Secular puritanism is on the rise and it is aggressive, unlike Christian puritanism. In the wake of recent sex scandals, secular commentators are expressing their concern at the suspension of due process with trial by media, by social media and the assumption of guilty till proved innocent.
‘The new puritanism’ was discussed in the 15th-anniversary edition of the BBC’s This Week programme. This new puritanism is the rise of secular puritanism and its recent manifestation is in sexual behaviour. This is a backlash from the laissez-faire ‘live and let live’ sexual attitudes of the 1960s.
Just as every group of human beings has its factions, so secular puritanism is one sect in secular religion, attempting to replace the Ten Commandments of Christianity with its own politically correct commandments. It knows very little about Christian forgiveness, and it seeks to impose secular repentance upon those it judges politically incorrect.
Dr David Starkey was described in the BBC This Week blurb as “talking about the new puritanism at the top”. He drew attention to the complete revolution of values in 21st century Britain. “In the last twenty years we have had a revolution by stealth, not in our streets but in our values, as a generation brought up with no rules and no religion has lurched with quasi-religious fervour into a puritanical groupthink where debate is stifled and difference of opinion cannot be tolerated. Everywhere it is back to the Middle Ages. In the Universities, no platforming is a heresy trial without a stake. In law, the uncovering of historic sex abuse has turned from due process into a witch craze. Accusation proves guilt, every victim must be believed. This is Salem. In politics too there is a new pseudo-religious intensity. Pro-Trump and anti-Trump, Remainer and Brexiteer confront each other in a sort of holy war, while in the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn – JC – plays the messiah, and Momentum presents itself as a cross between the Jesuits and the Knights Templar.” He then compared this revolution to the English Puritan Revolution and the English Civil War. “The last time that religion so dominated politics was in the Puritan revolution, which led to civil war, the abolition of Parliament and military dictatorship”, concluding with: “Welcome to the millennials’ millennium.”
Leaving aside his dubious assertion about ‘the last time’ and his selective choice of timing, he did not explain that the origin of religious warfare after the European Reformation was Roman Catholic officialdom’s attempt to hold on to its civil and religious power in a bloody counter-Reformation. Rather, the Puritan revolution he decries gave us Parliamentary democracy, and the statue of the military “dictator” to which he refers stands prominently outside the Houses of Parliament, commemorating the father of Parliamentary democracy – the godly Oliver Cromwell. This Puritan revolution gave to the world modern Parliamentary democracy, the right of private judgment and the freedom of thought and religion – now threatened by the new secular puritanism and political correctness.
Starkey added: “There has been a moral revolution. ‘I’m gay’ is now practically compulsory. There has been a complete revolution of values between the sexes. The unmentionable has become enforcable. There has been genuine inversions of moral values.” He is describing secular repentance, that control freakery which disdains toleration and seeks endorsement by enforcement.
All the contributors on This Week thought the sexual revolution in the 1960s was a good thing, but it is beginning to dawn on this secular elite that they do not know where the sexual revolution is going. They were concerned about the modern rush to judgment rather than debate and that the anonymity of opinions on the internet allows human beings to behave badly.
There is nothing new about human beings behaving badly in anonymous circumstances: just consider the behaviour change as soon as a person drives a motor car.
Michael Portillo agreed that there has been a moral inversion, and added: “but I do not think that the process has come to an end.” He pointed out that secular morality is not fixed: “it should lead us to believe that no moral position is absolute or even to be relied upon for any period of time. Moral positions are changing nowadays like fashions. Constantly changing.” This is true. We are only halfway through the sexual revolution. Secularism is buying into this shifting secular morality.
The jokes and slandering of ‘puritanism’ is coming home to roost because Christian puritanism is as nothing compared to the new shifting standards of secular morality, with its retrospective application of its ever-shifting political correctness. Relativism and situation ethics has left secular society with no standards by which to judge actions other than the current political correctness, determined by the opinion formers of the current age. It reminds us of the arbitrary rule of despots in former ages, from which Christian principles delivered us and gave us security under the predictable and steady rule of the law of God.
23 Mar 2019: Toronto professor is no platformed by the University of Cambridge.
25 Mar 2019: this ‘moral inversion’ described above by David Starkey is not new – Isa 3:4-5.