The recent proposals from the British Government to help churches establish more faith schools has led to the usual outbreaks of vitriol on social media. Quite what good anyone thinks they are going telling someone teaching at a fairh school that this is not the Middle Ages (as I saw more than one person do) is something of a mystery. Is it supposed to be clever, emphasising the modernity of the commentator? If so, all it really does is to demonstrate the shallowness of materialist fundamentalists. Do such people really suppose you can study art, history, philosophy, music, sculpture and the history of humankind without reference to religion? Who do they think founded the first schools and universities in this country? Of course it is possible (as are most things, short of striking a match on a lump of wet tripe, or getting Bosco to spell correctly) to do so, but what an impoverished education that would be. Or is it perhaps meant to emphasise the backwardness of Faith? I can see that those who see nothing wrong with killing millions of infants in the womb, or the infirm, or the elderly, might blench a little at being brought into contact with a belief system which sees every human life as uniquely valuable, but can’t catch why that makes those who value life less modern than those who prefer death?
We live in a world which tends to devalue the ties that helped build our civilization: family; community; nationhood – all of which were influenced by Faith. But it truly takes an incredible lack of self-awareness to wish to impose one’s own beliefs on others and insist that parents have no right to ecucate their children in faith schools, not least when we know how popular such schools are with parenrs. To state that parents should not have the right to bring their children up educated about the faith, but should, instead, submit to the diktats of modish theories about gender and the like is, to insist, in effect, that parents should bring their children up as you want them to; best of luck with that one.
We are told that the present generation of young people is a very anxious one. It is easy (which is why it is done, of course) to mock this and to criticise them as ‘generation snowflake’, but the world they are being offered is one of consumerism and competition. constant striving to look good, to have ther latest gadgets and to ‘do well’ at school. It is the material world with no spiritual dimension. The ‘safe spaces’ offered by prayer, meditation and a good grounding in Christian ethics are gone, but young people hanker afer them, even if they misidentify them. Religion has been with mankind for as long as we can trace its history. The current Western fashion of pretending we have ‘outgrown it’ would look more convincing if it were producing a generation of young people who did not look as though they were aware that something was missing. People have a need for something more than bread and circuses. The modern experiment to pretend they don’t is failing. So let’s stop pretending that fundamentalist materialism has the answers, when it does not even know the right questions to ask. In the meantime, let parents, students and teachers, get on with their jobs as best they can.