by Dan Hitchens
Tuesday, 8
December 2020
Reaction
11:43

Has Labour forgotten its Christian roots?

Janet Daby's resignation highlights the party's secular drift
by Dan Hitchens
Janet Daby announced her resignation as shadow faiths minister yesterday

Quiz time. For 5 points each, who said the following?

  1.   “It is currently legal to terminate a pregnancy up to full term on the grounds of disability while the upper limit is 24 weeks if there is no disability. I personally do not agree with this position … I am Catholic and I have no doubt that my Catholic education instilled the moral values in me to care and look after the people around me.”
  2.   “Why do so many believe it is permissible for a foetus to be aborted due to having a disability? … Maybe we should ask if our wonder at the ‘Creator of life’ has been lost. The Father’s love in creating a completely unique individual out of just two cells is mind-blowing.”
  3.   “I prayed and said, come and direct me … Help me to be everything you made me to be. And that was really when I first gave my life to Jesus.”

The answers are: three Labour MPs, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Rachael Maskell, and Janet Daby. All three have entered Parliament in the last six years, and all three have served in the shadow cabinet, which might suggest that Labour is a welcoming place for Christians. So might Sir Keir Starmer’s recent message of thanks to the group Christians on the Left: “Within our party, you’ve set a great example of the culture we need.”  

Labour and Christianity go way back. A 1906 poll of the party’s MPs found that the Bible was the second most popular reading; in a 1994 repeat, Scripture came third, ahead of Marx. Christians play a major role at the party’s grassroots, too.

But there are limits, as we were reminded yesterday. Daby, the shadow minister for women, faith and equalities, was reported as saying that religious people should have conscience protections in law. Speaking of registrars who might lose their jobs if they decline to register same-sex marriages, Daby commented:

There needs to be something in place that protects people of faith as well as those who think the other way. It is an issue of conscience. It is like people having a choice who for reasons of conscience cannot participate in conducting an abortion.
- Janet Daby MP

How controversial is this? Well, it doesn’t seem a million miles from what the sometime president of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, argued in 2014: “employers might have to make reasonable accommodation for the right of their employees to manifest their religious beliefs.”

But it was too much for the Labour leadership: within hours of Daby’s remarks being reported, she had resigned. In other words, if you think that traditional Christians, Muslims and Jews should not be fired for their beliefs, then for Starmer’s party you are beyond the pale. 

It’s not just a cheap shot to ask why the party of labour is now all for making it easier to sack workers. Because what has happened to religious believers is an especially good example of that grim phenomenon so well described by Paul Embery: Labour’s determined abandonment of its natural supporters.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
44 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Terry Needham
Terry Needham
1 year ago

Has Labour forgotten its Christian roots?

Well, it would be odd if it hadn’t as the rest of society has forgotten its Christian roots. It may embarrass us to acknowledge this but our entire moral code is rooted in Christian precepts. As someone observed, we live in the afterglow of Christian belief.
I don’t believe (in anything much) but perhaps we should all pretend that we do.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

“As someone observed, we live in the afterglow of Christian belief.”

I think it may have been Dan Hitchens’ father. And he was not wrong.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

The name did suggest a family connection…

David George
David George
1 year ago
Reply to  Terry Needham

The idea that socialism/Marxism or collectivism generally is compatible with Christianity is false.
Christianity is fundamentally a doctrine of personal, not collective, responsibility. That was laid out clearly right from the start in the story of the fall when Adam and Eve were told you (we humans) now have the capacity to know right from wrong. It’s up to you to do the right thing or suffer the consequences from reality (God?)

Collectivism is materialist and sees material security/equality as the path to Utopia, Heaven. Christ said “seek ye first the kingdom of God” – prioritise beauty, honesty and the good and the material will follow. They’re completely back to front.
Charity is viewed as a personal rather than a state responsibility so a compatibility problem there as well.

