Liberals and their Morality

Peter Watt gets after the liberal outcry over David Cameron’s pro-KJB speech, here’s the link to the full speech, and here’s Peter Watt:

I have been a bit disturbed by the reaction of some to David Cameron’s speech on Christianity.  Let’s start with the obvious.  It was a speech at an event to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible.  You know?  The Bible; that book that plays a pretty central role in Christianity.  So the fact that he made a speech in which he talked about religion, Christianity and his personal faith is less remarkable than if he hadn’t.  Imagine if he’d said ‘the King James Bible is irrelevant in our secular times’.  The organisers might have been a little miffed at his discourtesy.  They would be also have been forgiven for wondering exactly why he had accepted their invitation!

But then let’s look at what he actually said:

“First, the King James Bible has bequeathed a body of language that permeates every aspect of our culture and heritage. Second, just as our language and culture is steeped in the Bible, so too is our politics.  Third, we are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so. Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong.  I know and fully respect that many people in this country do not have a religion.  And I am also incredibly proud that Britain is home to many different faith communities, who do so much to make our country stronger. But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.”

Hardly radical stuff.  In fact he is at great pains to point out his respect for those of other faiths and no faith at all.  So I am left wondering exactly what the fuss is all about and have concluded that on the whole the reaction has little to do with religious belief.  As I have said – it is hardly offensive stuff.  I think though that the reaction says more about those that reacted.

It seems to me that once again many on the left have succumbed to one of their worse failings.  Moral flatulence.  I have written about this before so apologies to those who’ve heard this before.  I think it is important though.

It comes down to the fact that many people on the left seem to think that they are intrinsically moral; in fact more moral than most other people.  It means that they see their motives as better than everyone else’s.  You see, no one except those on the left actually really want to help anyone else or do good.  In fact Tories in particular actively want to do harm.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Charlie Clauss

    Later in the fuller piece Peter Watt says:

    “There may very well be some people who consider some of your policy choices to be immoral. You simply cannot accept this of course; it doesn’t quite fit in with your sense of your own inherent goodness.”

    I cannot count the number of times I have heard liberal Christians accuse conservative Christians of “judgementalism.”

    Liberal Christians cannot hear conservative Christians when they own up to their own sinfulness, because that too is an affront to their “sense of your own inherent goodness.”

  • Robert Martin

    I would suggest that conservatives could easily be accused of the same.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    I did not hear this speech, and thus had no reaction to it whatsoever before reading this article, but I do find the defense here a bit wanting.

    I feel that Watt doesn’t understand what he’s saying when he’s so quick to point out that Cameron does, in fact, point out his respect for those of other faiths and no faith at all. Let’s look at what Cameron said, again just on the basis of my reading it here.

    “we are a Christian country…. I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong.”

    Actually, he is. He’s just told people who aren’t Christian that they are outside of the norm in what he’s just called a “Christian” country. You really can’t say that your country is “Christian” and say that there’s nothing wrong with those who aren’t. Those concepts just don’t sit well alongside each other.

    Now, does that mean I think he shouldn’t have said that Britain is a “Christian” country? I’m not sure it does, although I have trouble accepting that as true given how low church attendance is there, even compared to the US (which isn’t exactly as great about church attendance as some would like to believe).

    None of this, of course, addresses Watt’s comments about liberal morality, which I must confess strike me as a bit of a non-sequitur given what I’m reading here. Perhaps his reaction has more to say about the person that reacted?

  • Robin

    “[Iran is] a [Muslim] country…. I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong.”

    “[India is] a [Hindu] country…. I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong.”

    “[Cuba is] a [Socialist] country…. I am not in any way saying that to have another [political theory] – or no [political theory] – is somehow wrong.”

    “[Italy is] a [Catholic] country…. I am not in any way saying that to have another faith – or no faith – is somehow wrong.”

    All analogous statements to Cameron’s, but I have the feeling if each country’s representative leader made such a statement we would be praising them for toleration rather than disparaging them.

