I’ve been reading about Magna Carta and its Christian roots

The 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta was on Monday, 15 June.


I was reading an article by the EA’s David Landrum and he noted that even though the anniversary was extensively covered by the news media he noted that there was a deafening silence on the Christian roots of Magna Carta amongst our secular, liberal elites. He said this represents nothing less than historical deconstruction, an attempt to re-write history to suit their own worldviews and therein shape the future.

Landrum said: Be honest: how aware are you about the Christian roots of this historic document? Who do you think wrote it? Who do you think convened the meeting when it was signed? And whose demands are stated at the beginning and at the conclusion of it? Maybe it was the barons or nobles? No. It was the Church that wrote it. More specifically, it’s highly likely that it was the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton. Once exiled by King John – the truly awful king who was forced to sign Magna Carta – Langton was a theological genius with a particular interest in what the book of Deuteronomy had to say about equality before the law, even for kings. This was pretty radical thinking for the time, but imagine how it sounded to Moses and the Israelites. To the bishops gathered at Runnymede in 1215, the signing of Magna Carta represented nothing less than the culmination of a centuries-long war between the pagan and the Christian concepts of law and power.

David posed the question whether, as we debate British values and consider a British Bill of Rights, and the possibility at some point of a written constitution, will the debates display an embarrassment about God in public life. This would be to ignore the pivotal role that the Church, across the denominations, has played in contributing to the common good in the past and it would be a squandering of this resource in the present.

The story behind Magna Carta

King John murdered those who stood in his way. He seized property and twisted the law to suit his own ends. He imposed taxes without justification and he ignored legitimate authority and law to rule as a tyrant.

In May 1215 the barons rebelled and with an army they gathered and confronted the king. John knew he could not win so at Runnymede he signed the peace treaty known as Magna Carta. It only remained in force for ten weeks but was then replaced by others which built upon that foundation (it was reissued in 1216, 1217, 1225 and 1297). Its influence has remained for 800 years.

Clauses 39 and 40 are particularly relevant to our age, the age of Guantanamo Bay detention camp and illegal renditions (state kidnap).

Clause 39: “No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.”

Clause 40: “To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

36 Things Worth Knowing About Magna Carta

Empathy, self-hood, the drive to belong, community, and hope for our planet. See this great 10 min movie

This was well worth the ten minutes it took to watch it and will leave me something to think about for a long time. I have downloaded the notes so I can read them over.

I already knew about the one pair of parents we are all descended from, but as a Christian it is not that that gets me cheering.

I felt particularly stirred by comparing what Jeremy Rifkin was saying with the Christian gospel. It seems to me that it is the gospel which raises the possibility of connecting the human race beyond boundaries of age, face, gender, etc. like nothing else. Such a pity that down the centuries the gospel has been so often high jacked by those who wanted it as a boundary marker for gathering people inside while keeping others out. Having just been celebrating Christmas it seems to me that the coming of God to earth in human form illustrates that God is wanting to bring about the very things Rifkin points us to.

The small print and credits from the YouTube site:

Bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. Taken from a lecture given by Jeremy Rifkin as part of the RSA’s free public events programme.
Watch the full lecture here: http://www.thersa.org/events/video/ar…

The RSA is a 258 year-old charity devoted to creating social progress and spreading world-changing ideas. For more information about our research, RSA Animates, free events programme and 27,000 strong fellowship.
Find out more about the RSA at http://www.thersa.org
Join the RSA on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/thersaorg
Produced and edited by Abi Stephenson, RSA. Animation by Cognitive Media.

Nick Clegg is still bullish in his support for a law that could silence charities and campaigning organisations

nick-cleggJust yesterday he said:

I am unapologetically enthusiastic about a measure that will do a great deal to safeguard the integrity of the democratic process.” [3]

This reads like something from George Orwell’s 1984 – the current draft law would do pretty much exactly the opposite! The Commission of Civil Society and Democratic Engagement, supported by over 60 charities and organisations, and chaired by the former Bishop of Oxford, Lord Harries, says:

“There is no doubt that…part 2 of the Lobbying Bill risks profoundly undermining the very fabric of our democracy and significantly limiting the right of organisations – from charities and community groups to think tanks and blog sites – to speak out on some of the most important issue facing this country and the planet.” [4]

Other Lib Dems, particularly in the House of Lords, do seem to be starting to listen. [5] But Nick Clegg is the party leader. For us to win, he needs to change his mind. This Friday is our best chance yet to put pressure on him, with a public meeting in his backyard and a massive petition signed by hundreds of thousands of people.

You can add your voice here:

PS: Nick Clegg is refusing to attend his constituency meeting tomorrow and is sending a “representative” instead. That probably says a lot about how much pressure has been put upon him! Let’s hope his “representative” reports back to him how big the petition has grown.

