Necessary Prejudice and Moral Confusion

Edmund Burke

The eighteenth century Irish statesman, philosopher and political theorist, Edmund Burke, is credited with the remark that "evil prevails when good men do nothing". What he actually said on one occasion was:

When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.

The late 20th century has seen an assault on Christian moral standards by minorities in the media, the educational empire and the therapeutic services. Perhaps, therefore, we should take Burke's advice to heart.

But Burke said a lot of other wise things. A number of them are now rooted in the English language as proverbial sayings such as "the age of chivalry is gone" and "man is by his constitution a religious animal."

Burke had the virtue of seeing life whole and seeing connections. He saw the importance of the Christian faith for social cohesion. He was committed to a sane rationality. But he also saw the importance of "wise prejudice"


"Wise prejudice"

Prejudice, Burke argued, was an ally of reason and part of it. It complemented and gave effect to reason's judgments. This is what he wrote:

We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that this stock of reason in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations, and of ages. Many of our men of speculation [thinkers], instead of exploding general prejudices, employ their sagacity to discover the latent wisdom which prevails in them. If they find what they seek, and they seldom fail, they think it more wise to continue the prejudice, with the reason involved, than to cast away the coat of prejudice, and to leave nothing but the naked reason; because prejudice, with its reason, has a motive to give action to that reason, and an affection which will give it permanence. Prejudice is of ready application in the emergency; it previously [earlier] engages the mind in a steady course of wisdom and virtue, and does not leave the man hesitating in the moment of decision, sceptical, puzzled, and unresolved. Prejudice renders a man's virtue his habit; and not a series of unconnected acts. Through just prejudice, his duty becomes part of his nature.


The need for prejudice

The point being made is that we cannot judge every case on its merits the moment it presents itself to us. This is the fallacy of situational ethics, an ethics without absolutes. It atomizes every event as a unique item and requires you to re-invent the moral wheel each time. You simply cannot do that. So many problems present themselves to us "in the emergency" - to use Burke's phrase. Particularly these "emergencies" occur with regard to honesty - either truth telling or sexual honesty.

If you have no "prejudice" in favour of truth telling, the consequences are inevitable. When, for example, you think you will cause yourself great trouble or short term harm by telling the truth, the chances are you will lie. If you have no "prejudice" in favour of reserving sex for heterosexual monogamous marriage, the consequences are also inevitable. It will be more than likely that you will give in to your emotions and unrestrained sexual drives when by your "own evil desire" (James 1.14) you are "dragged away and enticed".

The bible is a book that gives you "wise prejudices". It makes pre-judgments about a whole host of possible situations and gives you guidance as to what to do or what not do.


Prejudice and medicine

There must be "prejudices" in life. If you are a doctor and involved in community or preventative medicine, your stock in trade is "wise prejudice". Your business is to assess the likelihood of something happening - of increased risks - before they do happen; and then taking appropriate action.

For example, epidemiology starts by assessing the increased likelihood of certain categories of people getting certain diseases - eg smokers getting lung cancer. There is a "wise prejudice" formed. Strategies to reduce smoking are then put into effect even before the precise causation is fully understood.

Or again, it is discovered that poorer people have worse health outcomes on average. Therefore you prioritize them in terms of preventative measures. That is a "wise prejudice".


A month of decadence

The time has come to "bring back wise prejudice".

Prejudice is neutral. What you must avoid is unreasonable or irrational prejudice. And when it is not open to argument prejudice can be positively pernicious. That is what has given prejudice a bad name. But "wise prejudice" that is based on common sense, moral principle or empirical fact is essential. And how we need such prejudice today.

During May it seems that Britain under a new Government has embarked on a month of decadence. We, surely, must develop prejudices against what is going on. But we have been brain-washed into thinking that any prejudice is always wrong. Our defences are, therefore, down.

Sadly there has been little public opposition to what is happening. This is due to a number of factors. It is partly due to the demise of the leaderless Conservative Party - itself rejected at the General Election for its own sleaze and moral equivocation. But it is also due to the electronic media that for some time now has lead the way in moral innovation and is unlikely to lead any opposition. It is also due to the collapse of moral education in our schools and universities. As George Will says, there is nothing so vulgar left in our experience for which we cannot transport some professor from somewhere to justify it. Then, and importantly, it is due to an absence of moral leadership from the Church at large, with few leaders willing to articulate a biblical position. The result is that the New Labour Government appears, in its early days, to be overseeing an escalating growth of moral insensitivity and blatant evil.


Insensitivity to vice

First, a senior cabinet minister has been appointed who by his earlier adultery had destroyed the marriage of a man who is now to be one of his new cabinet colleagues and has married that colleague's wife.

We are becoming insensitive to vice! What would John the Baptist say, if he were alive today? What would Burke say? He actually said on one occasion: "Vice itself lost half its evil, by losing all its grossness." Are we not in danger of allowing vice to lose its grossness? Here is an older near contemporary of Burke - the poet Alexander Pope. He wrote this:

Vice is a monster of so frightful mien,
As to be hated needs but to be seen;
Yet seen too oft, familiar with her face,
We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

That is happening at the moment.

Of course there is forgiveness for everyone and every sin; but some past sins mean that certain doors in the future are closed to you. If there is repentance, you are still accepted and God makes new with new possibilities. But you cannot just act as though nothing had happened in the past.


