Rebecca Coulson is a freelance classical musician and writer, and the Conservative Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the City of Durham.
Assuming isn’t just asinine, it’s dangerous. This week, the Church of England voted to allow the consecration of women to the episcopate, Lord Faulkner’s Assisted Dying Bill passed the first stage of its potential journey through our legislature, and thousands of people took to central London to decry the recent actions of Israel. Yet the issues on which these momentous events hang are so quagmired by obfuscation and rhetoric, that incorrect assumptions cloud necessary public debate.
Whilst it was theologically topsy-turvy for the Church of England to allow women to become priests before they could become bishops, the majority of those in the Church who opposed women’s advancement were not (or at least not consciously) doing this through sexist reasoning. Yet secular delight at the synod’s decision was overwhelming, describing it as a win for women’s rights, and something which should have been made to have happened earlier. Our state does not intervene in the decision making of religions. And this should be remembered in discussion about the Church’s position on single sex marriage, too. Indeed, the reason we have had civil marriage since 1836 is to keep the Church and the state separate. Rather, this week’s decision shows the Church of England, once more, acting prophetically to other parts of Christendom. And this is what should be rejoiced – by its members.
Suicide has been legal in Britain since 1961. It is worrying how many people assume that the Faulkner bill simply offers an extension to this. It is also worrying how many people rely on individual cases in order to argue for its strength. Just because Granny (or a thousand grannies) has suffered unspeakably, her need for another person to help end her life should not necessarily outweigh the other person’s moral need not to. And this is what it comes down to. Whilst it’s important to recognise the difference between assisted dying (when someone is physically enabled to take their own life) and euthanasia (when someone else does this for them), the oft-forgotten moral crux is the legalisation of the other person’s action. The prohibition of life-taking is essential to our peace-time legal system; assumptions that Lord Faulkner’s bill is kind miss the heart of the debate. What the bill offers is a chance for all this to be publicly debated at the highest level. This move into an informed arena will hopefully debase the assumptions inspired by the issue’ss celebrity champions, whose personal involvement all too often clouds their objectivity.
And then we come to Israel. Assumption, and fear of balanced discussion, has led to an ironic situation in which the majority of people in our country think that there is, somewhere in the Middle East, a little country called Palestine, which is constantly under fire from its neighbour, Israel. Of course, the main reason this is ironic is that a two-state solution is what most of the world has been trying to work towards. Moreover, this assumption has led to the blind mass support of Hamas, an entity defined by the EU as a terrorist organisation. This support is incredibly unhelpful, not least, to the Palestinian people these terrorists oppress. The majority of the British press calling Hamas a “militant group” does not help. Nor does taking today’s problems out of their historical context, whilst remaining focused on a simplistic version of the complex reasoning behind the creation of the state of Israel.
All three of these topics are difficult and emotive; they all contain those so-called grey areas. But obfuscation and mass assumption help nobody – least of all the people most in need of it. And this includes the women who feel under-appreciated and disadvantaged by their church; the people suffering, beyond comprehension, from terminal illness; and those people whose want for a proper homeland is exploited by anti-Semitic terrorists. So, let’s stop being too polite (or scared) to talk about this stuff at dinner parties, let’s stop ignoring the people who unknowingly post insidious petitions on Facebook, and let’s stand up for rigorous informed debate.