Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marginalization Debate

Yesterday I attended a panel discussion/debate regarding the question "are Christians the new marginalized minority in the UK?" (see details here: http://www.woolf.cam.ac.uk/news-and-events/news-3.php). Ed Kessler- the director of the Woolf Institute (which runs the Jewish-Christian Relations program) and a very well-respected speaker and columnist here in Britain - was the Jewish voice and leader of the discussion, then there was a Muslim, two Christians and a "humanist" (ie secular) representative.  The first woman to speak was a lawyer for the Christian law firm in London that deals with cases regarding Christian prejudice in the workplace, etc.  She was extremely bold in her declarations that (basically) Christian law should be British law.  I didn't agree with her vantage point, but I did have to admit that she was bolder in her declaration that all truth comes only through Christ than I would have been in a similar situation and I had to admire her courage and faith.  However, I wish her viewpoint wasn't SO conservative.  I'm afraid she was unable to express a reasoned argument for public tolerance of religion and the religious because of her insistence that Christian dogma alone should govern British society.  The humanist, David Polluck, annoyed me; he wore a smug grin the whole time the Christian lawyer was talking and attacked her disparagingly in his own portion of the debate.  I agreed most with the Jewish and Muslim perspectives, for both sympathized with the attacks that ALL religions are receiving in our increasingly secular society and expressed concerns that religious symbols of any kind are being banned from the public sphere.  Both Ed and Ziauddin Sardar (the Muslim voice - or A Muslim voice as he clarified) were articulate, sympathetic and expressed well-thought out pleas for the tolerance and respect of all faiths.  The vicar of Cambridge's Catholic church, Dr. John Binns, ended the panel discussion with (what I felt) was a rather passive "let's all get along and not disagree with anyone" speech that I found unsatisfactory.  The panel discussion whet my appetite for more of this kind of discussion and I am even more excited now for classes to start.  

3 comments:

Jacob & Clarissa said...

I think this is a discussion that needs to be had! I don't know if you've been following the madness that's happening in Utah over President Packer's conference talk, but it is out of control. I was reading comments on a news sight and one women said mentioned that 50 Cent can swear as much as he wants, Playboy can print what they want, but a prophet of God is expected to shut up and keep his thoughts to himself.

It seems that we are now expected to be tolerant of everything except religion.

Amy said...

Oh yes. As soon as President Packer sat down I looked at Courtney (because Dave wasn't there) and said, "this is going to be all over the news." Predictable. President Packer has never been afraid to say what needed to be said, though.

Ryan said...

Packer is the man! He may be a bit hard-line for some members (my roommate included) but what he said was a direct reiteration of Mormon doctrine and was in no way a tirade based on his personal beliefs. About your conference though Amy, that sounds interesting. Maybe you could fill me in a bit if you can on the british government stance on freedom of religion these days. Obviously the establishment and free-exercise clause in our first amendment would be the basis for this kind of debate here in the states. Do they have some kind of statute or precedent for religious freedom that they refer to when they discuss these issues? Just curious.

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