Tuesday 26 March 2019

Cambridge and the Decline of the West

The Cambridge Students' Union has persuaded the University to rescind its invitation to Jordan Peterson to be a temporary professor in the Divinity Faculty. Students were angry partly because he described the concept of 'white privilege' as a 'Marxist lie'. 

I am very saddened, but note that Professor Peterson is not a Christian and probably does not believe in God and therefore was a slightly odd choice in the first place. This however was not the students' union's objection.

The University refused to say why the decision to rescind the invitation had been taken until yesterday, when the Vice-Chancellor said:

“The faculty became aware of a photograph of Professor Peterson posing with his arm around a man wearing a T-shirt that clearly bore the slogan ‘I’m a proud Islamophobe.’
“The casual endorsement by association of this message was thought to be antithetical to the work of a faculty that prides itself in the advancement of inter-faith understanding. Some difficult decisions will always be necessary to ensure that our universities remain places of robust, often challenging and even uncomfortable dialogue, while balancing academic freedom with respect for members of our community.”
This is absurd and very unfair because Professor Peterson does not hate or dislike either Islam or Muslims in the least.

But what would Anglican divines before our era have thought about the Cambridge Divinity faculty considering anti-Muslim ideas antithetical to its work? Once that work would have been teaching Christianity.

One is reminded of Gibbon's well-known remark that had Charles Tours not defeated the Muslims at Tours in 704

"perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mahomet."

I don't imagine the Koran is taught as factually true yet by Cambridge Divinity fellows nor I suspect is Christianity any more. Christianity is certainly not taught as it was taught in the freethinker Gibbon's day. 

Maurice Cowling was right in thinking that theology dominates politics. The value of 'peace between religions', something of which I approve by the way, seems to have become the thing that modern Anglican clerics seem to think most sacred, along with the wickedness of racism or discrimination, an idea to which it is connected. The Incarnation, the divinity of the carpenter's Son, is no longer considered by sophisticated theologians as necessarily non-negotiable. 

For Christians Islam is necessarily a false religion but the expression 'false religion', one liberal theologian told me, is 'polemical'.

Douglas Murray put it well in 'The Strange Death of Europe' (please read it, if you haven't):
"Since 1989 the texts, ideas and even images of Islam have become so heavily policed and self-policed even in Western Europe that it would be understandable if a young person becoming politically and religiously aware in the last few decades might have arrived at the conclusion that the one thing our societies really do hold sacred and impervious to ridicule or criticism are the claims and teachings of Mohammed."

When I was an undergraduate, before the last Ice Age, egalitarianism and the sort of liberal thinking that achieved the deplatforming (dread word, Wallace Arnold would say) of Professor Peterson was the kind of thing I absolutely hated with all my heart. But I also greatly disliked Thatcherism. As far as I could see there was nothing in Thatcherism but nineteenth century liberalism, nothing that was genuinely conservative. And so paradoxically I thought I was a liberal Tory.

I was, in fact, just a Tory, a great lover of tradition and freedom and concerned about the less well-off and the working class. Are there many left? Very few. 

Few Tories, I mean. Two thirds of Englishmen and women still say they are working class but people now talk about the 'white working class' and the left often seems to fear and despise it. 

I wonder how I'd get on at Cambridge were I up now. Would I be blogging? 

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