Sunday, February 01, 2009

Silenced Christian soldiers: British army chaplain bans Creed 'so services won't offend minority religions'

Sandhurst military academy has dropped the Church of England Creed from services over fears that it may offend religious minorities. The move has outraged worshippers who say centuries of religious tradition have been sacrificed for the sake of political correctness. Senior chaplain Reverend Jonathan Gough dropped the Christian declaration of faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when he took office earlier this month. Mr Gough - nicknamed the `Right On Rev' by some of his flock - says he wants avoid offending non-believers.

But Christian cadets and civilians were furious when the traditional Anglican service abruptly ended without the Creed being read last Sunday. Although no official announcement was made, a fellow Chaplain said it had been removed `to stop upsetting cadets who do not believe in God'. Last night the Ministry of Defence confirmed the Creed, which also refutes heresy, had been withdrawn from services at the Royal Memorial Chapel to make the church more inclusive. This is despite the fact that it is not compulsory for any Sandhurst cadets to attend.

Both Princes William and Harry trained at the prestigious academy in Camberley, Surrey. One senior member of the Chapel yesterday said the decision to cut the affirmation of faith was ludicrous. He said: `It's a disgrace. Nobody was told and everybody has been left shocked and angry. It's just an attempt to be "right on".'

The Creed, found in the book of Common Prayer, begins: `I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried'.

Theologian, Dr Richard Bell, from Nottingham University, said it was `something that unites most Christians and for the vast majority it is the act of stating who you are' He added: `The Creed is the central plank of the Church of England service. If you give up on that you are effectively giving up on God. Frankly I'm appalled by this decision.'

Former army officer Patrick Mercer, who went on to become the Bishop of Exeter, last night led calls for the Creed to be returned. Mr Mercer, who trained at Sandhurst, said: `If you go to an Anglican Church service you expect to hear an Anglican service. I think the good reverend is being a little too precious.'

Mr Gough, 46, is a former secretary for ecumenism for Archbishop of Canterbury and has served in the Army for 20 years during conflicts in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and more recently Afghanistan. Last night he would only say: `I had many options to choose from.'

An Army said it was common practice to alter the service from time to time. `The people who are angry should sit down with Reverend Gough for a cup of tea,' a spokesman said.


Warning from British supermarket: This milk bottle contains, er, milk

In a nation seemingly overcome by health and safety paranoia, it's only natural for shops to seek to protect themselves from litigious customers. So even the most inoffensive products can be plastered with warnings that they contain 'nuts', 'eggs', ' shellfish' or some other potential allergen. Asda, however, really is milking this trend for all it's worth. Under the heading 'Allergy advice', plastic bottles of milk sold by the supermarket carry a serious warning - 'Contains milk'. Apparently, that the product is called milk and the milk is plain to see are insufficient signals to those who are dairy intolerant.

The Asda episode is indicative of a policy by supermarkets and food manufacturers to liberally stamp warnings on products to avoid legal complications. They fear that failing to include the warning will leave them vulnerable to compensation if a shopper suffers an adverse reaction. Last week it was revealed that the Happy Egg Company was selling eggs through leading supermarkets with a warning on the box saying, 'Contains eggs'. Earlier this month, Cadbury said it was including a warning, in yellow capital letters, that its Dairy Milk chocolate bar 'contains milk'.

Regulations issued by the Food Standards Agency require manufacturers to state on the packaging if goods contain allergens - a total of 14 substances including eggs, shellfish, nuts and milk. A spokesman for the regulator said it was not necessary to have an additional allergen warning on a milk carton. 'The use of allergenic ingredients must be declared on a label, but it can be anywhere, including in the ingredients list and in the name of the product,' she said. 'In the case of milk, where it is clear the product being sold is cow's milk, there is no legal requirement for a label to contain additional allergen advice.'

