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These bullying bishops aren’t brave Why are the guardians of public morality joining the pitch-fork mob?

It's bishops' job to be hated. Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images

It's bishops' job to be hated. Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP via Getty Images


May 29, 2020   5 mins

I went to public school, so I know a thing or two about bullying. The crucial thing is to develop the collective impression that the person being bullied deserves it. Once this is established, the bully can clothe themselves in a peculiar form of moral righteousness. The witch is persecuted, because she deserves it. The Jews are persecuted, because they deserve it.

And it’s not just the physically weak who are targeted for collective punishment, it’s anyone who refuses to go along with the hive mind. In times of group stress, the need to find scapegoats, and thus collectively express our pent-up anger and frustration, is all the greater. It is not just the virus that is highly contagious at the moment, so too is what the French anthropologist/theologian RenĂ© Girard called “the scapegoat mechanism”. And, of course, doubly so in the highly mimetic environment of social media.

And boy does Cummings deserve it. After all, wasn’t he the person who practically re-invented populist politics for the twenty-first century? And what is populism other than the harnessing of the ‘mob spirit’ for the intensification of politics? Cummings, the master-manipulator, deserves everything he gets. Those who seek to manipulate the wild eddies of popularity must not be surprised when they too get sucked under by its dangerous currents. It’s a kind of poetic justice.

This is why morality is such a surprisingly tricky business. Because, among many other things, morality is a way of speaking about who deserves punishment. Which is why, at its most dangerous, morality can be a kind of exoneration of collective bullying. Cummings is guilty, he broke the rules, he lied, he deserves it. Morality often gives the bully their justification.

Let me be clear. I have no love in my heart for Dominic Cummings. I have never met him. And while his politics do align with mine in some respects, I don’t expect we would get on. Moreover, I don’t buy all of his story.

Nonetheless, I can perfectly understand why a desperate parent would drive to the other end of the country to make provision for the care of his child. And the anger now directed towards him is out of all proportion to the severity of his offence. Those who shout at him outside his home, hound him in the streets with glee; the collective pile-on; the viciousness of the public hatred directed towards him — here lies the far deeper moral failing. And a society that is content to see this happen even to its pantomime villains is weakening its resistance against public hatred being directed against the innocent.

It is precisely because of this that the guardians of public morality — the bishops — have to be especially careful in their public pronouncements. Yet, in recent days, and under the guise of brave-sounding phrases like “speaking truth to power”, several of the bishops of the Church of England have become — or have foolishly allowed themselves to become — cheerleaders for the spirit of collective bullying that has seized our common minds. At least a dozen of them, some very senior, have made unprecedented criticisms of Cummings and the Prime Minister.

I like many of these bishops. Some are friends of mine. I have no doubt that they felt they were being terribly brave in speaking up against some sort of moral corruption at the heart of the Government. But in truth they were speaking into a potential whirlwind of collective anger, looking for an outlet, looking for a way to express itself.

I don’t have a problem with bishops speaking up about politics — they should do it more. Perhaps if they did it more, it wouldn’t all be from a depressingly predictable angle. As if the purpose of our Lord’s astonishing intervention in time and space, his death and resurrection, was to usher in the kingdom of some benign Liberal Democrat toleration. Unfortunately, the age is over when we had firebrand bishops on the Left castigating Mrs Thatcher for her treatment of the miners, or even those on the Right banging on about the need for personal morality — all that has collapsed into the safe soft managerialism of the narrowly centre ground.

Today, the bishops seem a bit too much like health and safety officers, agonising over public compliance. It all feels a long way from a man hanging on a cross.

Whatever one’s politics, the Christian mind has to be continually informed by the recognition that Jesus himself was destroyed by the dynamics of mob hatred, a collective power that was so strong that even Jesus’s most trusted followers could turn against him and deny knowing him. The first Pope was St Peter. Yet even Peter denied Christ, slinking away when called to stand up and be counted. If that isn’t a reminder that even the most spiritually elevated amongst us can succumb to the fear and fury of the mob, I don’t know what is.

During the great liturgies of Holy Week, the congregation in church begins by lauding Jesus as a conquering hero. “Hosanna”, we shout, waving our palms as he triumphantly enters Jerusalem. Within days the same people are shouting to have him strung up. This is why populism is so dangerous. And Holy Week, by making one face one’s own capacity for persecution, is supposed to be some sort of inoculation against the pitch-fork mentality.

That is why the job of bishops is not to say things that are popular — something Rowan Williams regularly chastises as “cost-free wisdom”. Nobody needs that, and politicians can do it better. Indeed, as the Peter story demonstrates, popularity is a kind of kryptonite within the Christian story. No, a bishops’ job is to be hated. To say things that no one wants them to say and no one wants to hear. And particularly, to speak up for those that collective moral righteousness has condemned.

Remember, the Gospel stories are often about the people you hate, not the people you love and agree with. The Good Samaritan is so powerful because the audience for this parable won’t have had a good word to say about Samaritans. And we have heard “love your enemy” so often, we can forget what shockingly counterintuitive advice it is. By contrast, the New Testament is very down on religious professionals, and those who are publicly associated with ‘doing God’.

When I was at St Paul’s Cathedral, there was a phrase that was regularly bandied about that I came to absolutely hate: “reputational risk”. People would say things like “Be careful of this, it carries reputational risk.” You now hear it more and more in church circles. And I get so annoyed. Christianity is all about reputational risk. Indeed, it is absolutely supposed to court reputational risk. Jesus deliberately stood alongside those people who were a constant risk to his good name. If we don’t risk our reputations defending the unpopular, we might as well give up on the whole Christianity thing altogether.

The bishops seem to think that because Cummings is powerful, they are being brave in having a go at him. But this is the sort of bravery of being in a crowd of many thousands, all angrily saying the same thing. So unfortunately, what I see isn’t bravery but a capitulation to the spirit of the mob. Simone Weil put the Christian vocation frighteningly well: “Whoever takes up the sword shall perish by the sword. And whoever does not take up the sword (or lets it go) shall perish on the cross.”


Giles Fraser is a journalist, broadcaster and Vicar of St Anne’s, Kew.

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Simon Bannister
Simon Bannister
3 years ago

As a C of E churchgoer I have been upset and a little annoyed with the way in which the church has responded to C19.

Not just the locked churches, denied a place of quiet to pray but the lack of any deep and uncomfortable teaching about this pandemic and God and Truth, just lightweight little homilies and then this pile on to Dominic Cummings, as GF says, not brave but easy and partisan political.

DC faced a difficult decision, his wife ill, he was going down with it, he did what he felt he had to do. The fact that some people do not have his resources is not really the point (I live in a flat, no garden, my wife has to be shielded due to a pre existing respiratory condition) – the attack on him is so ugly, full of hate.

I shall return to church of course but the C of E has let itself and our Nation down and I am so sad, they are so shallow and as GF says more like a bunch of soft left health and safety officers.

