Tuesday, May 10, 2005
I also have a nice big 80GB hard drive to replace my 40GB one which is slowly dying of some wasting disease, like dodgy connectors. Hopefully I'll be able to get my data off it before it finally croaks. (It's not really on its deathbed -- I was exaggerating -- but it's getting old and I don't like the idea of being caught with my trousers down.)
Monday, May 02, 2005
Evangelical Christians in the UK seem to have been taking a leaf out of the American Christians' book of late, causing a fuss over everything from homosexual unions and Jerry Springer: The Opera to Section 28 and the teaching of evolution in schools. Evangelicals have had "a reputation" for a long time as being conservative on moral issues; what seems to have changed is that a certain wing of the British Evangelical church seems to think that it has the right to impose its views on everyone else.
In that context, the usual election discussions are being held across the country. I have had people ask me why I don't really bother too much about abortion and gay marriage when I consider how to vote.
It's a funny one, really. It never occurred to me that the ballot box is the right place to make individuals act morally. C. S. Lewis wrote very sensibly, applying what I consider a general principle to the specific situation of marriage and divorce. I have emphasised the general principle which he cites at the end.
[There is a] quite different question--how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce difficult for everyone,. I do not think that. At least I know I should be very angry if the [Muslims] tried to prevent the rest of us from drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives.And towards the end of Mere Christianity, in his chapter "Nice People or New Men", Lewis writes
Mere Christianity, Christian Marriage
'Niceness'--wholesome, integrated personality--is an excellent thing. We must try be every medical, educational, economic and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up 'nice'; just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world--and might even be more difficult to save.Lewis recognised what so many Evangelicals have failed to -- sure, we must strive for a world in which people are 'nice' (morally upright, socially just and so on) but we must not think that we shall have saved them. So let's not get in a twist about making non-Christians act like Christians, shall we? Not even Christians act like Christians, so goodness only knows how non-Christians will fare. And why do we think it would make such an eternal difference if it did?
So instead, I focus on voting for politicians who will get the government to do what is moral. Of course, that doesn't mean that it's an easy choice. The present government has been desperately trying to get "religious hatred" banned, despite the inherently anti-democratic, anti-religious and immoral nature of the proposal. Its ministers probably lied over the conflict in Iraq (a conflict which, by the by, I still support). And yes, it repealed Section 28. But on the other hand, it is thoroughly committed at the highest level to tackling Third World debt, poverty and hunger. It is committed to international co-operation and to reforming the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. It is committed to tackling climate change.
The Liberal Democrats, likewise, have excellent policies when it comes to the Third World (better, I think, even than Labour's). The Conservatives are, probably, better when it comes to "dog whistle" moral issues (although something people forget is that every party considers abortion a free vote issue) but I cannot hide my disgust at their approach to foreign policy. While they are a part of the cross-party consensus on the Third World (which I applaud), their refusal to condemn the IMF's iniquitous policies on protectionism which bankrupt countries before they have a chance to develop is worrying (for the record, protectionism is a necessary evil in a developing economy and an indefensible evil in a developed economy). And the Tory rejection of the way forward in European affairs is equally concerning. As an internationalist liberal, the constitutional treaty of the EU strikes me as one of our best hopes to consolidate the gains made over recent decades, and the accession of Atlanticist Eastern European states on equal terms will make British influence in the EU far greater than previously.
So, how do I vote? With an eye on the world, that's how. I understand people who think that the ills besetting British society are the worst ever; but I respectfully disagree. I understand people who think that when we vote, we only vote on domestic issues; but I respectfully disagree. I am of Mankind before I am British, and I will not let my vote be used to ignore the plight of millions around the globe because of a few hundred thousand here at home.