One of the things that shocked me about the UK smoking ban of 1 July 2007 was that even churches were required to put up No Smoking signs, even though smoking in churches was something that simply didn’t happen.
So this report from China reminded me of No Smoking signs going up in churches:
Chinese Pastors Ordered to Post Signs on Churches Forbidding Entry to Minors
As part of its most recent clampdown on Christian churches, Chinese authorities have instructed priests and pastors to post signs on churches barring entry to minors.
The instruction is part of a new set of communist party-controlled regulations on religious activities that went into effect on February 1 and is aimed at preventing children and young people from getting religious instruction or taking an active part in Christian worship…
Chinese authorities stated that church attendance and religious instruction keep young persons from developing “a correct worldview and set of values.”
All done for the sake of the chiiiildren – another familiar tactic.
And wasn’t the UK smoking ban that exiled smokers to the outdoors in 2007 also all about getting them to develop “a correct worldview and set of values” (i.e. stop smoking)?
But who really has the correct set of values anyway? Given one set of communist party values and another set of Christian values, which would you prefer? I may not be a churchgoer, but I remain powerfully aware of my Christian upbringing, and I haven’t changed my values significantly throughout my life. And I’ve also been very interested in the whole question of where fundamental values are derived from. It seems to me that it is one of the most pressing questions of our age, at a time when Christian values are increasingly being replaced by new values, usually at the behest of a state which seems (like the Chinese communist party) to have begun to decide for itself what is right and wrong, what matters and what doesn’t matter (and in the UK seems to have elevated Health to be the prime value, with all other moral considerations dispensed with).
Anyway I have far more faith in the ability of Christian churches to impart traditional values to children than I have in the Chinese state. If nothing else, Christian values have been around for 2000 years (along with equally venerable Buddhist teachings), while the Chinese state has been around for considerably less than a century.
And in addition I don’t believe that new values (e.g. health) can readily replace old ones. For I think that the moral task we have is not so much to invent new values, but to discover what our true values really are. To me it seems that we should be trying to understand what our inherent and immutable values really are, in the same way that we try to discover inherent and immutable laws of physics.