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago

Totally agree. None of the church hierarchy has shown any leadership during this crisis/hysteria. I looked to the church for reassurance but found none. A vicar in my local rag even referred to it as a Plague! Needless to say, my letter of protest did not get published.

andy young
andy young
3 years ago

Misery loves company. If I’m suffering I’m gonna make damn sure you suffer too – even if it’s not your fault.
Cummings is privileged.He is lucky.Very, very few had the option to do what he did, to completely isolate himself without endangering anyone.
The problem with this virus is we AREN’T all in it together. We are all in various states of privilege – I live in a lovely village, big garden, pension – would giving this up help some poor sods, with small children, trapped in a high rise in Hackney? My heart goes out to them, seriously, but I don’t know how the Hell I can help.
Cummings’ situation strikes me as rather like that of someone in a lifeboat watching the Titanic sink; would throwing myself & my family into the sea help one iota??

T C
T C
3 years ago

Congratulations on speaking out about the hideous spectacle of CofE’s Bishops cravenly trying to demonstrate their woke credentials. If, as people say, Covid-19 is to be a turning point, let the first sacrifice be the CofE. It should be disestablished and no longer receive any public money. The Bishops should be removed from the House of Lords. The fact that the entitled CofE still receives funding from the taxpayer and sends Bishops to the House of Lords, whilst preaching to the masses on what they should think on non-spiritual matters, is grotesque. Can Cummings finish what Thomas Cromwell began? Let’s hope so.

Archbishop Welby may have gone to Eton, and no doubt God would have done so had he gone to school, but he seems to carry this as a stain that constantly needs washing away with woke platitudes. If his church focused on the Christian message for a change – rather than what readers of the Guardian thought – he might find it had more followers. By speaking out as they have done, his Bishops by implication suggest that Christ would have been in the throng outside Cummings’ house hurling profanities at him and his family. If that is the image of Christ they wish to project, is it any wonder the CofE is dying?

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  T C

Well said! You could have continued with that excellent exhortation “Let him who is without sin caste the first stone”.
However that is probably a bit too Christian for today’s C of E.

John Dee
John Dee
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

It’s an odd (professional) Christian who sides with a mob baying outside the house of a man who did what he thought best for his family.
On the other hand, with past examples to go by, we should not be too surprised.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  John Dee

Well put. What were the mob screaming for in front of Pontius Pilate?
Stange how thing repeat themselves, but it was ever thus.

Stanley Beardshall
Stanley Beardshall
3 years ago
Reply to  T C

Nice plan, TC,, but don’t stop at the one sect – if all religious teaching were banned in all schools we might eventually arrive at a truly better stage in our development. T Cromwell’s and Dom’s work will always be stymued by the deluded and the bigots. We owe our children better than this…

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

You are making the usual error in confusing RE lessons with being taught to believe and practice a religion. Schools which are specifically religious schools do teach their particular religion BUT only to those who want to know about it. For example, Catholic schools teach the religion to the Catholic children, not to the children who are not Catholic.
State schools teach comparative religion about two or three of the main religions- the belief systems, not how to practice. Including Humanism. Discussion takes place on that and on moral questions such as euthanasia and abortion.
Intelligent teens enjoy this sort of discussion.
Surely, in a globalised world, the more we understand about each other the less possibility for misunderstandings there is?

Graham Veale
Graham Veale
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Agreed. I mainly teach Philosophy of Religion and Ethics to GCSE. Issues are examined from Christian, Muslim and secular perspectives. Top grades are only awarded to students who can understand and articulate all the various viewpoints.

rosalindmayo
rosalindmayo
3 years ago
Reply to  T C

AGREE WE MIGHT THEN JUST- GET BACK TO FINDING AND HEARING AGAIN WHAT THE ORIGINAL MESSAGE AND HOPE WAS!

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

I thought that the caring of children was a central tenant of Christianity?
But obviously not when you are Dominic Cummings, then you should not care about your child and put it into Council care rather than have your family look after them?
Mobs abusing a man and his family absolutely nothing from your church?
If your church actually said something relevant would be a change rather than the never ending one sided view of us,
Refugees good
Wanting borders bad
Remain good
Leave bad
Etc
Etc
Etc

Raymond ffoulkes
Raymond ffoulkes
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

I couldn’t make much sense of this post…

…but at least I agree with the propositions,
“Refugees good
Wanting borders bad
Remain good
Leave bad”

I B
I B
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Compelling your child to sit in a car for four hours with a sick woman is ‘caring for it’?

Compelling a child to go for a thing mile drive with a driver who fears his eyesight may be failing is ‘caring for it’?

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago
Reply to  I B

When the child is with his parents yes. Much better than leaving him/ her with anyone else.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  I B

I know, let’s look at things through one lens only. Never mind context or bigger picture.
I never realised caring for a child could be so straightforward.
If someone had told me I might have had one or two.

loopyleach
loopyleach
3 years ago
Reply to  I B

You are the problem here – judging and opinionated just like the bating mob – why not mind your own business and leave misery alone for a while ?

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

You mean tenet, not tenant.

S A
S A
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

Sadly, you have missed the change. The CofE must “move with the times” and our society really doesn’t care about children. Therefore the CofE must move to reflect this attitude.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

I don’t think it will be too long before the church is just a quaint old English custom .

In another generation I think most village churches will have been sold and converted in to plush abodes, it’ll be the only way to keep them from falling apart. Larger towns might hang on to their churches.

I don’t think the church yet appreciates how far it has fallen in the eyes of the public, and to see senior clergy joining in the witch-hunt of individuals, well…how did that go the last time clergy were involved in witch-hunts? In fact, Bishops getting themselves involved in politics has historically not gone well for them.
The church only has itself to blame. Traditionally the church looked after the poor and needy, regardless of who they were. Now, the poor are still poor and the needy are still needy, but it’s a different kind of poor and needy and the church hasn’t really taken this on, instead following the neo-liberal multi-cultural dance and ignoring the needs of large tracts of what was their “flock”. Happy to wear rainbows and support minorities, but don’t want to speak up on behalf of abused children, for example.

They should have stuck to what they’re good at, and they should leave the twitter wars to the deranged and mentally unstable.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Nigel Clarke

Time for Disestablishment and ejection from that Augean stable, otherwise called the House of Lords.

Rob Hill
Rob Hill
3 years ago

“The crucial thing is to develop the collective impression that the person being bullied deserves it. Once this is established, the bully can clothe themselves in a peculiar form of moral righteousness.”

So true, right on target.

madeuop names
madeuop names
3 years ago

It seems to me your bishops and the church are very much part of the strongest power in this country, the liberal elite, and of course they are remainers and the time for the brexit deal with the EU is running out so what better thing to do than attack one of the main architects of brexit.

Raymond ffoulkes
Raymond ffoulkes
3 years ago
Reply to  madeuop names

Brexit. Cruel, dangerous and stupid…

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

As always the Simpson have been her before. This reminds me of the scene in the Simpson’s movie where the baying mob come to burn down the Simpson’s home. The (not very religious and incredibly cynical Reverent Lovejoy is at the front of the mob. The person who saves the Simpson’s is Ned Flanters, the bible thumping religious next door neighbour who doesn’t judge, he just wants to protect. The Bishops have shown us who their roll model is and it’s not the religious man!

No wonder the CofE is in the difficulty it is. Who wants to go to listen to the ramblings of a minister or bishop who doesn’t practice what they preach and when the chips are down, appear not to believe what they preach either!