Many fear the use of unnecessary warnings risks bringing the allergy warning regime into disrepute. Readers who contacted the Mail after seeing the case of the Happy Egg boxes thought the warnings have gone too far. One wrote: 'Most health and safety advice, information and warnings have nothing to do with the health and safety of anyone and is purely about avoiding litigation.' Another said: 'I'm surprised no one has put a health warning on my Sunday roast chicken - "Not suitable for vegetarians".'

Food expert Tom Parker Bowles said: 'It does get to the point when warnings go too far. 'We don't need to be told a peanut contains nuts or eggs contain egg.'

Nine-year-old Rory Poulter noticed the latest warning while using Asda's semi-skimmed organic milk to cool his breakfast porridge. 'How ridiculous is that,' said Rory, from Richmond, Surrey. 'It is a carton of milk, just milk, why would anyone need to be warned that it contains milk? It's just silly.'

Asda admitted it had got things wrong and said it will remove the warning later this year. 'Everyone knows milk is milk,' a spokesman added.


The Times's Weak-Willed Women: How else to explain female absence from the sciences?

Women, feminists proclaim again and again, are strong, indomitable, and equal in every way to men. Except, that is, when they run up against an obstacle, thrown malevolently in their path, that is too formidable even for them, such as . . . a sitcom.

New York Times science reporter Natalie Angier recently called for renewed attention to the lack of proportional representation of women in science. (In the past, Angier has made something of a specialty of discovering proper gender role models in nature, along the lines of dominatrix polyps and sexually submissive male arachnids.) The imbalance in the sciences, Angier reported, is especially bad in physics, where just 6 percent of full professors are women. After canvassing some current theories explaining the imbalance, Angier offered her own scapegoats: "Bubble-headed television shows like `The Big Bang Theory,' with its four nerdy male physics prodigies and the fetching blond girl next door."

Imagine the devastation that such a show might wreak. A 15-year-old math whiz is happily immersed in the Lorentz transformations, the basis for the theory of special relativity. She looks up at the tube and sees a fictional group of male physics students bashfully speaking to a feisty blonde. Her confidence and enthusiasm shattered, she drops out of her AP physics course and starts hanging out at the mall with the cheerleading squad.

Gender-insensitive TV shows are just the start of the barriers blocking girls' entry to the empyrean of pure science. There's also the father of modern physics himself. What self-respecting girl wants to look like Albert Einstein? "As long as we're making geek [culture] chic" under our new, science-friendly president, Angier suggests, "let's lose the Einstein 'do and moustache." We're in whiplash territory here. For years, we have been told that the patriarchy brainwashes women into excessive concern with appearance. Now, however, it turns out that girls with an innate knack for science could be turned away from their calling just because the šber Role Model is frumpy. If Einstein had looked like Tom Cruise or Angelina Jolie, apparently, girls would be clamoring to participate in the Math Olympiad and earning their proportionate share of physics Ph.D.s.

Which is it? Are women "strong"? Or can they be crushed by fears of a permanent bad hair day and inspired by something as superficial as Hollywood fashion? Given the amount of time and money that most women spend on applying makeup, blow-drying their hair, shopping for clothes, and gullibly attending to preposterous wrinkle-cream ads in women's magazines, Angier's claim that girls could be thwarted by a TV comedy is not wholly unreasonable. It just happens to contradict the usual feminist claim that women are just as tough as men.

The evidence to date suggests that the highest-level math skills-those required for research physics-aren't evenly distributed among men and women. Men greatly outnumber women at the very highest and lowest ends of the mathematics aptitude curve. As Christina Hoff Sommers has documented, men also show greater interest in abstract, non-empathetic careers than women. Of course, the conflicting demands of raising a family and pursuing pure science undoubtedly influence women's career paths as well. If scientific pursuit can be made more family-friendly without in any way damaging its essential strengths, such changes should be contemplated. But the fertility clock and women's greater involvement with their babies are not chauvinist plots; they are biological realities.

