Entry from June 10, 2015

Although I haven’t seen it much reported on this side of the Atlantic, the Church of England has moved on from its last concession to feminists — with the appointment of female bishops — to an apparently serious discussion of whether or not the Church is henceforth to address the author of the Universe with masculine or feminine pronouns and thus, the further absurdity of asking (as the headline in The Daily Telegraph put it: "Is God a man or a woman?" Sally Hitchiner of that sometime conservative organ writes that

the Bible itself, Old and New Testaments, refers to God as giving birth (in Deuteronomy). She breastfeeds (Isaiah and Psalms), shows maternal kindness (Hosea, Isaiah and Deutoronomy [sic]); God is a girl who tirelessly hunts for a lost piece of jewellery (Luke). Jesus takes on the role of a young slave girl in washing his disciples’ feet (John) and expresses a wish to gather Jerusalem up like a mother hen gathers her chicks (Luke and Matthew).

"Admittedly," she goes on, "these images are few and far between." They are also acknowledged as metaphors and, like all metaphors, are meant to illustrate a point of comparison without implying an identity with the thing they are compared to. Yet Ms Hitchiner finds that, "for a text written back when women not only rarely owned property, but were seen as property in themselves, referring to the ultimate authority figure as female at all was pretty radical."

Odd, then, that nobody noticed this radicalism for millennia. Now, however, it has been noticed, at least by those with the greatest eagerness to notice it, so that it has become possible for her to write that such nugatory indications must be supposed henceforth to "make it impossible to say simply that God is male." If so, then it must also be impossible to pray, as our Savior taught us, "Our Father who art in heaven. . ." Or at least it must unless we suppose that Jesus himself anticipated the view of today’s "gender" theorists for whom neither fatherhood nor anything else is distinctively male, since that would imply a biological basis for the concept instead of the sociological one they prefer.

Not that Ms Hitchiner or the other cheerleaders for a sexless god would themselves necessarily put it in this way, but they do show the extent to which the ideologization of religion is now taken for granted, along with the right of the ideologues to proclaim their own reality. When people prayed to "Our Father who art in heaven" it was because they believed in the reality of God’s fatherhood. If they are now to be induced to pray to a heavenly mother or a heavenly hermaprodite or a heavenly transsexual instead, it will not be because their view of reality has changed but because they have come to believe that reality is no longer a relevant consideration for belief — or whatever passes for belief in the new world of postmodern religion.


Still on the transatlantic topic, the shock victory of David Cameron’s Tories in the recent election (on which subject see my most recent New Criterion article) has been particularly shocking to the left, who have been turning out into the streets to demonstrate, as the Greeks have done, against "austerity." When you think about it, "austerity" is a strange thing to demonstrate against. Leave aside the fact that, in Britain, austerity has been much more rhetorical than real. By that I don’t mean that the rhetoric itself has been austere. Rather the reverse. It has been extravagant and is getting more so, especially on the part of those who are against it. But isn’t being against it rather like being, as Calvin Coolidge’s preacher was, against sin?

Put it another way: is anybody for it? Austerity, like war, is by its nature something undertaken out of necessity. At least it must be so in a democracy where any government could expect to have to pay a heavy price if it were embarked on merely by choice. And, in fact, that’s exactly what the austere Tories of the last government — insofar as they were austere, or Tories — did not have to pay. In other words, most of the demonstrators’ fellow-countrymen accepted the necessity for at least some austerity. Are not the demonstrators, then, really demonstrating against democracy?

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