Huw Thomas
Huw Thomas
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

…worth it just to see Madge wipe the draining board

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  Huw Thomas

I don’t get this joke.

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
3 years ago

A thoughtful and challenging article. Perhaps, before we jump to outrage we should reflect on a simple mantra, “be kind”.

Barbara H
Barbara H
3 years ago
Reply to  Nicholas Rynn

Yes that was the main focus of Arden’s and her gov approach to tackling the virus. Straight away- she said I will not let NZ ‘s die( I paraphrase). She acted with integrity, swiftly and with community health advice. A minister that drove 2 km and then went for a bike ride was castigated and demoted. People have trust in the gov in NZ but no way can I trust the U.K. gov. The bishop was right to call out Cummings, he and his eugenic thinking is a disgrace to the country and an abuse of unelected power.
NZ 22 dead
U.K. well over 40,000
Call out Cummings he was not caring for his son. He had other business What ever that might be

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Barbara H

Maybe Arden does nothing but kind? That’s how it seems to me. The leader of a country needs to do balance as well, because kind by itself is often not enough. There are other factors to be balanced against the simplicity of a lockdown edict. Dare I mention the economy? Or does New Zealand no longer do that?

Paul Ridley-Smith
Paul Ridley-Smith
3 years ago
Reply to  Go Away Please

Jennie is right – the self congratulation among many in NZ because we’ve allowed health to trump the economy worries. The argument goes that if the economy is hurt by the health measures then change the economy. Trite, simplistic nonsense that shows no understanding of how the wealth is created that allows health systems to be funded or how an economy can have the resilience to have a 2 or 3 month holiday…..

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

NHS saved.
Economy dead.
Long live the new normal NHS!

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Barbara H

“Other business” ? Putin or aliens ?

hugh.2.burgess
hugh.2.burgess
3 years ago

There is a great deal of truth in this article. We love a good public hanging and we forget the central Christian principle of love the sinner and hate the sin, tending to conflate the two. The problem with the Dominic Cummings issue is less about what he did, which is probably relatively minor in the scheme of things, but rather the response of the PM and others in power. The anger of many thoughtful people arises because of the lack of humility or any acknowledgement of the apparent double-standards. Now is a time for good leadership which needs to be strong, but strong enough to acknowledge a mistake. As for Dominic Cummings, the point has been made. Time to forgive and move on.

S A
S A
3 years ago
Reply to  hugh.2.burgess

Is there an actual double standard? I would not have regarded the actions taken as against any rule.

Andrew Lloyd
Andrew Lloyd
3 years ago

I agree that this outburst merely represents the spitefull last gasps of the sanctimonious left wing liberal elite who regard Brexit as a national shame rather than a deep and widespread wish for sovereignity.

Raymond ffoulkes
Raymond ffoulkes
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Lloyd

Brexit is a “national shame”!

Cruel (the last time human populations were treated like this was by Hitler & Stalin)
Dangerous (look at the history of Europe for just about ever)
Stupid (it’s the economy…)

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago

What on earth are you talking about? On second thoughts, don’t bother answering.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

The population of the UK were treated badly while they were in the EU. But that applied mainly to the many unfortunates who were disadvantaged by the EU, and not to those, maybe you, who have benefited greatly while the disadvantaged lost out.

Hitler, Stalin and every other tin-pot dictator would have been proud to have run such a corrupt campaign as did Remain.

Frances Killian
Frances Killian
3 years ago

I was woken at 7am with the BBC radio 4 news reporting the first bishoply comments including the Bishop who tweeted, ‘Boris has now gone the full Trump’. The second most shocking thing about this puerile comment is that the BBC made it headline news. I despair!

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
3 years ago

The Gimpish Baines!

judith wardle
judith wardle
3 years ago

Thankyou, Giles, for your article. Phew! Someone out there thinks like i do. I have been shocked by the hounding of Mr Cummings. Those medieval mob instincts never leave us, do they? The joy at the public execution, the shaming and pelting of rotten tomatoes at the ne-er do well in the stocks, aka Dominic Cummings’ downfall and any Tory MP who dares to appear in the media.

Ian McGregor
Ian McGregor
3 years ago

There is no question that Cummings’ role is and was to target the wishes of the silent majority and encourage his master to formulate policies that could be translated into votes. This was done very successfully in 2016 and 2019. This is called Populism pejoratively by a sub-segment called the Liberal Elite who have held the reins of power since WWII either validly through the ballot box or not so validly by insinuating themselves into positions of power in the Civil Service, Academia, Quangos and the House of Lords where their sense of righteousness and entitlement over the ‘little people’ has been fully indulged.

Populist causes, which I will not detail, are despised and disparaged by the elite and thoroughly ignored in order to transform our society unto their own desired image.

Their current preferred tool of control is Twitter as this is mainly used by their ilk giving them a false sense of majority influence, control and agreement. It is also a useful cattle prod to be used on the politicians who almost twitch in fear from the Twitterati. It gives the illusion of having the ear of the majority rather than simply the views of a rather nasty, bullying minority and hence, like the liberal elite, a vindication of their own minority self interests to the continual exclusion of the silent majority.

The bullying minority of Twitterati are those that the likes of Cummings has recognised as being more and more loathed by the underlying majority who crave some recognition of their own ‘populist’ demands ie things they thought they voted for. The bullying liberal elite want Cummings and Johnson expelled from the field of play as quickly as possible in case they do any more damage to their vested interests on top of the loss of their beloved EU.

Giulia Khawaja
Giulia Khawaja
3 years ago

My contempt, while being mainly reserved for the media is also directed at Robin Lees, the retired chemistry teacher who took down the car number and went scuttling off to the Guardian to report what he suspected. In his working life did he never say to a student “don’t tell tales” ?

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Agreed. I doubt if Lees has any friends, with his tittle-tattling mentality.

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Teachers haven’t said that for a long , long time . Informing is encouraged .

S A
S A
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Or more to the point do you believe his story? I suspect the number plate was possible to locate online. I’m a little skeptical of such a deliberate act. Normally people get spotted by accidentaly being caught in the background of someone else’s photo or video, not someone deliberately taking numberplates with pencil and pen.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Giulia Khawaja

Unless he has highly restricted access to the DVLA database, all he would have been to determine accurately from the number plate was the approximate location of its first registration.
I have had cars registered in various places. I have lived in none of them.

paul.quilter
paul.quilter
3 years ago

A very thoughtful piece by Giles Fraser. I don’t think there is a sentiment in this piece with which I demur. Giles Fraser is adept at demonstrating that there is room in contemporary polemics for scripture based thought and argument. It stands in stark contrast it has to be said to the interventions of some other members of the cloth who have utterly demeaned themselves and should, as Fraser’s wisdom and clarity illuminates, know a whole lot better. The most appropriate response to this article i think is, Amen.

Malcolm Webb
Malcolm Webb
3 years ago

This is a great piece of writing on a very important issue. I am going to share this widely, with my friends and family, noting that I wish that I had written it and that I agree with it entirely . It almost mkes me want to bea Christian. If his sermoms are like this, then, in non Covid times, the church in Newington must be very well attended.

