Perspective Unlimited

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Christmas Fog

This is probably the last year I am in the UK. This Christmas, my wife Grace had planned to bring the family - including baby Elena - on a pilgrimage to Rome. She had booked the tickets and accommodation. More importantly, she had secured the tickets to the midnight Mass at St Peter's.

The big fog on the 23rd Dec however put paid to these carefully laid out plans. We were stuck for 7 hours at the Heathrow airport (including 4 hours in the plane sitting on the tarmac) before the flight was officially cancelled. So we find ourselves, back in our little apartment, just the three of us, eating a Marks and Spencer pre-prepared Christmas dinner.

Some flights managed to leave. Some friends travelling on another flight arrived in Rome and texted us last night when they were heading to the mass. We are naturally disappointed and frustrated, asking the inevitable question "Why us?" But during this important season for Christainity, we hold on tightly to our faith and trust that God has His reasons for this too.

Tony Blair's Conversion

Besides the big fog, one of the more interesting piece of news that emerged during this festive season was the conversion of former prime minister Tony Blair to Catholicism (and here). Of course, what religion he chooses is entirely a private matter, but such is his stature that his religious views have become national news. Most catholics welcomed his conversion, but there were some who were less generous even during this festive season.

Among them was a Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe (herself a Catholic), "If you look at Tony Blair's voting record in the House of Commons, he's gone against Church teaching on more than one occasion. On things, for example, like abortion," she said. "My question would be, 'has he changed his mind on that?'"

Not only on the issue of abortion had Tony Blair gone against the teaching of the Church. He supported stem cell research. He too supported civil unions for gay couples, and his government had passed an anti-discrimination legislation that granted gay couples equal rights to adoption despite the Church's loud protestations. Mr Blair famously said he was sick of "effing prelates getting involved in politics and pretending it was nothing to do with politics".

Separate Religion and Politics

Ms Widdecombe however glossed over perhaps what I thought was the most important point: many catholics support the separation of Church from politics. Even though I am personally aghast at the idea of abortion, I recognise that it is on balance better to keep abortion legal than to criminalise it and drive it underground. Likewise, though homosexuality is against the Church's teaching, many catholics are strongly against homophobia.

The Church is the guardian of Christian morality, it rightly has to take a public stand on many issues. But the prime minister has to care about the good of all citizens. Public policy should be made with public interest in mind, which includes the interest of atheists and agnostics, and not be pigeon-holed into the doctrines of any religious groups. Tony Blair should not have to apologise (not to us anyway) for policies that are against the Church's teaching.


  • Separate Religion and Politics

    Before making such bold statements, you may want to consider that your paymasters are somewhat conservative :-p


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:00 am  

  • Merry Christmas. I don't actually think it is a bold statement - it is quite a cliche in fact to say that politics and religion should be separated.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 12:26 pm  

  • Hey I thought the Church of England was a break out of the catholic church because King Henry the 8th wanted to get married one too many times and the Pope wouldn't allow it. So what is the big deal about Tony Blair going back to Catholism.

    I've been to the Vatican...awe inspiring place. The art museum was quite impressive. Sistine Chapel was unforgettable. I'm sure you & Grace will enjoy the trip.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 12:40 pm  

  • Lucky,

    Merry Christmas, Happy New Year. Hope the stock market is good for you in 2008.

    Unfortunately, we did not get to go on the pilgrimmage to Rome despite our best effort. Unforgettable indeed, having spent 10 hours in Heathrow (and 4 in the plane) on a trip to nowhere.

    If you read one of the links I have in the main post, you will see an article that says that Catholic churchgoers are outnumbering Anglican ones for the first time since the Reformation. One of the reason is the immigration. Large number of catholics from Eastern Europe (eg Poland) are boosting the number of catholics in the UK.

    My main point is that it is probably a good thing for politicians to have religious faith, but it is necessary for politicians not to make policy based on their religious faith alone.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 5:26 pm  

  • bart,

    I'm not too optimistic when it comes to the stock market for 2008. All I want to do is keep some cash so that I can buy some bargains in the US market. This year the market took off and was devoid of buying opportunities except in Aug. I thought US fiancials were cheap since the GIC/Temasek started moving in, but did some asking around, there appear to be more toxic waste (floating around but the banking system won't collapse?). People in Citibank are not keen to buy their own stock now at less than half price.

    I also think it is a good thing for politicians to have some religious faith - good that they fear God. As long as there is concensus among religions, I think it is okay for a politicians' decisions to be shaped by his religious beliefs so long as it is common to his society. I took the other side on the 377A issue but can see where those who oppose its removal are coming from. On the gambling/casino issue, the religious bodies seem to be on the same side as those who oppose it....and I'm sure some MPs who spoke against the casino are somewhat influenced by their religious faith.

    By Blogger LuckySingaporean, at 11:15 pm  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 11:51 pm  

  • I actually disagree with some of the things you mentioned. My observation is that many lawmakers are using religious beliefs (and increasingly so particularly when it comes to grey social areas) to justfy their positions.

    I think this is an unhealthy development, even if the lawmakers are reflecting the religious beliefs of the majority. Religions should not be the fig leaf to cover or disguise the lack of convincing logical argument. Lawmakers who use religious arguments when it suits them always run the risk of being inconsistent. Many spoke against 377A, but would the same lawmakers speak against stem cell research or abortion?

    Tony Blair is an exceptional politician. There is not point where his Christian beliefs came across as insincere. Because he never used religious beliefs to justify his positions when it suited him, he could support legalised gambling, abortion, stem cell research, and rights for gays without being inconsistent.

    By Blogger Bart JP, at 11:59 pm  

  • Bart,

    Happy New Year!

    This is a pretty random comment: the KTM has come to realize that a lot of people don't actually understand the meaning of separation of religion from politics, obvious it might seem. :-P

    By Blogger kwayteowman, at 4:04 pm  

  • look this is the "diet" i told you about you should really enter the site :) bye enter the site

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:19 pm  

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