The collectivists promotion of resentment as a weapon is perhaps the greatest problem. From the story of Cain and Able to Christ’s Sermon on the Mount’s “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Christianity is clear; the harbouring of resentment is destructive, evil.

There’s a shortish clip on Youtube examining this question and includes the reading of a chilling poem by Marx that leaves no doubt where he, at least, stood on this question. Look for “I’m a Christian and a Marxist”.

af841580
af841580
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

Excellent summary. Thank you

Teo
Teo
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

Christianity and Marxism – Apples (religion) and oranges (politics).

A Christian and a “socialist/Marxist” is possible in the same way a Christian and a conservative is possible.

David George
David George
1 year ago
Reply to  Teo

“A Christian and a “socialist/Marxist” is possible”
I know people sometimes say that (as per the YT clip I mentioned) but only by denying, or failing to understand, the fundamental bases of either.

Teo
Teo
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

It is a complex, interesting and fun subject and I am sure that the Capitalists and Marxists will be debating it for sometime to come, to the great amusement or even bemusement of most Christians.

The caution should be that the debate maybe an intellectual ruse to appropriate Christianity into demonising the Instigator’s political opponents.

David George
David George
1 year ago
Reply to  Teo

Yes Teo, I’m sure there is that risk, ideologues see what they’re ideology tells them to see so not so much a ruse as a delusion. You’re much less likely to hear Christians conscripting an ideology to justify their beliefs.

“Ideologies are substitutes for true knowledge, and ideologues are always dangerous when they come to power, because a simple-minded I-know-it-all approach is no match for the complexity of existence.”
“• Jordan B. Peterson, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos

Teo
Teo
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

When I searched “I’m a Christian and a Marxist” on YT, was surprised that it was a Jordan Peterson lecture, purchased his book a couple of years ago for a family member maybe I should have read it first. 🙂

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

That’s an odd bit of exegesis, given that in the story the act of Adam and Eve affects not only the fate of all humanity and even nature, but distorts their very image. That’s what the Fall is in Christian theology. Similarly, at the other end of the story, humanity is redeemed collectively through a new and perfect image, Christ, and also in a certain sense Mary, replacing Adam and Eve. Concepts like the Communion of Saints, the Church as a single body with many organs, the treasury of merit which is fundamentally about human interdependence – these are all images of collectivity. You can see the same ideas throughout Christian literature and theology.

I’d say your perspective on this is very Protestant, but even then it’s not really true to the way most Protestant groups understand the account of the Fall.

David George
David George
1 year ago

Thanks Meghan, that brief summary of the interpretation of the meaning of the fall is from “Biblical Series IV: Adam and Eve: Self-Consciousness, Evil, and Death” from the Psychological Significance of the Biblical Stories series on youtube
1. the emergence of human self-consciousness;
2. mankind’s attendant realization of vulnerability, mortality, and death;
3. the origin of the capacity for willful evil, as the ability to exploit that newly-realized vulnerability;
4. the emergence of shame as a consequence of that realization;
5. the shrinking from divine destiny that occurred when shame emerged; and
6. the beginning of true history, with the self-conscious toil that life in history entails.

Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

I’d take it with a grain of salt.

tim cole
tim cole
1 year ago
Reply to  David George

Or, in short, you can’t worship the State and a God as it will mean that you are not totally loyal to the State. You must choose. Actually you can’t choose, the State will decide which one you pick. Guess which one!

Real Horrorshow
Real Horrorshow
1 year ago

What about people who want to stay true to their Fundamentalist Islamic roots? Are we going to protect them too? If so, who is going to protect the rest of us? Your ethical principles are not automatically superior to mine simply because you claim a supernatural origin for them. Still less so when you claim they tell you to kill me.