Huw Thomas
Huw Thomas
3 years ago

‘The Bishops’ isn’t a single entity (though as a Boy Band, there may be something we could work with). There were some interesting nuances and distinctions within that collection of voices from those who gently and uncharacteristically questioned whether there may be a trust issue raised by this story and asked the sort of questions that, I think, have since been answered – to others who behaved as if they’d been sat at the Cummings family breakfast table witnessing the packing of the Castle Barnard picnic and reading everyone’s mind as they did so.
The Bishops were varied. Maybe we need to remember mob mentality can work both ways

G. Ian Goodson
G. Ian Goodson
3 years ago
Reply to  Huw Thomas

Castle Barnard Picnic. Sorry, no delightful spread at something like Castle Howard. Barnard Castle it is and almost always has been (Bernard’s Castle, originally). Castle closed to the public and the picnic was an Easter Egg on the Sills (riverbank on the Yorkshire side). If Dominic had wanted a jolly, he could have stayed in Weardale/Durham and walked by the river there. I believe Dominic because his is the only explanation that fits the facts.

bernfern1
bernfern1
3 years ago
Reply to  Huw Thomas

Thank you for this wisdom .

Kathy Lang
Kathy Lang
3 years ago

Agree with all you say about the bully mentality – I was bullied, too. But standing up for what I believe is right, in a measured way, is essential to maintain my integrity, even if, unusually, it chimes with a bully fever. I’ll stand with what the Bishop of Truro said:
Philip Mounstephen, the bishop of Truro, said: “In this country, government and the rule of law depend largely and rightly on the principle of consent. But that depends in turn on the consistency, integrity & impartiality of govt and the application of the law. That is now hugely strained. A moment of real and serious concern.”

Rob S
Rob S
3 years ago

Very eloquent, but I can’t agree. The problem here is that I think most of the bishops were criticising the government and its lack of regard for truth. We can understand Mr Cummings’ panic and care for his family. We can forgive him making a trip many people wouldn’t have done because they followed what they understood as the rules. What is more important is a government acting with integrity and not changing the story, making some pretty silly explanations and then demanding everyone moves on. The more a government shouts, ‘nothing to see here,’ the more we should stop and look.

Lack of integrity and truth telling, lack of openness to get things wrong and admit error,these are the things which drive toxins further into our public life. I think this is what many of the bishops were saying. The real tragedy is that this lets this government get away with something which will cause lasting damage – a expedient relationship with truth and integrity from which ultimately we will all suffer.

tmglobalrecruitment
tmglobalrecruitment
3 years ago

The vile liberal left did not attack Ferguson in this OTT manner, lets face it he acted apppalingly considering his dodgy numbers created the LD in the first place

Lefty journos hounding DC at home, where he has a young child, and now lefty twits in church doing the same. All for a tiny breach of the rules. They have no shame.

The only question is how did we get to this.

Caroline Martin
Caroline Martin
3 years ago

I agree with most of what Giles Fraser says. But I do not like his saying he has no love in his heart for Cummings. I thought as Christians we should endeavour to love everyone.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

“You have not understood” – a clear case of the mentality of a bully.

Barry Unwin
Barry Unwin
3 years ago

Superb article. I don’t always agree with Giles Fraser, but this is spot on!

Robert Forde
Robert Forde
3 years ago

There’s truth in this article, but not the whole truth. Whether DC deserves punishment or not isn’t the point. He made a number of statements which apparently take the public for fools, mostly as credible as “the dog ate my homework, miss”. His defence in the Rose Garden was risible, from the wholly unnecessary trip north to the “eyesight test” of driving to Barnard Castle (almost certainly illegal, and definitely unsafe for the child he was allegedly protecting). Oh, and there’s the small matter of driving a covid-19 sufferer to a second home – expressly forbidden by the rules he helped to make.

But I honestly think what incensed the public (and it is the public as a whole, not only bishops and hacks – just look at the polls on the matter) was the idea that he thought he was above all that. He has made other statements about the alleged inferiority of most people, but this went too far. This was dissembling in a totally obvious way to the population as a whole: looking us all in the eye and lying, grinning all the while. I almost expected to see him cover his face with his hands and then peep between his fingers to see how the excuses were going down, the way small children do. He was saying “This is a feeble excuse, and we all know it is, but I don’t care what you plebs think. I’m indispensable and you’re not”.

Not surprising that a healthy majority of the public want him gone. He needs to be shown that is not in fact indispensable.

davidpardey
davidpardey
3 years ago

Isn’t there something in the Bible about ‘he who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone’? Can any of those Bishops (or their so righteous supporters) claim to have fulfilled the requirements of the complex regulations that have been imposed on us? And now that the Durham Police have confirmed that his going to Durham was completely within the regulations, will they apologise for their condemnation? The leadership of the CoE is increasingly abandoning any moral authority, and there is nothing to fill the vacuum they have created.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
3 years ago

While the CoE remains established with its seats in the House of Lords and front of house at great state occasions it will attract clergy who see their role as political. Total separation of State and Church would be good for both. I would also relieve the CoE of the burden of conserving the thousands of listed buildings it owns. I wouldn’t prevent them holding services in them but many of them should be more open to the communities whose ancestors built them.

tombiddulph1
tombiddulph1
3 years ago

Thanks, Giles. Pity your piece can’t be published elsewhere to reach a wiser audience ??
With a very few exceptions, I’m not a big fan of bishops : something seems to happen to even the good guys once they get their pointy headgear. Not sure that what we call church is quite what Jesus had in mind when he said, “I will build my Church” . . . .

Anyway, great piece : better watch your back ! Not sure what these guys do to turbulent priests these days . . . .

trevorgevans
trevorgevans
3 years ago

I completely agree with the heartfelt opinion expressed by Giles. Watching the press act as dogs snapping at a badger at the Downing Street confrontation, I felt Cummings did well not to slip into an angry outburst. This type of overt bullying, with barely concealed curled lips at play, made me sad and not a little embarrassed at our free press, that bastion of fair play. Everyone else jumping onto this bandwagon tips bullying into cowardice.

bernfern1
bernfern1
3 years ago

I am not a regular reader of unherd but was drawn by the title ,and have to immediately disagree with the substance and spirit of this article. The word bully implies a power differential which does not apply here – bishops are small fry in Cummings world. I did not discern mob spirit in the letters , which were diverse ,largely circumspect without glee or pharisaical self-righteousness. I heard and appreciated strong advocacy , deep concern about the impact of the behaviour of leadership on the well-being of the population (which it turns out was well founded ) empathy for the lament of the people who felt betrayed in their grief – mitigated by a sense of collective responsibility in suffering .Your reference to overreaction reveals that you have not understood the significance of this trust betrayal in the context of grief .I understand that being contrary draws more readers than say , being loving ( I note that many church haters valued your article) but I, for one , was grateful they spoke out – requiring accountability is not punishment , discernment is not condemnation . In my view the voices of your friends released goodness and integrity over this whole mess. God knows we need voices like that.

Neil Bourhill
Neil Bourhill
3 years ago

!00% agree! (Never have I said that before!).
Great that there has been a deafening silence from our Bishops recently – did they have second thoughts?
When will we hear that the Church is taking sensible risks and holding open air services??

