Back at home, it is safe to say dinner time conversation isn’t always easy. The four members of my family each have very different, very strongly held political views. None are more different than my brother’s and my own.
He studied Art History at Goldsmith’s, and it was there that he learned to feel ashamed of most, if not all of his identity. Perhaps, I wonder, it was his being sent to private school (I wasn’t) that made him so susceptible to tales of his own guilt. Whatever it was, I do not share it. Studying Philosophy here was where I first became aware of the deep truths that Conservatism speaks to.
Last weekend, however, I had a sense of hope about my brother and I’s relationship. For whilst we had gone to different places, we had behaved nearly identically. On Sunday, I went to church. The service began with a repentance for our sins, which Christianity teaches, are forgiven. The rest of the service consisted of a number of deeply symbolic acts, interspersed with singing, and a sermon.
Where I repented for my sins, which the Church teaches arise from my fallen nature, so too did my brother, when he went to a BLM rally the day before. He, and white people generally, must repent for the sins which arise out of their own nature: apologies are needed for the unconscious bias he did not know he held, and the privilege he (until one or two years ago) never knew he enjoyed. Nonetheless, there is hope. All who truly repent are forgiven, and all who acknowledge their privilege are no longer guilty of whatever it implicates you in. Where I listened to a sermon, explaining in terms I could understand the theology behind some of what happened there, so too did my brother’s service culminate at the pulpit. Where Christian priests are learned in theology, so too are the leaders of BLM learned in their own theology. The key similarity is that both subjects explore the implications of a belief system from within its own confines, but do not actually challenge the fundamental beliefs underpinning it.
It is fair to say that I was not at church because I am convinced of the factual reality of every Christian doctrine. Christianity, for me, is carried by its symbolic power, not its philosophical strengths. It wouldn’t affect my taking of communion, for instance, if it was revealed to me that Jesus in fact never commanded his disciples to remember him in this way. The power that the act has for me transcends its basis in fact. So too for BLM supporters in London, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot” at police officers who have killed three people this year, all of them terrorists, and none of them black. Indeed, it doesn’t matter that the Washington Post, reviewing the facts, concluded it was very unlikely “Hands up don’t shoot” was ever actually uttered.
As Christianity did in this country many years ago, BLM is trying to wrest control of our education system, and establish rules around blasphemy. Those who have reservations about this new religion may need to take lessons from how religions have declined in the past. The key is not in developing ingenious arguments, for religious movements sweep these aside with their raw emotive appeal. The downfall of these movements, like Christianity in the UK, comes from individuals living lives that on balance, seem more fulfilling, more noble, and perhaps, to be cynical, more immediately gratifying.