The Spectator

Feedback | 8 January 2005

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Sex, war and the Word

It is interesting how people reveal their prejudices by the words they use. So, to A.N. Wilson (‘Holy Sage’, 18/25 December) those who oppose homosexuals taking high office in the Church of England are ‘bigots’, while those in favour are ‘enthusiasts’.

He argues that because the Church has changed its position in the past towards such things as pacifism and sexual abstinence except for the purposes of reproduction (both demanded by the early Church), it is therefore possible to ‘move on’ in other areas as well, e.g., in the case of homosexual clergy. We need to make a distinction, however, between the Bible (the word of God) and extra-biblical writings (the words of men). According to the Bible, neither Jesus nor John the Baptist enjoined soldiers to give up the military life if they wished to become their followers (e.g., Matthew viii 5-10, Luke iii 14), and Paul encouraged married couples to enjoy a full and active sexual life (I Cor vii 3).

The Church changed the word of God on these matters and therefore we are free to disregard its teaching. Homosexual activity, on the other hand, is forbidden in the Bible, which we are not at liberty to alter or disregard. It is unhelpful for Mr Wilson to mock as ‘pious’ those Christians who are attempting (sometimes struggling) to obey the whole of God’s word, even the difficult bits. The fact that theirs are the churches that are full he dismisses as irrelevant.

Virginia Price Evans
Whitland, Carmarthenshire

On the issue of money (and for that matter status and power), Church teaching has remained consistent down the millennia. No Church leader of any substance would condone the practice of today’s loan sharks and the Church continues to preach against the love of money. About a year ago I heard Rowan Williams himself say words to the effect that he envisaged the whole world being rendered barbaric by the pursuit of money. More recently, the Patriarch of Moscow said, ‘It is not for nothing that greed for money is known as an abominable deathly passion ...a betrayal of the Lord on a par with the sin of Judas.’ Unfortunately, believers are frail and fallen so do not always adhere to what is taught, but the doctrines themselves have remained remarkably consistent down the centuries.

I simply do not share Mr Wilson’s gloomy prognosis for the Christian Church. It undoubtedly does face considerable challenges. However, science has been accommodated and humanist rationalism has more or less been seen off. The noise and materialism with which so many fill their lives do, it is true, present a considerably greater problem. However, the Church’s message remains tremendously powerful and compelling. It answers the one key question that all of us, as tiny carbon-based specks in a vast universe, at least occasionally ask: ‘Why are we here?’ To which it simply and resolutely replies, ‘We are here to love.’

Andrew Macdonald
London W14

Involuntary tyranny

Peter Jones (Ancient & modern, 1 January) has some interesting perspectives on the inevitable collapse of the EU, but is wildly incorrect on one central issue.

The EU has been constructed carefully and stealthily over a long period, not by ‘international treaty obligations voluntarily entered’ as Mr Jones claims but by a political and administrative elite which deliberately set out to bypass the ballot box.

None of the treaties involved has been put to all the peoples of Europe, and none at all to the British people, despite widely held hostility to the concept of our being part of a federal superstate. In my book that amounts to involuntary tyranny, and the very concept of a ‘voluntary tyranny’ as described by Peter Jones is absurd.

Graham Booth
Newton Abbot, Devon

Charter for road hogs

The Spectator has often taken the line that too much government is bad for individuals and society, and in your issue of 1 January (‘Taking liberties’) Mark Steyn recommends the town of Christianfield in Denmark, where road signs and traffic lights have been removed, thus placing the onus on drivers to watch out for themselves. But where would Mr Steyn draw the line? Perhaps all speed limits should be scrapped together with requirements that cars should have working brakes and decent tyres? Maybe people should be allowed to take to the wheel without a driving test or insurance and having taken any amount of alcohol or drugs? Perhaps he would like government really to get off our backs and allow each individual to choose whether to drive on the left or right?
Laurence Kelvin
London W9

Lock them up

My friend Bruce Anderson (Politics, 11 December) gives yet another outing to that grand old chestnut: there are far fewer burglaries in the USA because many Americans keep a handgun in the house. In fact there are at least a dozen developed countries where it is almost impossible for a householder to have a pistol, but burglary rates are still a fraction of ours. The key lies here: no American career burglar walks away from his tenth conviction smirking his head off and raising a rigid middle finger at the police after receiving yet another ‘last chance’. Not if the judge wishes to be re-elected next time, and they usually do. The result is that America runs out of career burglars faster than they can be replaced, while here career crime is our largest service industry, and growing. The solution is not to blow them away but lock them away.
Frederick Forsyth

Policing is difficult

Unlike Rod Liddle (‘Have the Tories no spine?’, 18/25 December), I can see that on occasion ID cards would make life easier for the police. However, I can’t help thinking of some words from Orson Welles’s Touch of Evil: ‘Of course police work is difficult. It’s meant to be. The only place where it’s easy is in a police state.’
Jeremy Rhodes
Osaka, Japan

Camilla’s religion

Contrary to your editorial (‘Let them marry’, 18/25 December), Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles is not a Catholic, though her former husband, Brigadier Andrew Parker Bowles, is.
Colin Armstrong

Country smells

Mary Kenny’s piece encouraging people not to wash (‘My grubby secret’, 1 January) is dangerously irresponsible. One need only be caught among a herd of tweedy middle-aged women up from the country visiting an exhibition at the Royal Academy to realise that they need to wash more often, not less.
Paul Waters