A gay agenda

Then there is another cabinet minister who as a campaigning homosexual is committed to removing Clause 28. What will that mean? It will mean that children will be positively indoctrinated with gay propaganda in schools as they were in some areas in the 1970's and 80's. That was the reason Clause 28 was introduced originally- to protect children.

In a similar vein, the new Home Secretary has promised a free vote on reducing the age of homosexual consent to 16. And we know that in the Gay Lobby there is a desire to reduce the age of consent to 14. In America there are those who want it reduced below 10! A National Book Award winner writes, "Nine and a half is old enough for me at least."

Also there is the issue of Tony Blair in Europe. Unless there is massive counter action over the next two weeks, moral damage may be done outside Parliament. People need to write to Tony Blair and lobby so that a gay rights amendment to the Treaty of the European Community is not passed at the Inter Government Conference in Amsterdam on 16 and 17 June.

Already Labour MEPs have helped to pass in February 1994 a motion in the European Parliament calling on the European Commission, "as a minimum" (ยง 14), to seek to end:

the barring of lesbian and homosexual couples from marriage or from an equivalent legal framework, and should guarantee the full rights and benefits of marriage, allowing the registration of partnerships,

any restrictions on the rights of lesbians and homosexuals to be parents or to adopt or foster children.

Cleverly the "spin doctors" kept this vote from the British Public. The Pope tried to publicize what was going on, but with not much success. Most of the Labour MEP's present voted for homosexual marriage and to allow lesbian and homosexual adoption and fostering.

It has come as no surprise, therefore, with the new "feel" in the air following the election of the new Government, that there have been further erosions of our moral fabric.


Moral confusion

At the beginning of the month, I was asked to take part in a Central TV programme featuring two Lesbians, one of whom had inseminated herself from a gay sperm donor. It was also reported about that time that the Health Authorities in Hartlepool were providing fertility treatment for Lesbian women.

Then there was the Karen Roche case. A Dutch couple, Mr and Mrs Peeters, were unable, because of Dutch law, to find a commercial surrogate in Holland for a baby. So they came to Britain to find a woman who would do what was necessary for £12,000 expenses. Karen Roche, the woman involved, then successively claimed and denied that she had aborted the baby. Eventually she said that she would keep it. She then, we are told, decided to hand the child over - half the product of the Peeters - to another couple. There was another twist, even, after that. What a start for a human life!

There then followed a report in The Times on 21 May that ...

... a girl of 11 has been adopted by a woman living with a lesbian partner after a ground-breaking ruling by a High Court judge, who overruled objections from the child's natural mother.

At the end of the month there were the Kellys fighting over whether to abort their child or not. They were followed by a gay couple, Russell Conlon and his partner Stephen trying to find a surrogate mother to have a baby for them. "We feel that the love and respect that a child brings would complete our lives. We all have the right to have children."


The face of Evil

Something not only sick but quite evil is going on. Children are being treated as commodities. They are now, in effect, being bought and sold. They can be dispensed with if adult circumstances require it. And they are now being seen, by so many, simply as a means to adult happiness.

So why should we be surprised to discover, on 23 May 1997, that a professional carer is jailed for abusing children? North Tyneside Social Services sent him children to foster knowing that he was a homosexual child abuser as did other authorities.

A more sophisticated event happened the day before at the Newcastle upon Tyne Church High School Governors' meeting. With myself the only dissident, the Governors unanimously have endorsed a gay rights equal opportunities policy. This is not required by the Race Relations Act of 1976, the Sex Discrimination Act of 1975 or the Disability Discrimination Act of 1996. I said I would have to make by dissent public. [Note: in October 1997 the Governors unanimously revoked this decision].

In the words of the title of a new best seller in the US we are "Slouching Towards Gomorrah"!


Children first

In all of these issues there is the plain teaching of the Bible - whether this relates to marriage, adultery and divorce, or to homosexual relationships.

The Bible is clear. Heterosexual monogamous marriage is a universal good - it is a creation ordinance. It is God's arrangement for healthy living and happy families - a man and a woman in an exclusive relationship for life. In all societies it is best for the care and nuture of children. Healthy marriages produce a stable society. That is what we need to have a prejudice about, because it is a wise prejudice.

But in the 1960's the Western World was told that those prejudices were to be discarded. That has resulted in dysfunctional children, dysfunctional relationships and a dysfunctional society.

Study after study shows that children brought up in lesbian and gay households do suffer. What is so pernicious is that there appears to be straight dishonesty in this area. On another occasion I will document the evidence. We need to recover prejudices - rational prejudices in favour of the traditional family and against immorality.


The way ahead

But what can a Christian do?

First, challenge, as you can, every defiance of God's law. This, of course, does not mean nit-picking. But today there are such blatant follies and wickedness that call for objection. In a democratic society you have a Christian duty to act. You can write to MP's and ministers. There will be good men and women in the New Labour Government who are just waiting for a clear indication of public opinion that they can follow up. At present most of the running is made by those who want to destabilise morality.

Secondly, pray. God alone is "sufficient for these things."

Thirdly, evangelise. Charles Coulson has recently said:

Most of us fail to realise that the battle of ideas being waged ...- eupehmistically known as the culture war - is merely a symptom. We Christians invest enormous amounts of energy running to fight this battle here or that battle there. But we can never win the culture war that way. What we have to do is attack the deeper cause of the cultural conflict.

He goes on to argue that we need to recover the truth - the truth as it is in the bible. That involves hard work. We have to think. And, indeed, "wise prejudices" must be regularly re-examined and, if necessary, reinforced.

Back to top