  • Tanya

    I’m with Mark. First of all I can’t fathom what it means to call a nation a “Christian country.” Christian is not an adjective. Does it mean a majority of persons are Christian? Does a nation cease to be Christian when that is no longer the case? Or does it mean that there were “Christian principles” cited at its founding? Or was there a state church instituted. In which case he should have said that’s what he meant.

    Here in the US we have the same fight. And just imagine — we have the First Amendment, the non-establishment clause. But still people want to cling to some romantic notion that the Founding Fathers were all Christian (they weren’t) or that they all acted out of the purest of Christian motives. (They didn’t.)

    Somehow we Christians (I am one of them) are tone-deaf to what it sounds like to the rest of the world when we go around asserting things like this. Just exactly what do we think we gain?

    What if he’d said, “this nation was founded with a state religion, which was Christianity.” No argument. Problem solved. It is a statement of historical fact. Meant to say nothing at all about how people live their lives or vote their consciences today.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    Robin,

    That last seems directed at me, but I honestly don’t know how to respond other than “are you serious?”

  • Tanya

    I would also like to ask what he meant by “our politics are steeped in the Bible.”

    “Politics”? Did he mean “law”? Or did he mean the monarchy — which has a checkered record in the Bible, as a matter of fact, and hardly originated there. If he meant the 10 commandments (at least the killing, stealing and false witnessing ideas) –okay, but those things are frowned on by other cultures and nations with little or nothing to do with Christianity.

    This is clearer, “the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.”

    But once again, this tends to shade into the assumption that if we hadn’t had that Bible, we’d be without morals. And that’s what people find so tone deaf and inane.

    Oh how I wish Christians would stop getting themselves into these stupid arguments. If we’d shut up and love — we’d be so much better off.

  • http://krusekroncile.com Michael W. Kruse

    #2 Robert, I think ideological liberals see conservatives as lacking the compassion liberals possess. I think ideological conservatives are more likely to think liberals lack the common sense conservatives possess. Both sides then layer on malevolence as a component of their opponents make-up.

    Almost a year ago Gabby Giffords was shot and there was an immediate linkage by liberals of conservative language like “death panels” and Palin’s cross-hairs to that act. “We need to be more civil and avoid violent rhetoric” we were told. Yet in the intervening months we have the president referring to the Republicans as terrorists and hostage takers, the pres of of the AFL-CIO comparing Reps to an army to be attacked and defeated, a congress woman saying Reps want to kill women, Biden saying that Republicans will allow more rape and murder rather than pass the stimulus bill, Occupy folks talking over and vandalizing property, … and I can go on.

    My point isn’t that Republicans are above all this (or that all of it is necessarily wrong). My point is that each ideological side tends to overstate the behavior of opponents while being silent about … even justifying … the same behavior in return. It’s like watching small children fight.

  • Randy Gabrielse

    “First of all I can’t fathom what it means to call a nation a “Christian country.” Christian is not an adjective. Does it mean a majority of persons are Christian? Does a nation cease to be Christian when that is no longer the case? Or does it mean that there were “Christian principles” cited at its founding?”

    Tanya @5 is correct. I sorted through all of the options she offers when I was doing dissertation work on early American (Pre-1850) colleges that were founded by ecclesiastical bodies and staffed by divinity school graduates and teaching an overwhelmingly classical curriculum. That as when I concluded, as Tanya does, that “Chtrisitan” just does not work as an adjective.
    Peace,

  • Fish

    People in general think the group they belong to or identify with is more moral than other groups. It is not a liberal v. conservative trait; it’s human nature. E.g. Christians think they are more moral than atheists. Atheists beg to disagree. And so on.

  • http://www.allanbevere.com Allan R. Bevere

    “I think ideological liberals see conservatives as lacking the compassion liberals possess. I think ideological conservatives are more likely to think liberals lack the common sense conservatives possess. Both sides then layer on malevolence as a component of their opponents make-up.”

