THE schism is coming to England. Will anyone care? Lord Carey's
latest intervention, in the form of a sermon picked up by the
Daily Mail, looks to me like a clear declaration of
intent. "Church risks break up, says Carey", ran the headline. "The
Archbishop spoke out as the C of E prepares for a fresh round of
internal conflict over gay rights.
"He said in a sermon at Chester Cathedral that the Church is
being 'shaken by seismic shifts and changes as a result of
disagreements on ministry, marriage and human sexuality'.
"Lord Carey said: 'We must not allow ourselves to fracture under
the colossal weight of dancing to the world's agenda'."
As metaphors go, "fracturing under the weight of dancing" is
pretty much up there with George Orwell's jackboots on the fascist
octopus. Perhaps it's a tap-dancing fascist octopus? But the
meaning is clear. If the Church yields to the pressure to recognise
gay marriage, then there will be a split.
So there will be a split. There is simply no way to reconcile
the global attitudes to homosexuality. The Pew Forum has just
published a wonderful graph on global attitudes to gay people. When
asked "whether homosexuality should be accepted", the figures in
Nigeria, Kenya, and Uganda saying it should came out at one per
cent, eight per cent, and four per cent respectively. The figures
for the UK, the United States, and Germany are 76 per cent, 60 per
cent and 87 per cent. There is no way that a global Church can have
a global policy that seems moral to both these constituencies. Nor
does breaking the figure down by age show that attitudes are
converging. If anything, young people hold more tightly to their
side of the divide.
Now, these are not only attitudes to homosexuality. They are
also tightly bound in with questions of manliness and womanliness.
They are part of the whole system of patriarchy that feminism so
radically disturbs. Straight male attitudes to homosexuality are
also attitudes to our own weakness. Can we afford it? Should we
tolerate it? It's interesting that, in those countries where there
is a gender gap in attitudes (by no means all), women are much more
tolerant than men.
The other things these figures mean, and especially the
divergence that they show, is that, in England, Lord Carey, as
usual, has backed the losing side. The pressure isn't really what's
coming from the Government. The Government is responding to what it
hears from the public; and what matters here is the widespread
delighted and incredulous laughter that greeted the UKIP candidate
who announced that the flooding in England was God's way of showing
what he thinks of gay marriage. I loved best the suggestion someone
on Twitter came up with - that we send gay couples to the Sahel in
the hope that, if they get married there in sufficient numbers, God
will end the drought. A very cheap and uncorrupted form of aid. If
only it were possible to believe it worked.
NO WONDER David Cameron is eager not to present himself as
religious. In an interview with the Mail on Sunday, he
presented himself not as someone who doesn't do God - too late for
that line - but certainly as someone who doesn't bother God at all:
"'I wouldn't say I seek guidance. I am a believer. I'm a classic
Church of England member, but part of the Church of England's
strength is the fact that it doesn't ask us to sign up to too much
of a canon.
"'I wouldn't say I drop to my knees and try to find divine
guidance - that's not what I do.
I've always found the teachings of Jesus and the Bible quite
useful as a sort of handy guide'."
This makes God sound like one of the bright young people in the
policy unit. Very useful, not to be forgotten at Christmas, and
helpful in supplying draft materials for speeches - but, really,
you have to watch that they don't give themselves airs. They have
no idea at all about what makes realistic politics.
MUCH the same lack of realism afflicts the wealthy Sunnis of the
Gulf, but in their case the consequences are tragic and horrendous.
The New Yorker had a fascinating piece on how the civil
war in Syria was being bankrolled by private individuals there. In
2012, "Fund-raisers appealed to potential donors with a simple
Koranic verse: 'He who prepares a jihadist for the sake of Allah
has received the reward of being a jihadist himself.' The words
were splashed on posters and put into tweets. Kuwaiti Sunnis opened
their pocketbooks. The rich transferred funds directly, and more
modest contributors sold their cars and their best jewellery in
order to send cash to Syria."
The main targets of this jihad, by the way, are neither
Christians nor Jews, but the Shia. Now that the war has become an
atrocious stalemate, the Kuwaitis are beginning to lose their
enthusiasm. But it's too late. There are some conflicts more
terrible than anything that faces the Anglican Communion.