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
3 years ago

First class thinking. Can we but hope that the Bishops will read it and reflect on how very un-Christian their behaviour has been?

bob alob
bob alob
3 years ago

The church is becoming less relevant as each day goes by, with well less than a million attending church each week and only a third of the UK populace identifying as Christian, like their interference in the brexit debate, their political meddling is unwelcome to many people and can only damage their cause even further, they have lost 211 thousand church attendees since 2009 , there will be no comeback or revival of their fortunes, perhaps this is a last gasp to become relevant but doomed to fail if so.

jmarsden1961
jmarsden1961
3 years ago

The headline undermines what is a fine article. Where the bishop’s bullying?

The church particularly the C of E is regularly lambasted for being full of wet knee knocking ninnies who don’t believe anything in particular. However, when they respond with ((justifiable) rage to the Cummings saga – on behalf of outraged parishioners by the way just as MP’s responded to worried constituents -they are told to keep out of politics and stick to religion or in this article accused of joining in with mob – presumably the author means his angry neighbours?

As the author rightly says Jesus was crucified because the Jewish leaders thought that his very miracles and parables would lead to the Romans taking away their very power and livelihood which depended on the ordinary folk.

Sometimes one has to stick one’s head above the parapet.

“I said ‘They crucified Jesus too’ and he said ‘ You’re not him’ ” Bob Dylan

David Walsh
David Walsh
3 years ago

To misquote Wilde, with respect to the media and Cummings, we have the unspeakable in pursuit of the unedifying. I doubt if either side has been as careful of the truth as they might be. For bishops to rush to judgement looks unwise. I have to say that in Cummings defence, the possibility of being hounded by the rabid hyenas of the media while both he and his wife were ill, would be seem a very tempting reason find a hidey-hole away from public gaze.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  David Walsh

Anyone who references the thoughts of Oscar Wilde will always get an uptick from me.
Here also supported by your balance approach to what would have been a difficult decision by Cummings.

Neil John
Neil John
3 years ago

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone, having been ordained I can say most if not all of them most certainly are or have been sinners at some time.

TP Connor
TP Connor
3 years ago

So, what is the appropriate response? A man took what he thought (‘eyesight testing’ aside) was action essential for the welfare of his child. The journey was a long one but that shouldn’t really matter. His parents need only have lived 20 miles away. Anyone might have done it. But this person is close to if not at the centre of policy making. Does he not have a special responsibility to keep rules intended for everyone?
It is not clear to me at what point justified criticism at what appears to be economy with the truth becomes bullying. Is it a matter on numbers? And if the public mood seems to be unnecessarily vicious, has this got anything to do with the wider conduct of English politics since 2017?

John McFadyen
John McFadyen
3 years ago

An articulate and accurate assessment of the situation as you deal eloquently with both the Bishops and the wider population. It seems we so easily get caught up in the web of popular mores when we are bombarded with the half-truths and threads of fear.

jfgwells57
jfgwells57
3 years ago

I so agree with Giles that the C of E like so many other organisations has become preoccupied with “reputational risk ” at the expense of speaking up when necessary honestly and bravely. It has been horrible to watch so many people rushing to the moral high ground to condemn one man even if we disagree with his views.

S A
S A
3 years ago

I find it interesting that right up until this story broke my view, that the government communicatiin had been very unclear, was widespread and I didn’t know anyone who disagreed.

Then this story broke and lots people suddenly consudered the government communications completely clear. Even clear saying the oposite to what was on record as being communicated. Strangely all the laws, regulations and guidance said someone they disliked was terrible.

It was so terribly fortunate for them.

jill dowling
jill dowling
3 years ago

An excellent article. “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Sean Kinsella
Sean Kinsella
3 years ago

Two things: 1. You use the term, “our Lord,” when, in fact, He is ‘The Lord!’ There is no other, and all knees will bow to Him, one day!
2. Peter was not the first pope, the Bible doesn’t mention anything about papacy. The only thing Peter and that office have in common, is that Jesus said and says to both, “Get behind me Satan!”

Simon Adams
Simon Adams
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean Kinsella

1) Jesus asked us to say “Our Father” … so no need to worry
2) Who gave Peter that name, and what does it mean?

You talk of the bible, but not those who diligently established which accounts were authentic.

Peter didn’t want Jesus to die, because he didn’t understand at that point. Neither did Satan of course. You seem to be straining on a gnat… and missing the big picture.

Lee Johnson
Lee Johnson
3 years ago

Im afraid the CoE is dying – literally.
The young go to evangelical churches
My local vicar says 20 years and its all over.

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  Lee Johnson

But the young will one day be old.

Rebecca Bartleet
Rebecca Bartleet
3 years ago

A very fine analysis, your first paragraph is both brilliantly perceptive and profoundly disturbing.

martavonfriedeburg
martavonfriedeburg
3 years ago

This is great stuff: “Today, the bishops seem a bit too much like health and safety officers, agonising over public compliance. It all feels a long way from a man hanging on a cross.”
Yeah, health and safety officers or rather managers…
Pretty much my thoughts a few days ago when I found out about this.

I B
I B
3 years ago

Because obviously a man being defended by the entire Cabinet and the BBC management is a poor, powerless, victim.

The man had lots of alternative resources available to him, so please, no more of the of this ridiculous excuse that he somehow was compelled to to travel.

You also miss, completely, the damage that this episode, and particularly the defence of him, have done to public health. Thus is vastly more important than his hurt feelings or indeed those of his child. If he, or his family, cannot cope without rule breaking he has a clear course of action open to him – resign. Personally I’m extremely grateful that the Primus of the SEC spoke out against this bullying and inept government.

Graham Veale
Graham Veale
3 years ago

I belong to the dissenting tradition;I have no vested interests in defending the Bishops.

While I agree that the Bishops should have warned about the dangers of lynch mobs and scapegoating, I do not believe that public anger is entirely irrational or unjustified. Though the Bishops should have said more, it was not improper to speak on the matter.

1) It is not unreasonable for the people to demand leadership. All Government, all influence of man upon man, rests upon opinion. What Government can do depends upon the opinion which is entertained of the way in which its members and officials act. It cannot, it dare not, fall below the highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility. On this ground, the Bishops were obliged to speak out.

2) Enough members of the public would have settled for a simple apology to ease the public anger. A man under pressure made a simple, and rather minor, error in judgment. But the public did not receive an apology. Instead, many now believe, quite rationally, that Mr Cummings lied directly to them about the trip to Barnard’s Castle on his wife’s birthday. That is bound to cause resentment.

3) The government then forbade the people to be angry. It said that anyone reviewing the facts who remained unconvinced was being unfair nor had been manipulated by the media.

Graham

Gerald gwarcuri
Gerald gwarcuri
3 years ago

I said exactly the same thing as this author is saying here in a comment I made to an earlier POST article on the Cummings affair, and my comment was removed. I reviewed my comment against the POST’s comments policy and could find nothing offensive whatsoever. So, why the double standard?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
3 years ago

Have we had a thoughtful and meaningful sermon from the AofC about what Covid means for us and our times? Thought not. All we’ve had is the usual platitudes, in the tone of a pious Guardian leader writer.
At one time, this epidemic would have roused the bishops to thunderous exhortations involving fire and brimstone, wondering if this was evidence of God’s wrath at our miserable sins. Justin couldn’t do fire and brimstone in a month of Sundays.
Of course, something other than F & B is needed in the present age but is it too much too expect that Justin might have something deep, significant and even Christian to say to us in this time of peril? Apparently so.