[1] You can find out more details about the event here:
[2] A massive range of charities and voluntary organisations have criticised the gagging law. See this open letter, for example:
[3] This is how Nick Clegg responded to the gagging law in a recent debate (see column 1074):
[4] Foreword, Non-Party Campaigning Ahead of Elections by the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement:
[5] The government seems to have delayed the legislation because it was worried that if it didn’t, some Lib dem peers would join forces with Labour and Crossbenchers to vote the law down. And several Lib Dems, including senior figures like Lib Dem minister Lord Wallace, have acknowledged the concerns raised in the report the the Commission on Civil Society and Democratic Engagement. Several Lib Dems MPs also voted against the gagging law when it was last debated in the House of Commons, though a large majority voted in favour. See for example here:

Thanks to 38 Degrees for the above information.

Excellent lecture by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Find the time, 50 minutes, and settle down to listen

What a marvellous lecture by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. 50 minutes listening to this was 50 minutes well spent!

An insight on how the West became a civilisation, how we got here, and a message of hope for the future. But not without serious warning for our time too. Hear how to thrive in the secular context that no longer regards faith as central. Sacks outlined a vision in which religious communities—Jewish and Christian—can function as creative minorities.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaking at the 2013 Erasmus Lecture, 21st October 2013, at the Union League Club in New York. If you can not see it below view it at Vimeo at this link or the blue link below..

First Things Erasmus Lecture “On Creative Minorities” by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks from First Things on Vimeo.

Christian groups in schools: Secularists see exploitation schools see a service


I have recently been confronted once again by the proselytising that goes on by secularists. I find it interesting that they pretend to hold a completely neutral view and have no faith position whatsoever. Some secularists seem incapable of believing that people of faith can care about their world without needing to evangelise. This ignorance is repeatedly raising its voice.

A few seeks ago I heard about something that had been sent around schools in Scotland where some secular society was asking, under the Freedom of Information Act, for all sorts of details about faith groups going into schools.

Now I have come across an excellent post on godandpoliticsuk.org that offers a perspective on that sort of thing.

Gillian makes the point that:

The National Secular Society want religious belief out of public life, and on the back of a few complaints by parents of the activities and presence of Christian groups, see a crack into which they can gain some leverage to take on this particular public manifestation of belief. Because that is what this is, this is the work of Christians, committed to serving others, working in their local community and helping students in both their education and wider well being.

They want schools to keep a closer eye on such groups and tighten the criteria under which they can work with schools. But beyond that, they want faith out of public life.The idea of a public space with different religious beliefs, openly stated and gracefully communicated, and those motivated by belief serving others with care and compassion, is something most people would welcome. And it is something welcomed by schools. 

See the full excellent article here.

So is it same sex marriage? Or is it actually a redefinition of what marriage is?

It may seem an irrelevant point. Others would claim it is language used to enable each side to avoid hearing the other point of view. But what do the details tell us that are currently being unearthed by the debate in the House of Lords?

Now that the Bill is under the spotlight in the House of Lords some startling things are being discovered.

Faithfulness and Adultery
Faithfulness ‘not necessary’. Gone will be the statement that marriage is an exclusive monogamous relationship.

The exact quote from the Government minister is: “In terms of the law, marriage does not require the fidelity of couples. It is open to each couple to decide for themselves on the importance of fidelity within their own relationship.”

This means that, under the Bill, the Government can avoid the legal problems which would otherwise be created if it introduced laws about adultery or consummation for same-sex marriage. Now this is a redefinition of what marriage is. It would mean that a partner in a same sex marriage would not be able to divorce on the grounds of adultery or infidelity.

Hate Crime
The Coalition Government has agreed to change the criminal law so that that disagreeing with same-sex marriage will not be a hate crime.

But! Government ministers are being advised by officials in the equalities office to block any other protections in the civil law. So a person may not be accused of a hate crime but could still lose their job for their views.

Jobs Lost
Up until now, officials in the equalities office have been telling Government ministers that the Bill won’t harm the liberty of people who disagree with it. But after pressure in the House of Lords, Government ministers have admitted they want commercial companies to be able to sack staff who refuse to be involved with same-sex marriages.

The Government thinks commercial chauffeurs who object to a same-sex marriage should be dismissed. By the same logic, florists, photographers and cake makers would also be in the firing line. So far the Government has refused to allow any flexibility which takes account of people’s sincere beliefs.

Those who can expect to lose their jobs will be public sector workers like teachers and chaplains.

And of course we have yet to find out if church leaders will be appearing in court over their beliefs.

I am not against civil partnerships, though I think they should not be limited to sexual partners but should include friends or relatives who live together.