (though he wouldn’t be doing it because calls for him to do so were just a ‘stunt’) there were, among the voices of protest, a few from charities and church groups.

One bitter complaint, however, in the Daily Mail (29 March) to David Cameron from former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey had nothing to do with poverty or the government’s contempt for the working class. No, what Carey wanted to complain about was what he saw as ‘aggressive secularism’ from Cameron and Co, particularly in their position on gay marriage.

This, of course, is absolute nonsense (Cameron himself recently advised Christian leaders to ‘stand up and oppose aggressive secularism’). Governments have always relied on the priesthood to help keep the working class in its place and now Carey, it seems, believes that in return the Church has the right to have its own views dictated to us via the government.

But the suggestion that to hold ‘secular’ views, i.e. views that are ‘related to worldly as opposed to sacred things’, views that are ‘not concerned with or related to religion’ and views that are ‘not within the control of the church’ (Collins English Dictionary), is an act of ‘aggression’ is surely bordering on paranoia. And to claim that it is aggressive to disagree with or not want religious mumbo-jumbo in our lives demonstrates the arrogant conceit of the god squad and its leaders who hold that unless we believe in and trust their imaginary friends to solve the world’s problems we are doomed to whatever kind of hell they currently have in mind for us.

When it comes to getting the voice of working class struggle heard, and the constant loud protests of ‘aggressive secularism’ from the self-righteous, secularism, aggressive or otherwise, is not an issue. Religion is far from being vocally restrained in this country. It is still a Department of Education requirement for collective worship to be held in state schools, and the UK is the only country in the world to give bishops the right to sit in its parliament.

Ah yes, the ‘Lords Spiritual’, another one of those jolly old British eccentricities. How much say are these unelected bishops in the unelected House of Lords given?

According to www.churchofengland.org 'Christian religious leaders have had an active role in the legislative affairs of the country since before the formation of the Church of England. Prior to the 11th century feudal landlords and religious leaders were regularly consulted by Saxon kings’.

‘… Apart from a brief interruption following the English Civil War, religious leaders have played an active role in parliament ever since.’

‘The continuing place of Anglican bishops in the Lords reflects our enduring constitutional arrangement, with an established Church of England and its Supreme Governor as Monarch and Head of State.’

‘There is always a Lord Spiritual in the House of Lords when it is sitting, to read prayers at the start of the day and to participate in the business of the House’…‘bishops also choose to attend the House on an ad-hoc basis when matters of interest and concern to them are before it.’

So how come with all that input from the bishops the country is in the state that it is? Well, assuming anyone’s listening to their prayers either the matters that they find ‘of interest and concern’ have nothing to do with poverty or contempt for the working class, or they’re not bloody well praying hard enough.