Unfortunately, Angier's conviction that sexism lurks behind women's rarity in the most abstract sciences isn't confined to the New York Times or even to academia. A congressional bill, the Fulfilling the Potential of Women in Academic Science and Engineering Act of 2008, would apply Title IX gender quotas to academic science. Barack Obama endorsed the bill during the presidential campaign; women's groups are clamoring for action.

Obama has indeed presented himself as a science president. Rejecting feminist propaganda, however belatedly, regarding sexism in science would be a strong start in justifying that title. In the meantime, stay tuned for the latest twist in feminists' contradictory-dare one say, irrational?-apologetics.


The Pope and the nutty Bishop

Pope Benedict XVI's decision to rehabilitate a bishop who recently denied that 6 million Jews were gassed in the Holocaust caused sensational headlines, but the move was partly aimed at putting an end to such controversial remarks. On Jan. 21, the Pope lifted an excommunication order on four bishops belonging to the St. Pius X Society. The four were consecrated 20 years ago by the late ultra-traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre without papal consent, a move the Vatican said at the time was an act of schism.

So far, none of the bishops have formally accepted the teachings of the Second Vatican Council, a period of Church reform in the 1960s. Like their community's founder, Archbishop Lefebvre, they see the Council as a fruit of modernity that is secularist, anti-clerical and anti-Christian. To many, that marks them out as right-wing Catholic extremists with controversial views to match. One of the four bishops, Richard Williamson, is the most outspoken: not only does he deny that gas was used in the Holocaust, resulting in far fewer than 6 million deaths, but he has also suggested that the Twin Towers were brought down by "demolition charges" rather than hijacked airliners, and criticized the film "The Sound of Music" for a lack of respect for authority.

In the face of widespread condemnation for his latest remarks, the Vatican added its voice, calling Williamson's words "absolutely indefensible" and emphatically stating that lifting the excommunications and Williamson's anti-Semitism were in no way connected. Bishop Bernard Fellay, the head of the St. Pius X Society, also said Jan. 26th in an interview with the Swiss newspaper Le Temps that he "deplores the fact that a bishop has given the impression of implicating the Society with a viewpoint that is absolutely not ours."

The Pope has chosen to rehabilitate the bishops principally in the interests of Church unity - to bring back the bishops and their flock of around 600,000 followers into the Catholic fold. The timing of the Pope's decision, however, coming so soon after the airing of the television broadcast, has put the Vatican on the back foot. Vatican officials were clearly unaware of the interview when the decree to lift the excommunications was signed Jan. 21st. What was meant to be a courageous gesture of the Pope to further church unity has been overshadowed by Williamson's comments.

It also obscured another reason for the decree: to calm down the bishops' rhetoric and moderate their views. Like a wayward child needs to be taken home and talked to, so the Vatican views hopes these bishops, once back in the fold, will see the error of their ways - despite the fact they have shown no signs of embracing the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.

It's a big gamble, and has understandably upset those dissenting from Church teaching on the ideological left. If these bishops can be exonerated without recanting their views, why can't they? But more risky is that these bishops, because they have not been asked to change their positions, may see the Pope's move as a vindication of their dissent. So far, Bishop Fellay has hinted that to be the case, agreeing to reconciliation talks, but implying they will be on his terms.

The Williamson controversy is therefore a sideshow to more important issues at stake. Yet paradoxically, by rehabilitating these bishops, the Pope is trying indirectly to counter precisely those extremist views that have outraged Jewish groups. If the reconciliation talks are fruitful in the eyes of the Pope and Vatican officials, then all four bishops will have embraced the Second Vatican Council. That means they will have accepted the Council's documents, including its landmark declaration Nostra Aetate - a document that deplored all forms of anti-Semitism and revolutionized the church's relations with Jews. This could, therefore, signal the last time we hear Bishop Williamson spouting anti-Semitism. If it isn't, he's likely to end up in a schismatic sect - with just himself as pope.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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