Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Magazine article The Spectator

The Spectator's Notes

Article excerpt

The Passion narrative, read in all churches this week, reminds one of exactly why Jesus was put to death. In Matthew's account, it is based on the evidence of two false witnesses. They accuse Jesus of saying 'I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.' Then the chief priest asks Jesus whether he is 'the Christ, the Son of God'. Jesus replies: Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power. . . . ' This is denounced as blasphemy by the chief priest, and the crowd calls for Jesus's death. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, says that Jesus is a 'just person' but literally washes his hands of him and allows him to be crucified. I wonder how Jesus would fare under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill, in which the government is trying to include a clause banning 'incitement to religious hatred'. Although we are told again and again that this is not a blasphemy law, it is always what the faithful see as blasphemy which stirs up the greatest hatred, and it is the offence caused to the faithful which the law is intended to punish. Jesus most certainly caused offence to the (Jewish) faithful, and the Christian belief that he is God is blasphemy to Muslims (and, indeed, to Jews even now). If he were in Britain today under the new law, he would surely be one of its first victims, held in Belmarsh, perhaps, while lawyers debated whether he should be deported to Israel, or to the Palestinian authority, or tried here. And the Pilate role? It is not hard to think of a politician who fits that bill.

One victim of religious persecution this Holy Week is Adrian Hilton, the Conservative candidate for Slough. Last week Mr Hilton was summoned to see Andrew Mackay, the Tory MP who is in charge of candidates, and told that he must resign. His offence, it turned out, was that he had been attacked in the Catholic Herald and that John Gummer MP is on the board of the paper and thought that Mr Hilton should go. The order ultimately came, said Mr Mackay with a comic disregard for the implication of the phrase in this context, from 'a higher power'. The Herald dug up two articles which Mr Hilton had written in The Spectator in 2003, and decided to be upset by them. It said that a vote for Mr Hilton would be 'an insult to the faith of our fathers'. I have re-read Mr Hilton's pieces. What they say is that the Protestant succession in Britain is part of our historic attempt to guard our liberty against foreign power and that the European Union, Roman Catholic in much of its inspiration, is an attempt to take away the independence of a Protestant nation. Many will think that Mr Hilton is too literal-minded in his interpretation of the Catholic Church's political role today, but few could deny the huge influence of Catholic political and social doctrine on the EU. In any event, his view is an educated and thoughtful one, certainly not that of a 'bigot'. Besides, these articles were raised as a possible objection to Mr Hilton's original presence on the candidates' list, and the objection was overruled, so he is being treated utterly unjustly for them to be thrown back at him now. As I write, Mr Hilton is appealing against his dismissal by this kangaroo Spanish Inquisition, and the Slough association is standing by him. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.