Mike SampleName
Mike SampleName
1 year ago

In this scenario, it’s a registrar, not a religious minister (of any denomination). I fully support any minister, imam, priest, vicar etc who refuses to perform a same-sex wedding because it is, at its core, against that religion’s tenets. Likewise, I support any minister, imam, priest, vicar etc who DOES perform a same-sex wedding because it is, at its core, a very different world today as opposed to when the religion’s “rules” were written. Personal judgement and faith is a huge part of such a role, and their congregations rely on them to do so. Who but the most bloody-minded couple would want their wedding day in the eyes of god to be officiated by someone who is quite literally saying “you are godless heathens who will burn in hell for this, but I now pronounce you husband and husband because otherwise I’ll be prosecuted”? No, they’d want someone who shares their faith, and who believes in their own heart that they are performing a holy ritual that their deity would smile upon. If a particular religion chooses not to perform them at all, that is within their rights to do so. They also have to deal with the repercussions for taking that decision in a world that generally accepts LGB equality (see the current backlash against Chris Pratt for being a member of a Church in the US whose Australian branch may have done some limited conversion therapy 30 years ago).

A registrar is different. This is simply a state employee being instructed to perform their duties. They are not acting as an intermediary to any gods on a spiritual level, and their personal judgement or opinion is immaterial, they are simply fulfilling a legal role. A cop or judge doesn’t have the leeway to be more lenient or severe based on their own religion’s categorisation of a crime, nor does an HMRC employee have the ability to apply a higher tax rate against a business he considers unethical as per his beliefs.
Simply put, same-sex marriages are legal, and as a registrar is a state instrument to perform legal duties, he must put aside his own considerations when performing one.

TL;DR: registrars’ personal beliefs are irrelevant to their role, but religious officials should be free to follow their own conscience.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago

Very gracious of you Mike.

Who but the most bloody-minded couple would want their wedding day inthe eyes of god to be officiated by someone who is quite literally saying “you are godless heathens who will burn in hell for this, but I
now pronounce you husband and husband because otherwise I’ll be
prosecuted?”

You have not known many gay-activists. Some would love forcing a vicar to do this, as it is an exercise of power over others and showing how their perversion cannot be criticised, even by those whose very faith and religion abhor it.

Mike SampleName
Mike SampleName
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

Truth, I guess. I rarely think of these types of activists, as I consider them generally to be of little more than comedic value. I should consider the bakery row, which was perpetuated by just this sort of individual. I was thinking more of a couple who are actually of the faith in question, and who genuinely want their union to be blessed in the eyes of (deity).

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

Many people of faith, including many vicars, do not abhor it.

In fact as I recall the head of the Anglican Church in Wales was upset at the time same-sex marriage became lawful in the UK, that they were to be barred from performing the ceremonies.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

The fact they do not abhor it shows that they are not people of faith (a dreadful term by the way). There are always people like this in every age – “Oh this doesn’t apply to me, I know so much better than my forebears, I am mre Christian than Christ, etc etc”.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Call me old-fashioned, but maybe when people apply for jobs, they should clearly state which parts of it they will be refusing to carry out on the basis of their holy texts.

That way, if they are offered the job they can operate as they wish. If they are not offered the job then the damage is minimised for all concerned.

Andrew Harvey
Andrew Harvey
1 year ago

Sorry, but this is absurd. She wasn’t forced out of any random position, she was the Shadow Equality Minister, i.e. responsible for promoting policies in this very area. If she’s promoting something that’s the opposite of the party’s stated position (and a position that isn’t going to change any time soon), then, out of a sense of honour, she should resign. The Labour Party dragged it’s feet on gay marriage long enough to demonstrate its roots in the Muslim Christian faith.

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago

Speaking of registrars who might lose their jobs if they decline to register same-sex marriages…

But the obvious issue then is that if all the registrars in an area refuse to do so, then you’ve effectively rolled back the law and made discrimination a reality again, only this time it’s been dressed up as “a matter of conscience”.

Where does it end? If someone has a deeply held belief that, for instance, inter-racial marriage is wrong, and claims such on religious grounds, should an individual (and by extension a whole area, if entirely staffed by such individuals), be allowed to decline to register such marriages? Or would we call that abhorrent discrimination, no matter how deeply held?