Geoffrey Simon Hicking
Geoffrey Simon Hicking
3 years ago

Don’t kick out the Lords Spiritual. That is what they’d want. Change the Bishops instead.

2yyswise4u
2yyswise4u
3 years ago

I have to laugh at the god botherers . There’s thousands , nay millions around the world braying about their god( s) and their morals . Unhappily I’ve found that most of them are the corruptest creatures on earth .
All this braying about Cummings , they are doing the work of Momentum & the Guardian ( Guardian against the truth ? ) for them .
Happen they’d have put their energies & efforts into assisting those caught by the Covid 19 virus & did less of the condemning & the pious verbals , they’d have actually done something useful .
I didn’t hear them berating wee Blackford buggering off to Skye leaving his wife in London or young Kinnock seeing his old man on his birthday etc etc ad nauseum .

Sandie Lenton
Sandie Lenton
3 years ago

I also went to boarding school and this whole strategy about covid-19 reminds me of the mindless rules that we had to contend with during the seven years I attended.
The rule which stated that it was illegal to leave one’s own house to drive one’s own car to another of one’s home seemed totally illogical. Who exactly was at risk? Nevertheless it joined the ranks of other illogical laws. Cummings therefore committed an offence along with many other families who put their families ahead of obeying the law. I totally understand. Easy solution – either refund the fines imposed on the other families or fine Cummings exactly the same amount. As all the dogs baying for his blood seem intent on treating everybody the same, that would seem to do exactly that and then maybe we can get on with more important things. One small thing to consider is that Cummings is also responsible for the elected government who are currently in control; therefore in my brain he is indeed slightly more important than a dentist,engineer, secretary, road cleaner and all the other very important jobs which are all carried out daily to help the country stay in business. As for the clergy or anybody else to get involved in such a case leads me to think they have too much time on their hands. Sandie

Keith Merrick
Keith Merrick
3 years ago

I know Giles is some kind of clergyman but the casual way he threw in the following sentence in what was otherwise a sober piece was kind of hilarious:

“Normal normal normal…As if the purpose of our Lord’s astonishing intervention in time and space, his death and resurrection, was to usher in the kingdom of some benign Liberal Democrat toleration…normal normal normal”

Anne
Anne
3 years ago

The job of bishops is to lead souls to heaven. They are not politicians, social workers nor commentators.

Andrew McGee
Andrew McGee
3 years ago

‘Guardians of public morality’??? I don’t think so. Just merchants of the same old rubbish that Xtianity in its various forms has bene spouting for a very long time. I wouldn’t pay attention to anything they say.

John Dee
John Dee
3 years ago

I’m not sure that the people welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem were the same factions that voted to have him crucified. The difference between ‘ordinary folk’ and those who do politics full time, I’d have thought.

rosalindmayo
rosalindmayo
3 years ago

This is all very depressing like all else going on from the chattering classes re COVID et al- The bishops -and clergy have and been way out of tune with most people, religious or other for a very long time- on COVID and most other things- I do take issue with Giles interpretation of what ‘populism’ is- I would expect more from him, than the usual collective rant of ‘loads of ignorant people etc-‘ aka BREXIT .
I am someone in the highest risk category and have just left hospital after 2 weeks of the most caring sensitive and embracing care from everyone medical to cleaners etc. I am profoundly grateful and touched (NOT FOR COVID) But most of all I was deeply impressed by the ordinary lives and views of all of the people there across the spectrum on our politics
Covid, and the ignorance by all those now abusing the rules.
DC included. I am tired fed up of all the bbc and media talk about it all
Re DC, too much transference and projection- He was wrong what is hiding behind all the constant repetition and going over by the cosmoplitian ‘minds and mouths’ – Fear- worry- ramping it up
nothing else to say, or worse thoughtless unable to think through to what else is going on in the country.The attack on DC is a ruse to some extent to get at BJ et al…. there is always another agenda.Maybe the question for Giles should be next time he writes Why is the Anglican church so weak and so shallow.

Steve Craddock
Steve Craddock
3 years ago

It is interesting to read just how many of people claim to know the minds of the rest of the population. These self appointed spokesmen attempt to add weight to their opinions by claiming an authority that, if polled, may not have been granted them by those on whose behalf they are allegedly commenting. I think also if we look for the ‘negative space’ in these situations, the places where fury is not being vented or publicised it can tell us a great deal.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

[An aside]
But in attacking the bishops for bullying, you have diverted attention from other more unsavoury aspects of their activities. A priori, outside of the Christian religion, their views have no more validity than the man in the street or the local pub bore. They are not qualified to give such opinions.
[In fact I would say that their peculiar limited experience expressly disqualifies them.]
They may be qualified to reveal and explain the messages from God for individuals and their salvation. But Jesus gave no instructions on how to organise wider society. In fact, he warned against intervening in society e.g. “Render unto Caesar”. If Christian bishops want to spread political messages, they should do so only from within the Christian church setting, unless otherwise expressly invited. Then they can let their fellow believers decide on their opinions. The bishops should not attempt to abuse their privileged positions in spreading political messages, however well intentioned they claim to be.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

So back to our “bullying” bishops. “Š”Š

How do the activities of these few, relatively impotent, bishops compare with the apparent behaviours of the various omnipotent gods or the minorities in their relatively large numbers? First, the alleged bullying has no real force behind it in today’s society. Neither do I think that God’s decisions about what to do with the object of this alleged bullying in the after life will be affected by the outpourings of these merely human bishops. Secondly, how is the object of their bullying going to react. The likelihood is that Cummings will continue to ignore them. That is not possible when you are being bullied by an omnipotent God.

But while you are considering the behaviour of these bishops, you smear them as claiming to “brave”, although as of yet, I have not seen evidence of them making such a direct claim, certainly not in your post.
You further associate them with the pitchfork group, smearing them yet again. Having something in common with a certain group does not de facto imply that one shares all the characteristics of the group, such as carrying pitchforks. Neither does belonging to a pitchfork group invalidate every opinion held by members of the group.

You say you have been at public school so that you know about bullying. It seems you have acquired some of the techniques of bullying, even though your bullying has all the force of a wet fart. Still, it is the intention that counts.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

“They deserve it” reaches its apogee in the reprehensible ramshackle doctrine of karma, to be seen throughout Eastern societies and religions. Under the doctrine of karma, if you are suffering, you are paying the penalty for your misdeeds. You deserve to suffer. This may even be as a result of transgressions committed in a putative previous life. Under karma, this is a transgression which it is impossible to disprove.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

Previously I touched on how those opposing immigration, either unlimited or limited, are demonised and bullied with aim of suppressing them and their views. But this is just one example of bullying tactics used by every shade of (allegedly) oppressed and disadvantaged minorities. These include “oppressed” women, religious groups, sexual groups, racial groups, class (but not the white working class), the disabled, the poor, certain groups of workers, and so on. The problems that these minorities suffer they believe must be absolutely resolved as only they see fit, without any regard for, or understanding of, the impact of that solution on the members of the wider society.
It is claimed by these groups and those that support them that they are powerless. However they have legal protections in society which go beyond the protections of those belonging to majority groups. We constantly hear of minority rights as if they should have special rights that the majority don’t have.

