At the end of the year I am as depressed as ever by the political and media establishments – and most of all by the Church of England.
A stranger to our culture might well assume the British ‘establishment’ had one shared ambition over this last year: to defend modern culture as defined by selfish individualism, multiculturalism and the cultures of complaint and victimhood, at all costs.
The Trojan Horse schools fiasco that might have acted as a wake-up call only revealed the establishment’s careless approach to our Christian heritage and the total confusion of modern liberal secularism over competing rights and values.
If one ‘credo’ stood out it was an obsession with the belief in self. Rights rather than what is right or wrong was again the stuff of the BBC’s Thought for the Day. I waited in vain for any homilies on the curse of selfish behaviour.
Then, far from “suffer the little children to come unto me”, the BBC’s PC message to children this Christmas has arrived in the form of an adaptation of David Walliam’s, “The Boy in the Dress” – the boy who dared to be different. This is what children must be taught at all costs – the Secretary of State for Education and the BBC agree – how children must not be homophobic and how to obsess about yourself. So much for childhood innocence.
The child’s right to be ‘transgender’ is sacred in the modern world. But the rights culture is by definition anti-children. Children must be managed, our politicians once again decreed – babies herded into daycare, children into open-all-hours schools – to be sacrificed at the adult altar of self fulfilment, empowerment and Mammon. Last year’s child catcher honours were shared by George Osborne and Nick Clegg.
Like New Labour before them, I have no doubt that they believe that “every child matters”.
But what I wonder do they make of the adolescent mental health crisis and the epidemic of self harm – described by children as their way ‘to find relief from a terrible state of mind’. Do they not ponder on its cause?
For if ever there was an indictment of a society it is this – children so distressed that to relieve themselves of their emotional pain they have to cause themselves physical pain. As for the media, it was just another year; blame the ‘24/7 online culture’, bullying, school stress, sexual pressures and family breakdown, then onto the next episode of the daily news soap opera.
We still await any real examination of what is rotten in the state of our society.
Yet does it take much reflection to see that the child and adolescent ‘crisis’ is the outcome of “excessive individuation” as the founding father of sociology, Emile Durkheim, termed it, in an overly regulated society in which traditional social and religious ties are no longer assumed, or have been abandoned? Or to see that without them society cannot maintain its integrity and coherence?
That propping up the transparently dysfunctional social system that adherence to modern norms has spawned – the establishment’s agreed solution – makes matters worse? What is so soul destroying is that when we need our common tradition of Christianity more than ever to navigate us through the modern maze, all we get is a row about food banks. Not about the poverty of our ‘lifestyles’ culture.
Though it is against the background of Christianity that our thoughts and behaviour still have significance, our established church no longer guides us into better living. You only have to read the wavering and equivocations of Archbishop Welby on gay marriage to see his and his church’s near terminal confusion.
Confronted with the modern creed of self-fulfilment, with the secular moral high ground of ‘thou shalt not judge’, with gender and equality diktats, the Church of England has lost its way. Welby’s arrival has not got it back on course.
No wonder its pews are still empty.
Like T S Elliot, I do not believe our culture can survive the disappearance of the Christian faith. We need not just its toleration, compassion but its moral rules. That’s why politicians talking the talk of family breakdown is so meaningless when it avoids the simple (Christian) truth of what this breakdown is, what it means and how we have caused it.
In Peter Franklin’s well-chosen words it is, “the weakening of the marriage-based nuclear family made economically feasible by the welfare state and sometimes celebrated on the Left as a form of liberation.” It has torn our social fabric to shreds and has left children vulnerable and exposed. The longer “the fundamental bonds between husband and wife, parent and child are left lying broken all around us”, the more at risk children are – emotionally and physically.
The modern Church of England must take responsibility for its failure to insist on marriage’s centrality to civilised life and to children’s welfare.
With all the self-congratulation over women bishops it needs to examine its priorities. The irony that they now can have “wimmin” as well as men leading them into total irrelevance while children’s needs are ignored is lost on them. They have proved hopeless, worse than hopeless, in stemming the tide against individualism (driven by feminism) and, indeed, the Islamification of Britain.
And when they don’t understand the centrality of marriage as the fundamental social contract, or in eliminating modern poverty, I feel I might as well give up. Prevention not treatment is the cure: marriage and a tax system supporting it and mothers at home – not food banks. You only have to see the expansion of Louise Casey’s ‘troubled family’ domain (that arch interventionist and former New Labour trouble-shooter) , “early intervention”, working tax and child tax credits, designed to ‘support’ lone and cohabiting families, to see it succeeds in one thing. They draw more families into the orbit of dependency, not into the economic freedom that ‘self fulfilment’ is contingent on.
Laura Perrins has argued vigorously and correctly on this site and through the Twittersphere that such freedom is contingent on social conservatism not on social liberalism. She is right but the politicians are not listening.
As Peter Franklin says, politicians would rather fret about such matters as ‘the patriarchy’ (tell that, he says, to the millions of children that grow up with little or no contact with their fathers) than face the need for marriage.
No, state intervention is still the answer, even to the critical issue of infant mental health.
A group of infant mental health experts I listened to the other week were asked what, in their opinion, would be ‘the game changing policy which would support the optimum development of babies’? No prizes for guessing what they assiduously avoided mentioning: marriage, mothering and breastfeeding. Getting the basics right for a newborn is irrelevant. Taboo – verboten – in fact.
“We must not talk about mothers”, one announced as though it was a dirty word. “We need to target parents’ vulnerabilities not just the mother’s depression”, another stated, with no intended irony. Their doublespeak turned mother into parent – even though no dad parents are around – and denied the uniqueness of motherhood too.
The CofE’s collaboration in the demise of the traditional family has much to answer for.
Our rave-party loving PM’s ‘protecting children online’ initiatives are peripheral and pointless compared with his need to address the fundamental of marriage.
That’s why at the end of 2014 I am depressed. There is no sign of the political and media elite giving up the me culture they’ve done so well by and embracing marriage.
I don’t suppose Archbishop Welby will take a stand on this either for his Christmas message, whether in terms of our spiritual welfare, children’s needs or the common good.
Maybe next year he will see the light. I live in hope.