The C of E is at it again: nagging about the sanctity of Christian marriage, the importance for children of parents staying together, banging on about late-term abortion, raging about children facing famine in Yemen and the Congo, with Christmas coming trying to make us all feel guilty about waste and self-indulgence.
Well, no, of course they haven’t mentioned any of those things; why would they? The C of E is now little more than an offshoot of the LGBT rights group, Stonewall; a sexual advice centre with a particular interest in the needs of the gay community and the outer fringes of sex; concerned with practices as remote to most British people as eating powdered rhino horn.
Its latest advice, from Justin Welby the Archbishop of Cant himself, is that within the church’s 4,700 nursery and primary schools children should be allowed to decided what sex they are without judgement or criticism from teachers. The C of E’s first guidance notice on ‘transphobic bullying’ recommends that the youngest children in particular must be free to discover ‘the possibilities of what they might be’.
You immediately know this isn’t about becoming an astronaut or a great writer. This is about sex. The state church now recommends about boys (though they are very careful not to use that term) ‘A child may choose the tutu, the princess’s tiara and heels’ and about girls, presumably, ‘the fireman’s helmet (a real slip-up in terminology there which surely deserves a full apology) tool belt and superhero cloak without expectation or comment’.
The church is deeply worried about that Left-wing shibboleth, stereotyping. Training as a teacher in 2007, I was told that it had led directly to the Holocaust. This new advice from the church says: ‘We must avoid at all costs diminishing the dignity of any individual to a stereotype or problem. It may be best to avoid labels and assumptions which deem children’s behaviour irregular, abnormal or problematic just because it doesn’t to conform to gender stereotypes or today’s play preferences.’
This is a further stage in Justin Welby’s accommodation with extreme Left-wing thinking on sexuality. He argued in the Lords against gay marriage but has now more than settled with it. In September last year, addressing the Mothers’ Union to celebrate 140 years of their support for motherhood and Christian family life, he told them that gay marriage is now a reality ‘whether we like it or not’. He clearly suggested that instead of aspiring to live up to Victorian ‘myths’, the mothers should get with the human rights act.
Indications of Welby’s future ideas were there. In his sermon he singled out ‘preaching’ by Victorian clerics as some kind of empty signalling. He was obviously afraid of any charge of hypocrisy and worse, lack of inclusivity. Since then he has made sure that his church no longer preaches anything that might be considered traditional moral instruction. Its words encourage accommodation of the increasingly secular state and Left-wing social policy. This document which purports to be about the prevention of bullying is really his first full outpouring of secular liberalism and preoccupation with sexual identity politics.
On a practical level, some of this concern about young children comes as a shock. Just how much ‘transphobic bullying’ is there among four- and five-year-olds? At that age my friends and I had a large dressing-up box stuffed with all kinds of clothes and handbags from mothers, neighbours and aunties, which we donned with great glee. But not of course in school, where we had sober little uniforms.
Welby has been applauded by Stonewall for sending a ‘clear signal’. But some stick-in-the-muds might think that a responsible teacher or parent should discourage any child from wearing high heels. Not only are they the most sexist item of clothing after the hijab, they are monstrously damaging to young feet. No one under the age of sixteen used to be allowed them. Once as restricted to adult life as smoking, they are now on sale for children in cheap shoe-shops and online. To my mind, tiny diamante-encrusted kitten-heeled shoes should make any non-paedophile’s flesh crawl. Of course some men love getting themselves up like Dame Barbara Cartland but that is surely not a very realistic or flattering view of real women. Left-wingers might surely see it as somewhat elitist.
That the church does not see that high heels and tiaras are sexualising children, rather than letting them discover ‘the possibilities of what they might be’, is very worrying. It’s also a surprise to learn that children are normally prevented from ‘discovering possibilities’ about themselves, unless those possibilities are about extreme sexual behaviour which most people would find disturbing.
From the paper it seems that the idea of a certain special innocence of childhood is now deemed a Victorian error involving repression and punishment. Once a lover of pantomime, I have noticed with increasing distaste the rise of sexualised Widow Twankeys, transvestites playing the part rather than rough heterosexual men, which entirely misses the joke. It is not amusing or absurd but instead makes a rather lewd point, drawing adult sex into what should be a knockabout entertainment appealing mainly to children.
If we look at what we now have since most repression in Western Christian communities has been lifted, it is not a happy picture, and children do not seem happier than previously. Strangely, although the authority of parents has been largely removed and they no longer have real sanctions, children are being criminalised for behaviour which would once have been admonished and forgotten. Do those ‘play preferences’ mentioned which must not be interfered with by adults include ‘sexting’, the technological form of what used to be called ‘doctors and nurses’?
Being antediluvian, I think children should be forbidden from doing this and the parents of anyone caught at it in school should be fined. A 14-year-old boy who recently who sent a lewd photo of himself to a girl gained a criminal record after his paramour showed the pictures to her friends. His mother has gone to the High Court to try to get this reversed. She was much interviewed and never once made any criticism of her son’s behaviour. For her, the girl was to blame for showing round the image while he is now that most important and deserving thing in our society, a victim.
There are no authority structures left. Condemned as Victorian, they have been obliterated. Neither teacher nor parent, certainly no cleric, has control over a child’s behaviour or may inculcate a moral outlook. Some Christians, regarded as at best eccentric if not dangerous, are alarmed and upset by this. Andrea Williams of the Christian Law Centre recently suggested that the churches’ attitude might make bullying worse.
‘We’re all against bullying,’ she said, ‘but in framing the debate the way they do, they are in danger of becoming bullies.’ She might have been referring to the case of Joshua Sutcliffe, 27, a maths teacher in Oxfordshire who faces a disciplinary hearing and the potential end of his career for calling a transgender pupil a girl when she ‘identifies’ as a boy.
Welby is keen to tell Christians that there is no way back from this. Believers must make an accommodation with non-believers and the modern Western world, as he has. He has abandoned any fight for a specific Christian identity with a set of beliefs followers can hold to against all others and the changes they see around them. Perhaps he is being sensibly realistic, but I would like to see him personally offer to foot all future NHS bills for bunions.
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