A compromised church wages a war of convenience against pornography

Posted by Alexander Hay

Discredited in the wake of the Occupy London protests, the Church of England seems to have chosen an easy target for a conveniently timed moral crusade, following the conviction of pornography user Vincent Tabak for murder

Bathing yourself in a shade of cadaverous green probably isn't the best way of presenting yourself when you're being accused of hypocrisy and moral decay...It is sometimes said that bankrupt regimes go on military adventures, as the antics of Blair, Bush and Saddam Hussein all too obviously show. But a similar dynamic underlies political organisations that have lost their reason for being, and so head off on moral crusades to justify themselves. Most calls for censorship come at times of crisis for those who call for it, and a great example is this:

...The Church of England is threatening to use its financial power to stem the tide of internet pornography.

It is considering withdrawing the millions it has invested in Internet Service Providers (ISPs) unless they take action.

Concern over the easy availability of vile images which demean women and corrupt the young has intensified following the disclosure that Jo Yeates’s killer Vincent Tabak was obsessed with websites showing sexual violence, bondage and strangulation...

Now, there are two problems with this. Firstly, the Church is making the old mistake of confusing causation and correlation. Tabak is a murderer and an aberration. There are few like him, and the surprisingly large number of people who like violent pornography hasn't lead to a corresponding spike in violent sex attacks. Rather, Tabak is attracted by such images because he was already inclined to murder, rather than the other way around.

It is perfectly reasonable for someone to disapprove of something on moral grounds, and to choose to cease any investment in it, but the Church is disingenuous if it claims that pornography causes sexual violence without any evidence to support this. After all, the Church has been preaching its Christian message openly on television and through mass media for the last 50 years and yet church attendance has dipped considerably during the same time.

But more importantly, the timing is suspicious. The Church has invested in these internet service providers for years, with as much knowledge as any other well-informed person as to what can be accessed on UK computers as a result. So why now? As said, moral crusades come at times of crisis, and in this case, it is a crisis facing the Church's moral authority:

The bishop of London has said legal measures that could lead to anti-capitalist activists being forcibly removed from their camp outside St Paul's Cathedral are "prudent" and rejected claims that the move would inevitably lead to violent confrontations between police and protesters.

Speaking minutes after addressing Occupy London protesters on the cathedral steps for the first time, Dr Richard Chartres said he believed that "getting the legal situation clear is probably a sensible precautionary measure".

He added: "I don't myself subscribe to the idea that it's instantly going to lead to violent confrontations … a prudent organisation has to be prepared and we just don't know what's going to happen. Nobody knows. The camp could be taken over by people who are very different from the ones who are in charge at the moment...

...Earlier, Chartres and the dean of St Paul's, the Right Rev Graeme Knowles, failed to respond when asked whether or not they would commit publicly to opposing the planned eviction of the camp, leaving activists frustrated. "Answer the question," some yelled...

In other words, the Church of England has become seen as siding with a corrupt and self-serving political and financial class, not helped by St. Paul's itself being lavishly funded by rich banks and financiers. The willingness of the Church, until today, to take legal action against the Occupy London protesters, and the violence that could occur, has left it looking illegitimate; willing to pontificate about morality, but being unable or unwilling to practice what it preaches, which should be anathema to any serious moralist:

...A woman received loud applause when she told the crowd she had been struggling with her Christian faith since the beginning of the conflict. Why, she asked, was she blessed "inside the church, but outside the church God would like to eject and remove me violently"...

So in order to divert attention from violent evictions, the Church is leaping upon violent pornography as a bogeyman instead. The Church's crisis of moral authority has lead to a desperate attempt to appease another ill-informed moral panic. All of which begs the question as to what the Church of England really represents?

As their u-turn today on pursuing legal action against the protests shows, it appears simple expediency is what matters, unflattering though it is for a supposedly moral organisation.

[SOURCES: The Daily Mail & The Guardian]

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Alexander Hay

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