The reason why conservatives on both sides of the Atlantic have lost their way so badly in recent years is that they never understood, and paid scant attention to, the culture wars. In Britain, this has now led some of them to come out as warriors on the wrong side.
Conservatism is not an ideology but an attitude of mind. It involves identifying and holding onto what is most valuable and defending it against erosion or attack. In the 18th century this was embodied in the thinking of Edmund Burke, widely considered to be the philosophical godfather of conservative thought, when he defended freedom and human rights against the barbarism of the French Revolution.
In the 20th century, conservatives knew what they were defending and against whom. They were defending liberty and democracy against Soviet communism. When the Soviet Union collapsed, they assumed their fox had been shot since everyone seemed to have accepted capitalism.
What they never understood – at least, most of them – was that the left-wing war to destroy the west had not in fact ended but merely shifted its strategy. Instead of the workers seizing control of the levers of the economy, the left would now seize control of the levers of the culture – the universities, media, civil service, churches, the legal profession – and subvert them from within.
Its aim was to undermine and weaken the normative values of the west and then flip them, so that what was transgressive became normative while what was normative became ostracised as transgressive. That way the west would be destroyed and would be transformed into… quite what was never very clear, but some kind of new world order.
The institutions at which this cultural revolution took particular aim were the family and the education system – the principal means though which a culture replicates itself.
And since the purpose was to destroy the west’s core values, and since these core values were enshrined in the Hebrew Bible and the Christianity that embodied those Biblical moral codes in western civilisation, traditional Christianity was directly in its cross-hairs. It had to allow itself to become diluted by secularism to became a pale and meaningless shadow of its former self, went the threat, or else it would be attacked and destroyed.
To begin with, the Conservative Party in Britain ignored all this. It just didn’t grasp that the great cause for which conservatism now needed to fight tooth and nail was a muscular defence of Biblical morality and the principles of truth, reason, justice and human dignity which were underpinned by that morality alone.
Instead, many Tories unfurled their banner behind the liberty of the individual – which just propelled them straight onto the turf of the amoral, hyper-individualistic, lifestyle-choice fanatic, Bible-bashing left. Too unthinking even to begin to understand the significance of the de-moralisation now taking hold throughout the west, the Tories increasingly decided to take the path of least resistance and “go with the flow”.
And so now we have reached the next stage, in which Tory politicians are themselves going onto aggressive attack against Christianity and western core values. Despite her own Christian upbringing and faith, the Prime Minister Theresa May has nevertheless appropriated the left-wing shibboleth of egalitarianism which negates personal responsibility by promoting equality of outcomes regardless of circumstances.
Some years ago, Mrs May famously decried the Tories’ reputation as “the nasty party”. Unfortunately, she thinks that to be nice one has to be left-wing when the very opposite is the case.
Justine Greening, the Education Secretary and Equalities Minister, has emerged as the latter-day Robespierre to May’s Danton. Ms Greening is displaying a distinctly nasty impulse to crush freedom – the freedom, that is, of all who disagree with her view that society and human nature itself must be remade. I wrote here about her intention to legislate against truth, reality and compassion by allowing people to change their gender at will without even any medical diagnosis of a sex-change. Now she is telling the Church of England to drop its opposition to same-sex marriage. She said:
“I think it is important that the church in a way keeps up and is part of a modern country. I wouldn’t prescribe to them how they should deal with that. But I do think we are living in a county where people broadly recognise that attitudes are in a different place now to where they were many, many years ago. We have allowed same sex marriage, that’s a massive step forward for the better. For me, I think people do want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country.”
So she “wouldn’t proscribe” what the church should do – but she’s telling it what to do nevertheless on the basis that “people want to see our major faiths keep up with modern attitudes in our country”. Really? All modern attitudes? How does she define a “modern attitude”? How does she know “most people” want this? And all major faiths? Is she going to start telling Orthodox Jews and Muslims to accept same-sex marriage too, along with transgenderism on demand?
When same-sex marriage was introduced, we were told the church would remain free to stick to its traditional doctrines. Given that the distinction between men and women is now being destroyed by legislative fiat, we can all see what freedom of religion – and freedom in general – actually means to these Tory Jacobins.
What a betrayal. Burke must be revolving in his grave.