Not for the first time, the Daily Mail has got rather confused about Christian values.
The Mail has often spiced up its peculiar brand of far-right politics with calls to maintain Britain’s “Christian heritage” and to promote “Christian values”. Only this month, it suggested that such values were under attack from birth certificates that listed two lesbian parents.
A few months ago, the Mail was even more incensed by the Church of England’s plan to allow weddings and infant baptisms within the same service. Their journalist Steve Doughty asserted that the Church’s decision “overthrew 2,000 years of history”. Given that he specialises in religious affairs he should know very well that Christians have taken many approaches to marriage – not to mention baptism – over the last two millennia.
Curiously, however, the Mail’s attitude to Christian values took a rather different turn earlier this week, when they reported that the former IRA bomber Patrick Magee will address a meeting on forgiveness at the House of Commons, speaking alongside the daughter of someone he killed.
The article, headlined “Killer in the Commons”, made the paper’s disapproval of the event quite clear. The reporter claimed that it had provoked “outrage” – although the event had been public for weeks and there had not previously been sufficient outrage for even the Mail to notice. This was a case of the classic media trick of generating outrage by phoning up people likely to disapprove and asking them for comments.
The New Testament says almost nothing about homosexuality. It has a range of things to say about both marriage and baptism, most of which are far from straightforward. But the need for forgiveness runs through its message from beginning to end. Unlike the legal requirements for birth certificates and official weddings, the principle of forgiveness really has been central to Christian values for the last 2,000 years.
The point may be lost on the Daily Mail, for whom “Christian values” has long been a euphemism for “what the Mail thinks” – or, in other words, for right-wing politics.