I have blogged previously on the growing influence of Christian Evangelical’s on the Conservative party, here, here and here, and have asserted that we in the UK are witnessing the rise of a US styled Christian Reconstructionism within Evangelicalism, which seeks a Dominionist authoritarian form of pseudo-Christian society.
Two articles recently appeared in the British press arguing that there was an alignment between the Conservative Party and ‘fundamentalist’ or ‘evangelical’ Christians (depending on which piece you read) with their socially conservative ‘moral’ agenda.
The first was entitled ‘The right hand of God’ and appeared in the New Statesman written by Sunny Hundal. It was published before the election. The other, entitled ‘Tories and the new evangelical right,’ was published in the Guardian’s ‘Comment is free’ belief section on Andrew Brown’s blog after May 8th.
While both are about the same subject, only the first betrays a tone of scaremongering.
This difference illustrates and partially delineates where the real UK culture war lies. The line is not party political or between the sacred and secular. It is drawn between, on the one side, the religious and the secular who are willing to take a hospitable, if robust, view of their disagreements, and on the other, those religious and secular ‘fighters’ who seem unwilling to concede that a real humanity lies behind the ‘other’, and often resort to demonizing the opposition while claiming victimhood for themselves.
Andrew Brown represents the first sort. He understands that reporting on the changing landscape of the churches’ involvement in the public sphere in terms of US-style ‘culture wars’ is unhelpful for conservatives and liberals alike. More importantly, he understands that such comparisons are broadly inaccurate and too narrow. He recognises that the main players of the social conservative side of the Tory party have an agenda that is bigger than abortion or homosexuality. They have a desire for structural change to alleviate poverty, promote civil society and political engagement.
Sunny Hundal is the editor of the blog Liberal Conspiracy which ‘campaigns for liberal-left policies and causes.’ It should not be a surprise that he uses thermal language to ‘re-invigorate the liberal-left in Britain.’ As with parts of the fundamentalist ‘right’ Hundal’s conspiratorial-liberals are concerned about more than equality for homosexuals or women’s reproductive rights. It would be unfair to caricature his concerns as being purely about scaremongering. However, he has regretably agitated against legitimate relationships between a Conservative MP and socially conservative Christian pressure groups. The relationships are worth reporting on if only for the sake of transparency and accountability, but his stories tend to lack a bigger picture.
Brown and Hundal are right to warn about invisible but smellable combustible particles in the air. However, adding fuel to the incipient fire and thereby actually creating a US style culture war is not the same as pointing out the smell that precedes only a possible full-scale fire.