Downfall of the Bigots; Their Attitude towards Gays Typifies Both the Tories and the Church

By Sewell, Brian | The Evening Standard (London, England), November 12, 2002 | Go to article overview

Downfall of the Bigots; Their Attitude towards Gays Typifies Both the Tories and the Church


Sewell, Brian, The Evening Standard (London, England)


Byline: BRIAN SEWELL

IT was not Jeremy Bentham who said "The Church of England is the Conservative Party at prayer", but a forgotten suffragette, Agnes Maude Royden, a Germaine Greer of her day, author of the equally forgotten Woman and the Sovereign State, The Church and Woman and, broadening her scope, Modern Sex Ideals.

Bentham, however, could well have said it, for it was true in the 18th century, true in 1917 when Royden did say it, and true more than ever now, when the parallels between these two social organisations are startlingly clear.

The Church of England now has no belief that can be described as doctrine and the Tories have no ideology, only the 25 policies pulled like rabbits from their present conjurer's hat. Both are damagingly divided into irreconcilable factions; the C of E has a new Archbishop of Canterbury whom its evangelists regard with unremitting enmity and the Tories have a leader widely regarded as a hapless nincompoop.

The C of E has inflicted a mortal blow upon itself with the appointment of women priests and, perhaps soon, women bishops too; and the Tories are about to fix the system to favour women candidates for Parliament.

The C of E, once the Church of Empire even more than England, is now neither, but has surrendered the first and is wearily losing its grip on the second; the Tories, once fervently the party of Empire (who now remembers Empire Day, instituted a century ago last May?), now have only Gibraltar with which to taunt a Labour Government, and in Britain are all but irrelevant as Her Majesty's Opposition.

BOTH the Church and the party are faced with the rapid decline of Christian culture over the past half-century and the even faster decline of the lowercase conservatism that made the nation, across all classes, loyal to Queen, country and the casual customs of the Christian faith; and, as congregations decline, so do the memberships of Conservative associations.

As we now enjoy a society that is both post-Christian and post-Conservative, the remnants of the Tories and the C of E cast about for rallying cries and windmills against which to tilt, and both, in recent weeks, have, in bigotry and prejudice, hit upon the bogey of homosexuality with which to unify in old and stale intolerance.

Enter Jeremy Bentham, 1748-1832, founder of University College, London, jurist, social reformer, moralist and libertarian, believer in equality of opportunity rather than possessions, a man now largely forgotten, but whose influence for the better on English jurisprudence was profound.

As every law, said Bentham, is an evil because it is an infraction of liberty, the legislator must be certain that the evil he prevents by legislating is greater than the evil of the law itself. Among other offences, Bentham had homosexuality in mind, for the later 18th century was a period when men were hanged for sodomy and pilloried for groping boys.

Distaste and emotional prejudice, he argued, are not enough to justify such punishments.

Shrewdly, he observed that Christ was entirely silent on the matter of sodomy, indeed on the whole field of man's sexual irregularity, though compassionate to the adulteress; Moses, however, and St Paul were not, both legislating against it with the vehement asperity of tribal phobia.

Around 1814, Bentham thought to write a book called Not Paul but Jesus, decrying Paul's connection with Christ as tenuous and equivocal; the alleged menaces of sodomy to the status of women and the effectiveness of the army and navy he dismissed as nonsense and wholeheartedly embraced the Malthusian argument that sodomy was useful in restricting the increases in population that must bring overcrowding and starvation in their train. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Downfall of the Bigots; Their Attitude towards Gays Typifies Both the Tories and the Church
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.