This is most readily seen in anti-Semitism. Here accusations of anti-Semitism are made on any simplistic pretext. Any attempt to reason through these issues is immediately shut down by further accusations of anti-Semitism, leading even to legal sanctions.
On other groups, we have the deviant sexual groups pillorying Ann Widdecombe for her well intentioned, even if incorrect, claims that there might be a cure for sexual deviants back to the sexual norm. As someone opposed to the barbaric cruelties of fox-hunting, Widdecombe has a higher morality than many in the groups who attacked her.
We also heard muslim groups attacking Eric Pickles for his well meaning intervention with the muslims in the fight against islamic terrorism.
In fact, minority groups contain some of the most bigoted intolerant individuals in our society.
Of course, I am not claiming that these groups do not suffer in comparison with other groups, only that they abuse their position (in bullying) in order to gain unwarranted advantage over others.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

The most extreme form of bullying may be seen as part of revelation in the koran from _allah_, a later manifestation of the god of the Jews and the Christians.
This bullying is inflicted on the entire non-muslim population.
Here _allah_ demonises non-muslims. Non-muslims even (especially?) include Christians and Jews who have perverted the messages previously sent to them by _allah_’s prophets, e.g. Moses and Jesus. _allah_ characterises non-muslims as sub-human who will be tortured in the after-life throughout eternity. Eve (see above) and all non-muslims will suffer this way, for not submitting to the will of _allah_, the ultimate psychopathic bully.
Of course, muslims selected this form of _allah_ exactly because it conveniently allowed them to view non-muslims as inferior beings who must submit to the will of muslims acting as _allah_’s agents. Since the _revelations_ of the koran, muslims have had no qualms about conquering, subjugating, exploiting and abusing non-muslims throughout history when it suits their purposes.

So we have two stages of the process of bullying to which your refer.

As _allah_ (stage one) tells muslims via the koran, non-muslims are unworthy solely by dint of being non-muslims. So now muslims, when they are able and when they feel the need, can reap the benefits of actual physical bullying, as they have been doing during the genocidal history of islam. After death, _allah_ takes over the job of debasing non-muslim humans, physically and psychically.
How very convenient for muslims that _allah_, the _creator of the universe_, made these revelations to the muslims. Surely _allah_ could have revealed this directly to non-muslims, not via the dubiously self-interested muslims. That would have been much more convenient and so easy for the all-powerful _allah_. Then non-muslims could have had much more confidence that _allah_ truly placed them in this inferior position.

Or it may just be that _allah_ doesn’t exist and that muslims invented him to justify their takeover of the entire world.
What makes the entire situation worse is the complicity of gullible non-muslims with this marginalisation of those who stand up to muslims by telling the truth about islam. In one very worrying example, a recent judgement by the European Court of Human rights ruled that states may apply legal sanctions to those who tell the truth about islam if telling the truth may lead to discord in society, a sharia ruling in all but name.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

To the author:

Another example of possible bullying can be found in the Old Testament ““ the story of Abraham and his son Isaac. God commands Abraham to offer his son Isaac as a sacrifice.[Gen 22:2-8]
I am sure that you know the story so I will just jump to the end. Just as Abraham has determined to kill his son, a messenger from God (or is it?) appears and says “now I know you fear God.”, and Abe gains a reprieve.
So Abe and any other follower of God of the Jews, don’t worry. God may test you before admitting you to the group. You may be terrified and be asked to commit the most heinous crime such as filicide. But it is only a test. It’s merely part of an initiation activity, just like the college fraternities at American universities.
To recap ….
If Abraham bows to the will of God, God will be asking him suffer the loss of his child, just about the worse fate that a human can suffer, compounded here by being the actual murderer himself.
Is this not the ultimate form of bullying, where the most powerful force in the universe demands that a weak human being submit to its will?

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

Here is another far worse example of what might be considered bullying.
Let us consider the Christian doctrine, based on the words of Jesus, a character from the New Testament.
A key component of that doctrine can be found in the words “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)
In the New Testament, what you get from the “Father” after death is none to clear. But it is quite clear throughout the Gospels that this “hell” won’t be the wonderful existence you will get from the Father. And throughout time since then, Christians have exercised all their powers of imagination to create hell as a place of total horror.
How does this all work in practice? If a woman (let’s call her Eve) solves all the problems faced by humanity ““ disease, poverty, despair, etc. -, and if that same woman does not follow Jesus, she will be spending the rest of her existence after death suffering in some kind of hell. And why? Because in spite of all her good works, Eve did not follow Christ. She deserves it, as do all those who do not follow Christ, no matter how much good they have brought to the citizens around them.
I wonder how the Jews and muslims, who claim they worship the same God but do not follow Christ, feel about that?
Is that bullying?

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago

To the author:
Let’s have a look at some examples of possible bullying using some or all of the characteristics you provide.

First, let’s have a look at racism ““ a vaguely defined set of beliefs and/or behaviours ““ which I believe you oppose. Are you here clothing yourself “in a peculiar form of moral righteousness”?
What about those who oppose what they see as the negative impact on themselves and their society of different “races” in their country? The opponents of immigration are persecuted (or risk persecution) by demonisation from the morally righteous. So much so, that many dare not express their views from fear of demonisation by those who love to see them demonised and marginalised.
So is that bullying, or do they just deserve to be treated like this?

david2012hughes
david2012hughes
3 years ago

Isn’t it the Bishops’ duty to condemn corruption, particularly when it appears at the highest level in society?

Richard Slack
Richard Slack
3 years ago

The cult of St Dominic Saint and Martyr has a long way to go to gain my credibility let alone my veneration. We are, after all talking of a man who has attached himself to the laziest and least prepared Prime Minister in history and now has more power than anyone else. Early on in order to demonstrate he was boss he forced a SPAD to hand over the contents of her phone and then manhandled her out of No10. His child-care issue was by no means unique and would easily have been soluble locally; there are plenty who have followed the rules even when it has hurt them a lot. The taradiddle of excuses that was eked out of him is an insult to anyone’s intelligence, not least the 60 mile drive to with wife and child to check his eyesight which would require the sort of suspension of the critical faculties required for the doctrine of the Real Presence,

And what has happened to St Dom? The rack? burning at the stake? no a few neighbours made a bit of a hue and cry and a few bishops pontificated. If you really want to know what sustained applied hatred looks like have a word with Jeremy Corbyn or Diane Abbott about their experiences over the years.

You write with elegance and interest but in this case, chuck it Fraser!

Marie Morton
Marie Morton
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

Yet the bishops made no comment when Steven Kinnock drove over 300 miles to visit his parents: Kevin Jones MP, Labour, drove from London to his Co Durham constituency to attend a constituents birthday party: Labour MP Tahir Ali attended a funeral in his constituency as one of 100 mourners, Welsh Labour Health Secretary Vaughan Gethin had a picnic in a park when the Welsh Government explicitly said ‘ no picnics in any park ‘
Jeremy Corbyn has not had any comments either from his not following rules:
https://order-order.com/202
https://order-order.com/202

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Marie Morton

Worth considerably more than the current two upticks.

