Saturday 23 December 2017

That would be a blandly ecumenical matter

Historian and Radio 4 presenter Tom Holland has a fascinating piece in the FT, 'Our secular society draws from the well of Christian tradition'

In it he mentions the BBC ("a broadcaster so unapologetically liberal that it has entrusted responsibility for its religious output to an atheist, and even then only on a part-time basis"), focusing on the corporation's newly-published 40-page Religion and Ethics review:
The tone may have been that of an anthropologist observing with curiosity the customs of distant tribes but the report did at least commit the BBC to making an effort to understand them.
He continues:
Nevertheless, there are limits to how far it is willing to go. Acknowledging that the great array of the world’s faiths are now to be found in Britain, the BBC’s response will be to double-down on what has long been its default setting: a bland ecumenism. Henceforward, Eid will be given primetime coverage as well as Christmas; Diwali as well as Easter. The template for this approach is provided by Thought For The Day, a three-minute slot on the BBC’s flagship radio morning news programme, in which bishops, rabbis and Buddhists compete to utter vacuous platitudes. No one ever says anything that a speaker from a different faith might not equally have said. Not a hint of the passions or the yearnings that can animate believers — still less the hatreds — is ever betrayed. It is the theological equivalent of milky tea.
And here's his account of the thinking that underlies the BBC's "bland ecumenism":
The conviction that underlies the BBC’s approach, that all religions are essentially the same, is not unique to Britain. Rather, it is the secular orthodoxy across the west. It has its militant wing, in the form of atheists who dismiss all religions as equally pernicious. It has its pacific wing, in the form of liberals who refuse to countenance the possibility that, say, the actions of Isis might have anything to do with Islam. 
The underlying conceit, though, is invariably the same: that it is possible to leave behind the swirl of religious identities and attain a plateau of moral and intellectual superiority; that to be secular is somehow to have left belief behind.
The whole article is well worth reading.


  1. As Uncle Joe might say, the BBC and the soggy left in general have become "dizzy with success". Who, 50 years ago could have predicted that the Republic of Ireland would turn itself into something like a secular state. Who would have predicted that a large proportion of Anglicans would support gay marriage? Who would have predicted that nearly all denominations now see state action as important in realising the Christian gospel as individual renewal or conversion? Who would have predicted that most Christian denominations would now view with disapproval missionary work?

    So you can see why the BBC might just think "more of the same" will eventually deliver all religions into the sphere of liberal secularism. Except of course they don't understand that in the case of Islam they are dealing with a totalitarian system, not a tradition of sincere belief. Sincerity really doesn't come into it...if you are born into the system or convert into it, that's it, you have to follow it or at least acquiesce in it. The penalties associated with not doing so are severe and can include death as well as well as removal of cultural identity.

  2. Purnell was a purely political appointment by Hall. Purnell had no programme-making qualifications or experience. Radio already had a director, Helen Boaden, I think, yet he was also made director of radio along with his strategy role. As with Hall himself, who was simply put in the job by Patten, there was no open competition when Purnell was recruited.

    As for the head of religion, that was a Muslim male, who subsequently left, only to be replaced by a female Muslim, Fatima something or other, so again, Purnell is somehow brought in to be head of that as well. But in what way is he involved~ she hasn't left, that I've heard anyway.


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