    “My point is that each ideological side tends to overstate the behavior of opponents while being silent about … even justifying … the same behavior in return. It’s like watching small children fight.”

    Michael Kruse hits the nail on the head.

  • http://natomaschurch.wordpress.com Mike

    When the Prime Minister of Britain identifies his nation as a “Christian” nation, he is not using it as an adjective. It is the first of two nouns. The word “Christian” is an identifier. The Queen of England is the head of the Church of England. Their nation (as opposed to ours) is a Monarchy in name. The word Christian is as much a noun to Britain as the word “Queen” in the phrase “Queen Elizabeth” is. You would not say the word “queen” is an adjective would you?

    Being Canadian, I understand how important it is to the British Commonwealth that its titular head is a monarch and is also the head of the officially sanctioned church. Americans cannot fully understand that because America uses “christian” as an adjective when saying “Christian nation” whereas the Prime Minister of Great Britain is using it as a qualifying noun in a noun phrase.

    I am not splitting hairs. One reason there was a pilgrimage of people leaving England for the colonies is that they disagreed with having a state-sponsored religion. You may disagree with how England does religion, but don’t misrepresent their view: They are technically a Christian Nation. Until they repudiate their official Church, they
    remain so.

  • Amos Paul

    So, this is England–right?

    Why are so many people complaining about the title ‘Christian country? We may, spiritually speaking, hold our own opinions about wherer or not the country of people is, in fact, Christian in that sense…

    However, legally speaking, England *is* a ‘Christian’ country. That is, the UK legally has a monarch. The monarch is legally the head of the Church of England. The Church of England (Christianity) is the state religion. It has been since its inception. It is even represented in parliament.

    Therefore, saying that it is a ‘Christian’ nation is nothing more and nothing less than a statement of legal and political fact.

  • http://natomaschurch.wordpress.com Mike

    Perhaps it would be more obvious if he had used the phrase “Anglican Nation”. To the English, it means the same thing as “Christian Nation”.

  • RobS

    In the full column, Peter Watt says he’s a member of the Labour (liberal) party as well. Good for him to take an honest stance from the opposite side of the isle and not jump all over someone’s comments for political gain.

    With more like him having honest discussions in politics, then consensus building is far more likely to be achieved. The polarizing factions of politics rarely get things done.

    Some good points here, I find myself seeing good points by Robin, Kruse, and Fish… overstating things for our own “high horse morality” is often the case. Rarely is the moral guideline (be it the Bible or other source) ever in the debate.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    What “good point” is Robin making? This is an honest question. All I’ve seen him do, in his single post in this thread, is attack my position (back at #3) as somehow disingenuous. If he honestly thinks that I would respond to his alternative statements as he suggests, then he neither understands what I said, nor how I think.

    (For what it’s worth, please also note that I have explicitly refrained from suggesting that the PM of Britain should not have called Britain a “Christian nation.” I have instead made a comment about what the use of that phrase means for those who are not Christian. That’s an important distinction. While it may well be safe to say that he’s advocating for a far more tolerant stand than many countries, which are more explicit about denying rights to those who aren’t a part of the majority, he has nonetheless cast them as “outsiders” by his statement.)

  • Rick

    Mark-

    Is fear of giving the impression of casting people as “outsiders” the highest moral standard?

    He seems to have simply been stating fact, while also clarifying so as not to offend.

  • Amos Paul

    Some people in the U.S. are actually immigrant workers. Does it offend them if we state that this is an American nation–though it’s OK to be here and not be American?

    Or what about people who consider themselves social anarchists. What about stating that this is a democratic republican nation–but it’s OK to believe in social anarchy?

    The ‘Christian nation’ status in the above quotation is a statement of political fact. Should he simply have avoided stating that particular political fact? Was it wrong for him to do so?

