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Welby is deluded to think we're a kind society

Welby is deluded to think we're a kind society

By Melanie Phillips
October 3, 2017

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has taken a hammering for claiming that the BBC didn't display the same integrity over its role in the Jimmy Savile scandal as the churches had done over allegations of child abuse in their own ranks.

The archbishop was immediately accused of hypocrisy. The broader point he made was perhaps more interesting. "I think," he observed, "we are a kinder society, more concerned with our own failures, more willing to be honest where we go wrong."

A kinder society? Really? True, there's huge emphasis on being a nice person. There is far less racial prejudice than there was. The needs of disabled people are accommodated and their sporting achievements celebrated. After the Grenfell Tower fire there was a huge outpouring of generosity and kindness as people donated clothes and food.

Yet at the same time there's tremendous cruelty and rising menace. Twitter and other social media constitute a tsunami of foul abuse and threats. Last week, the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg needed a bodyguard to protect her at the Labour conference. The Labour MP Emma Dent Coad vindictively attacked the royal family, misrepresenting Prince Harry's military record.

In Manchester, where the Conservative Party conference is being held, a banner suspended from a bridge urged "Hang the Tories" with two effigies of men in dinner jackets hanging by their necks from ropes attached to the bridge.

Public viciousness is now running at epidemic proportions. The archbishop seems to assume that mandatory professions of niceness and social concern are the real thing. Virtue signalling, however, is not the same as virtue. It consists instead of sentimentality, narcissism and hypocrisy. Worse still, it often hurts the very people the signallers are ostensibly trying to protect.

For example, an Italian prosecutor says he has evidence that some of the charities saving migrants in the Mediterranean are colluding with people smugglers in a trade that exposes migrants to violence, extortion and death by drowning.

While purporting to support marriage, the church undermines it.

In Britain, the halting of police stop-and-search under the banner of anti-racism led to more black boys being killed by other black boys. Under the banner of transgender equality children are being subjected to a form of child abuse by an adult world that is failing to treat or even wilfully exacerbating an often transient confusion. Children are among the principal victims of a society that conceals indifference or even cruelty beneath the shallow pieties of false compassion.

In a sermon last year to the Mothers' Union, the archbishop dismissed traditional family values as a sad Victorian "myth". He advised members to face up instead to the "reality of divorce, cohabitation and gay marriage in the 21st century".

People who condemn such unconstrained lifestyle choice are supposedly uncompassionate. In fact, the willed destruction of traditional marriage has left untold numbers of child casualties in its wake.

According to a Children's Society report in 2015, English children are among the unhappiest in the world, more so than in Ethiopia, Algeria and Romania. A third of children said they had been bullied in school.

The most likely reason for such misery is the rate of family breakdown, which research has shown is usually catastrophic for children's wellbeing. The OECD reported in 2012 that Britain had one of the highest rates of family breakdown in the western world, with only two thirds of children living with both parents.

According to the Office for National Statistics, family breakdown has risen by 8 per cent in a decade due to the increase in cohabitation, which founders much more frequently than marriage. Yet the Church of England synod decided in 2004 that, while reaffirming marriage as "central to the stability and health of human society", there was also a need for legal rights "for people whose relationships are not based on marriage".

In other words, while purporting to support marriage the church proceeded to undermine it. The reason is that, desperate to make an accommodation with the secularism that threatens to sweep it away, the church has made a devil's bargain with a society that has elevated immediate personal gratification as the highest good and will not allow anyone or anything to obstruct it.

Kindness means putting others first, the essence of biblical morality; the church has instead hung its cassock on radical individualism.

Most people genuinely want to do good by others. The church, though, has stopped providing them with the means to do so because it has lost faith in itself. In the resulting vacuum people have turned instead to secular ideologies such as multiculturalism, feminism, egalitarianism and so on.

These, though, are all utopian ideologies aimed at perfecting human nature and the world. Utopia is an impossibility. Throughout history utopian creeds have led directly to cruelty, tyranny and mass slaughter.

It is that tragic combination of the desire to create a kinder, gentler society with ideologies producing the precise opposite which has resulted in a society articulating the highest ideals while often acting with indifference or cruelty.

If the archbishop wants to create a kinder society he should do something really revolutionary. He should start robustly upholding and promoting the values and beliefs on which his church is based.

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