As is often the case with these questions, we seek an overriding principle that can be applied to make all circumstances ‘right’, as if the world can be made neat and tidy with a few rules. But really we’re wallowing in a grey murk and must consider circumstances on their own terms. Registrars refusing to register certain marriages looks very much to me like discrimination and also a failure to do the job properly. This is far different to (e.g.) a private business being forced by the courts to make a certain cake, as it’s someone fulfilling a government role and providing access to state function.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

Just put it on line. A Google Doc and electronic signature should solve the problem. Since we have devalued the institution to the point of irrelevance, Registry Offices and Registers are now a flagrant waste of money and should no longer be supported at public expense.

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago

Have we? How? What makes it devalued in your eyes?

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

Oh come on now. Marriage is easer to get out of than a car-rental agreement or holiday booking. Ethniciodo has drawn the wrong conclusion, but in assessing the current situation he isn’t wrong.

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

And that devalues your commitment to your wife?

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

Not personally, because I am exceptionally committed to the true Christian undertanding of matrimony. But to the weaker among us, and the Bible tells us we must always bear the wekanesses of others in mind and not put stumbling blocks in their path, then yes – their commitment couldd be shaken in difficult times, as all married couples face. You know this – don’t try to be clever and more-compassionate-than-thou. Doesn’t fool God and it doesn’t fool many others either.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

I wondered who would take the bait. Are you expecting me to cite extending marriage to same s e x couples. I cannot see why same s e x couples wanted to extend an institution that had been the cornerstone of the society that oppressed them centuries save as a pollical F U act. For the record, I think it was a further devaluation of the institution but that is not my answer to your point.

When I was growing illegitimate births were exceptional and divorce was rare. Both were a cause for shame. At the time there were the siren voices saying that it was wrong to force couples to stay together or that children should not be stigmatised by divorce or illegitimacy. Simple minded self serving sentiments that largely derived from the selfishness and self-indulgence of the 60s. Nevertheless, these sentiments won the day to the extent that illegitimacy and divorce first became commonplace and then the norm.

I would not have particularly strong views on this issue save for witnessing first hand the impact of illegitimacy and divorce on children. There will always be some exceptions who prosper but from what I have seen illegitimacy and divorce have have serious a adverse and long term impact on the lives and life chances of substantially all children affected,

In any event, the institution was systematically and comprehensively debased through the the 60’s,70s 80’s and 90’s so that we are now treated to the spectacle of TV game shows such as Married at First Sight. I have never seen the programme but I have not been able to avoid the trailers. We have now reduced an institution that was within living memory the solid cornerstone of our society into a prime time pantomime. If peoples emotional lives, or the wreckage of them, is primetime entertainment you wonder what was so wrong with the Colosseum.

How has marriage not been devalued

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago

I cannot see why same s e x couples wanted to extend an institution

Equality, pure and simple.

As for the rest, it appears you think that people should be forced to stay together “for the children” regardless of how much they’ve grown to hate each other, and you think, absent any evidence, that children in loveless, forced-together households would necessarily be better off than those whose parents come to an amicable arrangement to split?

None of your crazy assertions actually show marriage to be devalued. I’d argue now it’s much higher value – people stay together out of love, not because the whole village would cast shame on you for leaving your abusive spouse.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

“If someone has a deeply held belief that, for instance,
[incestuous/polygamous/zoophilic/underage] marriage
is wrong, and claims such on religious grounds, should an individual (and by extension a whole area, if entirely staffed by such
individuals), be allowed to decline to register such marriages? Or would we call that abhorrent discrimination, no matter how deeply
held?”

The old race comparison to sodomy is faulty and dated.
A friend of mine asked why I disapproved of ‘gay marriage’; I don’t
disagree with it, it is simply a legal fiction. It doesn’t exist, any more than a man can marry his mother. Love is not just love, perversion is still disgusting regardless of what paperwork you have.

