How Cult of Liberalism Made Faith a Dirty Word; Our Politicians, Judges and Royalty All Take an Oath of Office. Yet Religion Has Been Marginalised in Public Life by Decades of Political Hostility and the Rise of Aggressive Secularism

Daily Mail (London), March 18, 2017 | Go to article overview

How Cult of Liberalism Made Faith a Dirty Word; Our Politicians, Judges and Royalty All Take an Oath of Office. Yet Religion Has Been Marginalised in Public Life by Decades of Political Hostility and the Rise of Aggressive Secularism


Byline: John MacLeod

FAITH still plays a key part in the lives of many Scots but it is under siege like never before. In the second part of a pivotal series looking at religion, the spotlight turns to the rise of aggressive secularism.

CAROL Monaghan is the 44-year-old Nationalist MP for Glasgow North West, bespectacled, earnest - she taught science at Hyndland Secondary School - and, as with so many notable SNP women, has attracted little public attention. But she is a conscientious constituency member and, given her background, boasts a seat on the House of Commons science and technology committee.

And she was there on Wednesday, March 1, when a colleague stared and snapped: 'What is that on your forehead?' For it was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and Miss Monaghan - a sincere Roman Catholic - had been to church for Mass and the traditional 'imposition' of ashes, the priest marking the heads of the faithful while intoning, 'Thou art dust, and unto dust thou shalt return' The faithful sport this mark for the rest of the day, as a witness to others, Miss Monaghan politely explained. 'But this is going to be broadcast,' said her horrified colleague. The MP shrugged - and would not yield.

In short order there was an online BBC story and a still more shrill post on a BBC Facebook page - 'Was it appropriate for this MP to go to work with a cross on her forehead?' There was much fuss on Twitter. The predictable shrieking from secularists. How very dare anyone in public life make plain their Christian faith? The collapse of church attendance in Scotland has in turn, and most visibly in the past decade, seen the general flight of Christianity from the public square.

DREADFUL and highly publicised scandals have not helped. But Westminster and Holyrood are now spheres in which framing a consciously Christian argument would be thought the height of eccentricity - in a country where, in certain circumstances, you can be arrested for quoting Scripture in the street.

This is all the more remarkable in what is still, in law and constitution, an officially Christian land. We have an established Church in England and a national Kirk in Scotland, both on terms appointed by Parliament. Among the very first oaths our Queen took, at her accession in February 1952, was to uphold the Presbyterian order of the Church of Scotland.

At her Coronation, in 1953, she was solemnly presented with a Bible in joint ceremony by the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Moderator of the General Assembly. 'We present you with this Book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is wisdom; this is the royal law; these are the lively oracles of God.' Local councils are still annually 'kirked', as is each new Scottish parliament; non-denominational schools are still supposed to have some sort of Christian observance and (save for those who choose to affirm) a host of public servants, from police constables to High Court judges, must swear an oath of allegiance by almighty God. And yet, in recent decades and on a variety of fronts, a public Christian order centuries in the making has been steadily dismantled.

Our quiet old Sundays, once a day for rest and church and family, are now devoured by shopping and sports. Three decades ago, of a Sunday morning, you drove to church in Glasgow or Edinburgh through deserted streets.

Today, you will struggle to find parking. At least, on Sundays, it is still free, though City of Edinburgh Council - greedy for extra cash - threatens to introduce charges.

Scenes are now shown on national television which our grandparents would unhesitatingly have damned as pornography. Politicians and their hangers-on - as evident in such recent studies of the Brexit campaign as Tim Shipman's All Out War - now routinely speak, it seems, in foul and blasphemous language.

There are growing calls for churches to be stripped of charitable status; the Scottish Greens want to close Scotland's Catholic state schools. …

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How Cult of Liberalism Made Faith a Dirty Word; Our Politicians, Judges and Royalty All Take an Oath of Office. Yet Religion Has Been Marginalised in Public Life by Decades of Political Hostility and the Rise of Aggressive Secularism
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