Church of Socialism
Margaret Thatcher now retires from the public arena due to ill health,
I still remember well the scene as she assumed the pulpit as Prime
Minister to deliver her address on "Christianity and Wealth" to
the 1988 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
was also memorable for other reasons was the sight of various ministers
of Scotland's largest presbyterian denomination queuing up to register
their formal protests before she began her famous "Sermon on the
Mound" (the Mound being the site of the General Assembly building).
may wonder what their protests were about. Was it because Margaret
Thatcher had publicly denounced the doctrine of the Virgin Birth
or cast doubt upon the physical resurrection of Christ? Not very
likely since a lot of them had themselves jettisoned such "outdated"
notions long ago. No, it was because they were socialists and she
was a conservative. It was because they saw themselves as the champions
of the poor and her as the champion of the rich. Prophets versus
profits and all those types of tired clichés. By way
of example, one of their own, the Principal of the leading Scottish
faculty of theology, the New College, said this of the Thatcherite
didactic (cited from this link):
is a crisis and a challenge to theology when the gospel is reduced
to slogans or weapons which the prosperous and powerful use to defend
their privilege against the weak and poor."
the speech (see here
for extracts) makes me wonder whether the principal and I were reading
the same address. In it she emphasised personal responsibility and
the importance of wealth creation as opposed to the wealth redistribution
that they love the State for. Margaret Thatcher quoted the well-known
maxim from St. Paul that "If a man will not work he should not eat."
which would surely raise the hackles of those who fail to distinguish
between the deserving and the undeserving poor.
must have been a delicious sense of irony (or revenge?) when mere
months later, the Conservative government imposed the head or Poll
Tax on Scotland, but not the rest of the British Isles for a further
year. If that had happened before the Sermon on the Mound, I could
see them queuing up to throttle her instead.
the smaller and more doctrinally conservative churches are not free
of this prevailing socialist mindset as we see in the presbyterian
denomination called the Free Church of Scotland. Some readers may
recall that their leading theologian, Professor Donald MacLeod,
was at the centre of a sexual harassment case involving several
women a few years back and which eventually led to yet another breakaway,
presbyterian group called the Free Church Continuing being formed
example will suffice to show this when I recall one of their ministers
offering up this peon of praise to Almighty God: "We thank thee,
O Lord, for the government's Working Families Tax Credit scheme!".
Well, when that particular brother reaches the Golden Shore, he
may find that the devil was in the details. Neither should we think
he is a peculiarity to that denomination as we read the various
columns by their leading lights which would no doubt draw a hearty
but atheistic "Amen!" from the socialist plutocracy in Scotland.
wonders what their most famous forefather, Thomas Chalmers, would
make of them today. Chalmers was one of the leading churchmen of
Britain in the early 19th century as he embarked on his famous experiment
of the "godly commonwealth" in poor inner-city parishes to establish
private schools and financial support based on the recipient's moral
character and self-help ethos using private funds. He opposed democracy
as a sure route to anarchy, condemned trade unions and believed
in the voluntary redistribution of wealth via philanthropic activity.
Indeed, the authors Drummond and Bulloch said of Chalmers:
He gave something like a divine sanction to the consequences of
uninhibited free enterprise.
as Clifford Thies remarks in his article
efforts to reform the poor laws went hand in hand with his opposition
to the Corn Laws, which restricted international trade in order
to "protect" domestic agriculture; to grants of legal monopoly to
industry; to prohibitions against free unions; and, to the heavy
burden of taxation upon the labouring classes. In all these cases,
he saw government interferences with the workings of a free society
- including both its competitive and cooperative spheres - as disrupting
the natural, or even the divine order of things.
seems that the Free Church of Scotland's main founder and greatest
luminary was a christian libertarian and truly a man of vital energy
and ideas. A self-made man driven by the grace of God who could
motivate those around him into the belief that the solution to poverty
lay not in the State but in their own direct sacrifice and effort.
What more could we expect from a man and his fellows who split from
the Church of Scotland in 1843 and built their own churches and
college with no help from anyone but themselves and often in the
teeth of opposition from those in authority. We very much doubt
that Chalmers would countenance modern State lottery funds for church
complete contrast today, the aforementioned Free Church Continuing
is going cap in hand to the State in order to sue the original Free
Church for all its assets rather than getting their hands working
in the manner of their 1843 forefathers. Chalmers' spiritual progeny
now give thanks to God for State handouts rather than the tools
God has placed in their own hands. What a pity.
the drive for individual reformation that these churchmen inspired,
something went terribly wrong as the liberal gospel of the higher
critics took hold and with it came the socialisation and humanisation
of the gospel message. Ecclesiastical leaders are now only distinguishable
from Statist social workers by their dog collars and they preach
a message of salvation via economic and political equality. As the
Anglican Church was once called the Tories at prayer, then so we
could today describe the Church of Scotland and its off-spins as
the Socialists at prayer.
what does this tell us about a small country like Scotland? One
immediate inference would be that we do not have full possession
and control over what we think or profess. Scotland is a predominantly
socialist country and it is no surprise that it should produce socialist-minded
churches. The well-known psychology of herd mentality and peer pressure
establishes that beyond doubt.
you are surrounded by people who espouse a certain philosophy then
there is a higher than average probability that you will end up
espousing the same views. This is especially assured if one was
brought up as a child in such communities. The fact that one may
object to this on the grounds that one has studied and confirmed
the subject for themselves does not bear much water when everyone
is claiming the same thing for opposing views in opposing communities
to the extent that they may even use the same "empirical" data to
draw out different inferences. One good example of this is the Bible
itself and the degree of apparent ambiguity that lies within it
to spawn a variety of political and economic interpretations that
so often lends itself more to personal bias and the surrounding
culture than sound exegesis.
yes, without personal bias, I believe the Bible teaches a minimalist,
this state of affairs is no doubt magnified by the near parochial
size of the country and the ease which this offers to the more rapid
transfer of information and opinions of the best or worst kind.
be it, but one further situation which adds to the status quo is
the unjustified mentality of the "oppressed ones" that Scotland
has felt living under Westminster rule for nearly 300 years. If
you feel that you are somebody else’s inferior because of the "system"
then you are a budding candidate for the socialist cause, which
so often has arrogated to itself the title of Help of the Helpless.
A socialist church has no problem in adopting this scenario and
forging the idea of the Messianic State as God's main engine room
of change on Earth for the oppressed and downtrodden.
is why communism prospered in countries where poverty and a feeling
of despair reigned and Liberation Theology got a hold in the Central
American equivalent of our Scottish story. Of course, these things
did not disappear once they took over and that is why a chastened
people would never allow them back in again. As history recounts,
Scotland was a failure as an independent country and did not have
access to the markets of the British Empire until the union was
formed with England in 1707. Thereafter, free market enterprise
had an entrance and the spirit of endeavour cast men from a truer
mould of independence as we see in all aspects of society from Thomas
Chalmers in the church to Adam Smith in the university and to Carlyle
fruit of modern socialism in Scotland today not only infects the
church but all echelons of Scottish civilisation. An atmosphere
of envy and apathy chokes the air as all roads lead to the State
in Westminster and Holyrood. The unholy socialist trinity of church,
state and democracy ensures it, and, as God declared to Jeremiah,
the people love to have it so.
Watson [send him
mail] writes from Edinburgh, Scotland.
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