If by a country’s “life” we mean a living culture, a culture of life, which embraces the dignity of the human person and the love of Creation, and is alive with the spirit of civilization, I think we can safely pronounce Great Britain to be well and truly defunct. It is not dying but dead. There is no sign of life.
A few facts from last week’s papers should suffice to show Britain’s demise. It does not make for pretty or pleasurable reading.
An official report, published on February 4, exposed a local government cover-up of the systematic sexual abuse of 1,400 girls by Pakistani gangs in Rotherham, a town in Yorkshire, over a period of at least fifteen years. Local government officials refused to act on reports of widespread sexual abuse of young white girls by the Pakistani gangs for fear that it would lead to charges of racism. The police also refused to act for fear that their intervention could be seen as racist and that it might harm “community relations.” The tragic irony is that the only racism involved was that of the Pakistani gangs who made a point of targeting young white girls.
Also in the British newspapers this week is the trial of Lutfur Rahman, Britain’s first Muslim mayor, who is accused of “subverting democracy,” running a “den of iniquity” and “systematically stealing votes” as he turned the London borough of Tower Hamlets into his own private fiefdom. The High Court was told of widespread intimidation of rival candidates and voters, including the children of rival candidates receiving death threats on their cell phones. Muslim voters were told that it was “a sin” and “un-Islamic” not to vote for Mr. Rahman, who is accused of channeling hundreds of thousands of pounds to his cronies. Those courageous enough to question Mr. Rahman’s actions were branded as “racist” or “Islamophobes.” Faced with the threat of such heinous thought-crime, neither the police nor any public authority dared to challenge Mr. Rahman’s corrupt practices. It took private action by individuals to bring Mr. Rahman to court. As with the young girls of Rotherham, the people of Tower Hamlets have been sacrificed by both politicians and the police on the altar of “political correctness.”
This is all pretty horrible, to be sure, but is it any worse than the hedonistic hell-hole into which the non-Muslim population of Britain has sunk? In today’s Britain, conventional morality is treated with cynical contempt and the traditional family has all but disappeared. Drunkenness, drugs and serial fornication are the norm, and words like holiness and chastity have been banished from polite conversation. Worse, this vice-ridden and meretricious culture is held up as representing the “freedom” that Britons should defend from the threat of Islam.
Allison Pearson, in an article in the Daily Telegraph on February 5, is justifiably angered by the sex abuse cover-up in Rotherham and the political corruption in Tower Hamlets, but her analysis displays the confusion at the heart of the British response to Islam. Ms. Pearson begins her article by comparing the burning of a heretic in 1531 in Tudor England “for wanting to read the Bible in English” with the burning alive of the Jordanian pilot by the terrorists of the Islamic State. “The two executions are separated by 484 years,” Ms. Pearson writes, “and the slow, patient development of what we call civilisation. We don’t burn people at the stake in Britain any more. Nor is heresy a sin….”
Having framed her article in these terms, implying with cock-sure chronological snobbery that “civilization” is progressing from a barbaric past to an enlightened future, she concludes her article with a reiteration of the same general point:
It has taken us many centuries to leave such savagery behind. Civilisation, however, cannot be taken for granted. It can be threatened by corruption, religious extremism; by cruelty to women and children and animals, and by good men averting their eyes from inconvenient truths. The barbarities of Islamic State are easy to identify; those closer to home less so. But identify them, and fight them, we must. Let us pray that Rotherham marks the start of that fight.
The problem with Ms. Pearson’s analysis is that it begs far more questions than it answers. It is, for instance, true that heresy is no longer a sin in Britain. Heresy has not been a sin in Britain for almost five hundred years, ever since the days of Tudor “savagery” that she rightly condemns. What has been a sin ever since the time of Henry VIII is not heresy but orthodoxy. She does not mention, and probably does not know, that Catholic priests were hanged, drawn, and quartered in Britain for a period of 150 years. Without going into the gory details, it could certainly be argued that this form of execution carried out by the secular state against its Catholic victims was as slow and tortuous as being burned alive. And while it is true that we do not burn people alive in Britain any more, we do threaten to imprison them for the public expression of traditional views on marriage and sexuality. It is no doubt a mark of our “civilized” times that it is now considered a hate crime to suggest in public that there is nothing gay about being “gay.” And, of course, there is the question of the millions of unborn babies being slaughtered in the womb, an abominably barbaric practice that would never have been condoned by our “savage” ancestors.
Although it is true, as Ms. Pearson states, that we do not burn people for wanting to read the Bible in English, it is also true that we make it illegal to read the Bible in public, banning Christianity from the public square as an unwanted remnant from our “savage” past. Is this what Ms. Pearson means by “the slow, patient development of what we call civilization?” Need we remind Ms. Pearson of Chesterton’s quip that when people stop believing in God they do not believe in nothing but in anything? Need we remind her that the replacement of God with godlessness has led to the Guillotine, the Gas Chamber, and the Gulag Archipelago? Do we need to remind her that the last century, the most godless in human history, was also the bloodiest and most barbaric? What, one wonders, would Ms. Pearson call the horrors of trench warfare or the development of poison gas? What about Blitzkrieg, the Holocaust, or Hiroshima? Perhaps these deplorably modern things, unknown to our ancestors, are examples of “the slow, patient development of what we call civilization.”
Putting all of these questions to one side, the biggest question that is begged by Ms. Pearson’s analysis is the question of civilization itself. What exactly does she consider civilization to be? Is it simply the “slow, patient development” of science and the clever things it makes possible? Is civilization simply about being clever? The atomic bomb was damnably clever. Is there a difference between cleverness and wisdom? Is there a connection between civilization and wisdom? If so, might we not reasonably suggest that Christ is more civilized than Ms. Pearson? Might we not suggest that Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are more civilized than Ms. Pearson? Might we not believe that Homer, Dante, and Shakespeare are more civilized than Ms. Pearson?
As much as it pains me to say it, and for reasons implied by the foregoing questions, I see nothing worse about Islam than I do about modern Britain. It is a choice between false gods and godlessness. It is akin to choosing between the arrogant stupidity of the Montagues and the arrogant stupidity of the Capulets. Asked to make such a choice, we should echo the words of Mercutio and call down a plague on both their houses.
Pace Ms. Pearson, we have not left savagery behind. It is all around us and it is on the rise. And whilst it is indubitably true, as she says, that we cannot take civilization for granted, it is necessary to know, first of all, what it is. It is also true, as she says, that civilization can be threatened by corruption, cruelty, “and by good men averting their eyes from inconvenient truths.” One such inconvenient truth is that civilization is inseparable from the Christianity that is its defining characteristic. “The barbarities of Islamic State are easy to identify,” writes Ms. Pearson, “those closer to home less so. But identify them, and fight them, we must. Let us pray that Rotherham marks the start of that fight.” Amen, Ms. Pearson, amen! The barbarities are closer to home than we realize. Something springs to mind about the mote in our neighbour’s eye and the plank in our own. We can indeed hope that Muslim racism in Rotherham and Islamic corruption in London can be fought, but might we not also hope that the British will try to get their own house in order. It is, after all, in a terrible mess.
The most important phrase in Ms. Pearson’s analysis are the three words with which she begins her final sentence: Let us pray. Is she civilized enough to have actually meant what she wrote? Or were the words employed thoughtlessly, without meaning? If the former, there is hope for Ms. Pearson and perhaps, by extension, for the Britain she represents.
Britain might be dead but perhaps there is a hope for her resurrection. Is there life after death for my native land? Perhaps. Let us do what Ms. Pearson suggests. Let us pray!
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