  • Carlos Webser

    It seems to me to moral question here is the tendency to lump people into simplistic categories like liberal and conservative

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    #17, Rick,

    This is what he said: “but I have the feeling if each country’s representative leader made such a statement we would be praising them for toleration rather than disparaging them.”

    That goes beyond a statement of fact. It suggests that I’m making a big deal of a specific statement because it happens to be Christian. I find that offensive.

    As to your question about casting people as outsiders as “the highest moral standard,” I make no suggestion that it is, although I do think that it is a moral standard worth consideration.

    But more to the point, I brought it up to suggest that it may explain why people are put off by the remarks. Personally, I don’t think it’s that big a deal, and if I’d only heard Cameron’s remarks, and not the defense of it, I doubt I’d have even been bothered, myself.

    But I also don’t think it’s something I’d be seeking to defend as Watt’s article does. I’m trying to suggest that Watt is defending something that, perhaps, might best NOT be defended, since it actually doesn’t go as far toward the respect of the other as he seems to think it does.

  • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

    “Some people in the U.S. are actually immigrant workers. Does it offend them if we state that this is an American nation–though it’s OK to be here and not be American?”

    A poor example, I think, since a great many of those “immigrant workers” are just as “American” and anyone naturally born here. Perhaps you meant to suggest those who are citizens of another country, yet are working here? Fine, but that wouldn’t make any difference in regard to Cameron’s remarks as they might be viewed by British citizens who do not consider themselves “Christian.”

  • Amos Paul

    Mark,

    The nation there is as legally Christian as our nation is legally ‘American’. It’s a title that describes the official stance of this government. Whether *the people themselves* are Christian is an entirely different claim than if the nation is legally Christian, American, Democratic, Monarchial… whatever. It’s part of the governmental definition of the nation.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    @Michael W. Kruse wrote: Almost a year ago Gabby Giffords was shot and there was an immediate linkage by liberals of conservative language like “death panels” and Palin’s cross-hairs to that act. “We need to be more civil and avoid violent rhetoric” we were told. Yet in the intervening months we have the president referring to the Republicans as terrorists and hostage takers, the pres of of the AFL-CIO comparing Reps to an army to be attacked and defeated, a congress woman saying Reps want to kill women, Biden saying that Republicans will allow more rape and murder rather than pass the stimulus bill, Occupy folks talking over and vandalizing property, … and I can go on.

    Monkey muffins.

    With a foolish presentiment littered with false equivalencies.

    Blindly attributing all metaphors to be like — sorry, there is a far cry from “holding hostage” to “2nd amendment solution”. And tossing in outlier Occupy individuals (who despite the co-opting efforts by Democrats, hold no allegiance to Obama and his party) is a ridiculous assertion.

    Though VP Biden sticks his foot in his mouth one simply cannot find the equivalence of right wing talk radio and talking heads like Ann Coulter blessing violence (or speaking of it like candidate Cain did, and then say it was all a “joke”). Sure, you can cite some fringe voices, but they’re far away from the party leadership. A far cry from the Republican side, where hate mongering of Beck, Limbaugh of Coulter is esteemed by the leaders (who cherish and speak highly of such voices).

    Please, shutter this farcical notion.

  • Hector

    This is really kind of silly. Great Britain is, for better or worse, a Christian nation. They have an established state religion, and that religion is Anglican Christianity (well, Presbyterianism in Scotland). These politically correct whiners need to grow up.

    Robin, India and Italy are different, as they are explicitly secular countries, as stated in their constitutions. Right-wing politicians in India do say things like ‘India is a Hindu country’, and the center and left routinely excoriate them for it, because it actually isn’t a Hindu country, it’s a secular one. Britain, Cuba and Iran, on the other hand, are explicitly Christian, Socialist, and Muslim nations.

  • Jerry

    God bless David Cameron. May this kind of courage and honesty increase.
    Let the nations rage–and let God be glorified.

  • Daniel S

    UK & US: Two countries divided by a common language.


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