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

That’s a very good start to the process of bullying! Demonising those you disagree with. Just what Fraser with all his faults.

Driven by intellectual laziness or intellectual incompetence, or worse?
Which is it?

Tami Misledus
Tami Misledus
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Slack

When I want to see sustained applied hatred, I only have to look at this post of yours.

Edward Andrews
Edward Andrews
3 years ago

As a much more modest Theologian than Giles Fraser, and from a very different theological tradition I have to disagree with the thesis in the article that the bishops are bullying.
Now to me a Bishop is nothing special. I am opposed to them being in the House of Lords, and I have grave reservations about the Church of England, they are, whatever they want to say, the establishment at prayer, and at the best they can seek to modify the behaviour of people in power. Those of us who are not of their community are condemned to the status of outsiders. The fact that there are some of us who are absorbed into that establishment simply makes a statement about them

I happen to believe that the worst thing which happened for Christianity was it becoming the official cult of the Roman Empire, and experience which it still hasn’t got over, and which it seeks to work on. Giles Fraser is part of that establishment. People in the remarks have been happily quoting the lynching of Jesus by the establishment. It is very easy to push Jesus as the good guy being thumped by the establishment supported by the mob. Only ex-English public school boys could have given us that most theologically profound film the “Life of Brian” which demonstrates the weakness of the whole Religious establishment and a lot more.

There is another model of Christianity which looks back to its roots in Judaism, sees that Jesus has the role of Prophet, Priest and King, and that the task of the Church is to speak prophetically. Thus it is that there are those of us who while our trust is in Christ are interested in what the Old Testament prophets said, and basically the general idea that they produced was that “if you don’t get your moral act together then the country is going to collapse and despite all your religiosity your cult will collapse”.

Political errors were made, there were a number of moral failings, and the state collapsed and the religious buildings were destroyed, and the cult had to learn another was of being God’s people in a strange land.

In the face of the Covid 19 threat the prophetic word has to be protect yourself, for by doing so, you will protect others. While one could argue about the speed of the Government’s actions and also the preparation, by doing what they did they did the right thing. The very fact that a number of the national leadership fell ill with the Virus demonstrates the foolishness of for example the lack of social distilling in Parliament and in meetings.

The problem is that those in Leadership roles are called to lead In a particular way. It is no mistake that the motto of Sandhurst the finest leadership training in Britain is “Serve to lead”.
Already there had been a mob mainly made up of the Tory Party at Holyrood and their friends in the Mainstream Media calling for the head of the Chief medical officer of Scotland, for a not quite so flagrant breach of the regulations. I don’t hear Giles Fraser expressing an opinion on this. In the event Cathleen Calderwood, as you would expect an Ulsterwoman realised that not only had she sinned, but that her sin was going to distract from the important task of fighting the virus. There is however in Scotland a fine library of quotes from Conservative politicians as to why she had to go. The Kirk didn’t say anything, it didn’t have to.

Ignoring the technical questions about driving long distances with a fragile child, the question about Dominic Cummings, what was the advice? Did he keep the advice? No.
On the comments of the Conservative leadership in Scotland such an activity was incompatible with being a public official.

However for whatever reason, the Prime Minister decided that the survival of this person was more important than the health message, more important than public polity. And there was discontent among the people. One could almost say the people murmured, or they were mad that there is one rule for them of whom Giles Fraser is one, and another rule for us of whom I am a modest representative. Public anger was in the nicest English way on the streets. Other traditions might have expressed it more forcefully. with thrown objects and broken heads. A bit of shouting never did anyone any harm.

It was at this stage that the Bishops discovered that they too might have a prophetic voice, and that it was their task to suggest that what was happening was morally wrong. (I agree with them totally), by doing what he did Cummings was demonstrating the he was unfit to hold public office. The bishops spoke out because there was just the chance that the Government might respond, and enable the country to move on from what has become a dangerous situation.

The big concern of those who are thing these things seriously is that if there is a second peak and if you look in the Financial Times yo will see that the downward slope of the occurrence of the disease has changed direction. We don’t know how thing will pan out, but such a high profile failure could be extremely costly. If there has to be, God forbid, a second lockdown even locally, or if a large proportion of the population are incommoded by tracing, it could become very difficult. I believe that the satisfaction rate with the Government is less than 50%. It is not an election in 4 years time where the danger to the government lies, but in the anger of the ordinary people.

No the Bishops were right it was Cummings and those ho support him who are wrong with their special pleading and exceptionalism. Giles Fraser is merely doing a bit of special pleading and seeking to get the Unheard fires up against the bishops. The kind of mob he deprecates.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

You should read some Girard. It’s very deep, very enlightening. You might learn something and look at things anew.

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

Why don’t you condemn Emily Maitlis?

Alan Healy
Alan Healy
3 years ago
Reply to  Edward Andrews

Calderwood went on two pleasure trips , the first of which she was forgiven . She also held a public office , whereas Cummings , as a civil servant , does not .

T J Putnam
T J Putnam
3 years ago

Way off beam. The Bishops have not spoken up on a matter of politics, but matters of corruption on the one hand and public safety on the other. They are not populists just because the concerns they have articulated are shared by most other people, in fact it’s the author whose language is populist when he assimilates them to public safety officers ( one of those elites supposedly always telling the people what not to do…) The implication that Crusader Cummings is closer to Christ than these Bishops may amuse some, including DC himself, but others will see it as a clear indication of where Vote Leave psychology gets you, i.e. tied in knots.

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  T J Putnam

Why must you bring Vote Leave into everything? You’re flogging a horse that died in the December General Election.

D.C.S Turner
D.C.S Turner
3 years ago

There are 26 bishops in the House of Lords. They are part of the formal legislative apparatus. Why on earth should they not express an opinion on matters of public concern? As for your risible invocation of Rene Girard to interpret the widespread condemnation of Dominic Cummings: it is Cummings himself who draws attention to himself as an exceptional figure, and unlike the scapegoat in Girard’s theory, he serves to divide the community not unite it. Oh and by the way, the real outrage here is that an unelected advisor was allowed to make a personal statement from the official residence of the prime minister. In allowing it Boris Johnson corrupted the highest political office in the country.

Go Away Please
Go Away Please
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

The way I read Girard is that when the community unites it unites in condemning the scapegoat who is then either sacrificed or sent outside of the community to oblivion.
The way I read what Christ says is that we should not be so quick to condemn. We should seek to understand (for example, a man concerned about the welfare of his young child) and as I’m sure Girard would have said Christ would have sought to forgive.

pauline.k
pauline.k
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

Come down off your high horse Mr Turner, with your faux outrage.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  D.C.S Turner

Hold on, aren’t you going ‘over the top’ a bit on all this?
This a trivial matter that has been hyped out of all proportion, to indulge a media frenzy of self riotous indignation.The Bishops should and could have remained silent.
However their conceit has bought yet more odium onto the CoE at a time when it’s fortune could not be lower.
Having been a communicant member of the CoE for more than sixty years, I am appalled at its response to this whole affair.
I very much doubt if Christ would be applauding the Bishops, or have I missed something?