Dave H
Dave H
1 year ago
Reply to  Aaron Kevali

If you feel that way perhaps you shouldn’t take a job as a registrar.

The key difference with all the other cases you post there is the activity of consenting adults, but you knew that, you just wanted a chance to air your outdated prejudices.

FYI – marriage is just what a society defines it to be, so same-sex marriage exists every bit as much as heterosexual marriage. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

Aaron Kevali
Aaron Kevali
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

Incorrect, legal fictions can be conjured up, but the reality of marriage cannot be. Two blokes/gals getting ‘married’ is funny at best, usually pathetic, spiteful at worst. And the activists know it of course, and I will laugh them to scorn every day. If two guys brandish their certificate at me I’ll just brandish my Martian passport at them. It’s just as valid.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave H

Agreed – I could start a religion and make up my own rules about what I will and won’t do in the name of conscience. Doesn’t give me a free pass to do what I want though.

Daniel Goldstein
Daniel Goldstein
1 year ago

Religion is one aspect of “conservatism” we do not need to fly the flag for. People can believe what they want but why should it give them extra rights? We should aim for a secular society, not encourage these ancient beliefs. Nothing wrong with considering Christian schools of thought, for example, but it shouldn’t exist outside the law. We’re a long way from realising that logic and reason trump superstition as a society, sadly.
And having a shadow minister for faith is ridiculous anyway. Wonder who’ll replace her? The mind boggles. We shouldn’t be pandering to such people.

Samuel Gee
Samuel Gee
1 year ago

Isn’t such an accommodation just a sensible part of a pluralist society. No-one is prevented from getting the service they require and no-one is required to do something which runs counter to their faith or belief. In the case of registrars just get another registrar to do the same sex marriages. Someone who is happy to do it or doesn’t care about the issue. Even in extreme cases such as wars accommodations are made so that people can serve even in the very front line and still not be required to bear arms. If accommodations could be made over a century ago and in those extreme circumstances then surely the duty roster at the Registry Office can be negotiated.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
1 year ago

1. Religion is not necessarily “one aspect of conservatism”. It can be revolutionary and counter-cultural in its effect too.
2. Freedom of religion is embedded in Article 9 of the Human Rights Act. Religious people are not looking for “extra rights”, but would expect their right of conscience,belief and practice to be respected with everybody else’s.
3. You seem to imply the expunging of the exception clauses for religious bodies from some Acts of Parliament. If that is done it will lead to a clogging of the legal system effecting the courts and possibly the prisons. Civic disobedience on a large scale will become the norm.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 year ago

Labour need to get rid of as many “identarians” (religious or otherwise) as possible if they are to have a “snowballs chance in hell’ of regaining the ‘red wall”.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Surely a registrar works for the state, or local authority. Thus I don’t see how they can object to something that is legally sanctioned by the state. This is different, in my view, to the the cake shop owners who didn’t want to make a cake for a same sex wedding.

As for today’s Labour party and Christianity, the two things seem to me to be completely antithetical.

Nigel Clarke
Nigel Clarke
1 year ago

Look at the picture. Does she look ashamed? No, thumbs up and all smiles…

gilstra
gilstra
1 year ago

In my mind, there is absolutely no place for religion in the public discourse. Faith or belief is should stay something between an individual and their god(s). And there is no real and/or realistic alternative. Who are we to point fingers at state religions, like Islam, the bogeyman of all finger-pointers, if we cannot detach our own beliefs from how a country should be rn?

tim cole
tim cole
1 year ago

Yes. Next question.

Paul Lock
Paul Lock
1 year ago

Perhaps the question should be ‘has it forgotten its Methodist roots’ – New Labour certainly did which is why gambling has been normalised.

James Joyce
James Joyce
1 year ago

The idea that only religious people should have conscience protections in law is very obviously discriminatory.