Shock, horror. Kate Forbes, a practising member of the Free Church of Scotland accepts her church's views on gay sex, equal marriage, having children out of wedlock and ordaining women as ministers and elders. The Wee Frees are a small denomination with obscure religious principles who choose to remain outside or separate from the much larger Church of Scotland. Their preference is to remain a smaller but ideologically sound group rather than a larger compromised one.
When I was active in the church, it was in the larger 'compromised' Church of Scotland, where I was free to hold my own views while it was free to engage constructively with the changing values of contemporary society. I am no longer in any church but that does not make me a libertarian. I don't believe that in the name of equality 'anything goes'. I have strong views on women's rights and am against changes to gender recognition that compromise those hard won rights. Nor do I believe in the untrammelled rights of sex workers. Prostitution is a form of sexual exploitation. I also believe it is very misguided to defend illiberal anti-pluralist attitudes on the grounds that it would be illiberal and anti-pluralist not to.
I have some sympathy for those who point out the double standards of calling out the views of the Free Church while turning a blind eye to those within the Muslim faith community who hold broadly the same views. The difference is that in mainstream Christianity and Islam there is scope for the promotion of progressive values such as gender equality, human rights, LGBT rights, women's rights, religious pluralism, freedom of expression, freedom of thought and the rejection of fundamentalism. There are also those within these faith communities who strongly oppose these progressive values. Kate Forbes was disingenuous to suggest that she was simply part of mainstream Christianity in expressing her beliefs. The truth is the Free Kirk is far from the mainstream, has no liberal wing and therefore offers no safe place for the promotion of liberal social values.
There is a bit of a postcode lottery when it comes to politicians expressing socially conservative views for religious reasons. In Northern Ireland and even parts of the Highlands and Islands, it was almost expected. Remember the Rev Ian Paisley? His hostile opposition to abortion and homosexuality and his belief in a literal interpretation of the Bible led him to found his own tiny Free Presbyterian Church. When Robin Cook MP moved an amendment to legalise homosexual acts to the Bill which became the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 1980, he stated: 'The clause bears the names of hon. Members from all three major parties. I regret that the only party represented among Scottish Members of Parliament from which there has been no support for the clause is the Scottish National Party'. When the amendment came to a vote, Western Isles MP, Donald Stewart, and the SNP's other MP Gordon Wilson both voted against the decriminalisation of homosexual acts.
The tradition at Westminster has been for the main parties to allow conscience votes on the big social issues like abortion and equal marriage. However, no conscience votes were offered to those who felt it morally wrong to go to war or renew nuclear weapons. They faced three-line whips.
It's one thing to apply some ethical casuistry to backbench politicians with 'dodgy' views to let them off the hook. It's quite something else when you are selecting someone to lead a government. That person has to be a champion for the administration they lead – for its enacted and proposed legislation, its policies and programmes. It's no use if that person's publicly expressed beliefs are at odds with those of the government.
Aspiring political leaders and those who promote them would do well to remember the words of Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair's director of strategy and communications. When an interview with the then Prime Minister strayed on to questions about his Christian faith, Campbell quickly intervened to say emphatically: 'We don't do God'.
The row about the bowdlerisation of Roald Dahl's books does make one wonder just what today's sensitive youth would make of some stories one grew up reading. That fat
is not an acceptable adjective does not surprise but that enormous
seems okay does. Being called Fat Bob was part of my childhood, as Oor Wullie and I are of an age. It is possible, as I no longer read the Sunday Post
and cannot check, that DC Thomson have moved with the times. They have changed Wullie's clothes I discovered on Google but it provides no information about Bob.
Names do matter. When my niece christened one of her sons Parker, for me that suggested for his schooldays at least – and possibly beyond – he would be known as Nosey. It did not happen which is a sign of the times. People read mobile phones and laptops rather than comic strips in newspapers. But thinking of the books I read when small, surely the works of Richmal Crompton and Evadne Price would be heavily blue pencilled given the way William and Jane behaved to the likes of Violet Elizabeth Bott and Amedlia Tweedale, and assorted spinsters and members of the working classes.
When it comes to more serious fare from the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Robinson Crusoe would very likely come a cropper over Man Friday and, while Little Women
might just get by, Louisa M Alcott's Good Wives
would never do in this day and age.
Things past should not be altered for commercial reasons, which is what happened with Dahl, just served up with a warning that maybe the contents will shock and horrify but they are of their time and as a window on the past show how things have changed for the better. The same goes for old movies and television shows. Benny Hill is a case in point. His Thames TV ones are currently being shown somewhere on Freeview and while still funny, they also take the breath away at what he got up to or perhaps got away with.
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