The Bible Bashers are coming…

In Italy a conservative party with the word Christian in its title, won every single General Election from the end of World War Two until the 1990’s (and there were an awful lot of elections in that period).

The Christian Democrats are not around anymore after being caught with their holy hands in a lot of tills but a certain Signor Buttiglione is a reminder that their politics, and most of their leading politicians, live on – and in power (with post-fascists, current racists and led by a billionairre who changes the law to get himself off corruption and tax evasion charges. If you want another right-wing government to get upset about march on Rome…..)

Apparently, in Germany, a conservative party called the Christian Democrats, allied with a Bavarian party called the Christian Social Union, have won most of the post-war elections and could well win the next one unless the SPD pull their fingers out.

I’ve even heard rumours that there are large and influential Catholic voting blocs that have helped conservative parties to power in Spain, Portugal, France and the Republic of Ireland among other nations.

Indeed the main conservative coalition in the European parliament is made up of parties who are explicity pro-Christian. Unless I am mistaken there was recently a strongly supported bid to have a reference to Christianity included in the constitution of the European Union.

As David Aaronovitch notes in the item below, not many countries in the EU even have such a thing as ‘gay marriage’ for conservatives to get all upset about.

Talking of which, the tactic used by US Republicans to get the ‘moral vote’ out was to hold what were effectively referendums on ‘defining marriage as between a man and a woman’. What do you think the vote would go like on that question in Poland or Portugal? Or even in a less religious country such as Britain? What position do you think conservative politicians would recommend in such a referendum?

Actually talking about enlightened secular Britain, we have elected Christians to the House of Commons of course, even if they don’t stand for election as ‘Christian candidates’. I have heard that even the Prime Minister is a believer.

But we also have a group of men that I strongly suspect even the most religious US Republicans would object to. They are known as the Lords Spiritual.

For the benefit of our foreign readers – none of these members of the UK’s second chamber are elected. They gain their place in the UK’s political system on the basis of their seniority within the The Church of England. It is worth reminding ourselves about them before we get too carried away about the influence of religion on the US political system:

The Lords Spiritual consist of the Archbishops of Canterbury and York and twenty-four diocesan bishops of the Church of England, all of whom have seats in the House of Lords. Three of the twenty-four seats are always filled by the Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester; the remainder being filled according to the order of seniority of consecration (with the exceptions of the Bishops of Sodor and Man and of Gibraltar who are ineligible to sit in the House of Lords). Archbishops and bishops who are entitled to a seat in the House of Lords possess all the faculties and privileges of peers of Parliament during the time they hold office. On resigning his see a bishop ceases to be a peer of Parliament and his seat in the Lords is taken by the next longest-serving diocesan bishop.

The Archbishop of Canterbury is the first peer of England next to the Royal Family, preceding not only all Dukes, but all the great officers of the Crown. The Bishop of London is his provincial Dean, the Bishop of Winchester his Chancellor, and the Bishop of Worcester his Chaplain. “It belongs to him to crown the King”; the Sovereign and his or her Consort are speciales domestici parochiani Arch Cant (parishioners of the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury).

The Archbishop of Canterbury is Primate of all England. He is entitled to the prefix of ‘Your Grace’ and styles himself ‘By Divine Providence, Lord Archbishop of Canterbury’.

The Archbishop of York (‘Primate of England’) is the third peer in the United Kingdom, preceding all secular peers, except the Lord High Chancellor. He is entitled to the prefix of ‘Your Grace’, styles himself ‘By Divine Providence, Lord Archbishop of York’, and possesses within his own province powers nearly equivalent to those exercised by the Archbishop of Canterbury within his. His precedence rests on an Act of Parliament in 31st year of Henry VIII.

Diocesan Bishops of England in the Lords are also peers of the kingdom and of Parliament, and take precedence of the temporal barons. The Bishops of London, Durham, and Winchester have precedence over all the other bishops who rank according to the seniority of their consecration. A Diocesan bishop with a seat in the House of Lords is entitled to the prefix of Lord, and styles himself ‘Right Reverend Father in God, by Divine Permission, Lord Bishop of —’.

After thought: Having glanced at the first comments, let me explain why I posted this information. The people who have been going into spasms about the influence of believers on US politics in the past week have spectacularly ignored the above facts and the long history and continuing reality of an organised Christian presence in European politics and European governments, including the remarkable constitutional situation in the UK.

There is a need for a bit of perspective in this debate. Likewise with those who see the rallying against gay marriage as a sign of the dreadfully reactionary state of US public opinion when there is little doubt that, like it or not, the vast majority of Europeans would vote the same way if anyone ever put the question to them.

I mean isn’t it odd that “liberal Britain” is having kittens about the religious right in the United States while hardly raising a murmur about the fact that unelected Bishops are granted an automatic place in our political system or that creationists are being given a role in the education system?