Scotland: Presbyterians without God?

Kate Forbes
Kate Forbes

Christian Politician in an Atheistic Country

The historical identity of the Scots was forged in the fire of religious struggles, essentially convergent with political disputes. And these have never been gentle or particularly transparent within the nation of clans. For when the Calvinist Church of Scotland, assuming the position of the national denomination, was victorious over the customarily royalist Catholics, it immediately had to fight against the influence of Episcopalism with its political vision of a crowned oligarchy. And the Scottish Presbyterians themselves - the Covenanters - were divided like Hussites, into radicals, called the Kirk Party, who saw Scotland as a federation of clans / congregations, even in an alliance with the Puritan English and those choosing some form of collaboration with own national dynasty as a method of maintaining independence from the eternally hateful southern neighbour. Yes, religion in Scotland has always been alive, with many violent deaths. So why is it almost dead today?

Gender instead of God

Scotland enjoys (?) the reputation of the most secularized country in Western Europe. According to various estimates, about 56 percent. inhabitants declare themselves as atheists, and as generally non-religious - nearly 70 percent. And this despite, or perhaps precisely because, the main denomination, Church of Scotland, continues to be recognized as the national Church and an important component of Scottishness as such. This is partly because Scottish politics has become atheistic but has not lost the formal features typical for Calvinism. So, it is still aggressively missionary and full of declarative moralising. Only that today, of course, completely opposite to the historical ethical rigorism of the old Protestants. Scottish politicians today are most often the successors of fanatical Presbyterians who no longer believe in Presbyterianism, but still firmly believe in fanaticism.

With just such a fire worthy of John Knox (although against all his recommendations) - Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish autonomous Government sets its main ideological goals to enforce a full gender platform, including the doctrine of “gender by choice” with very strict penal regulations, extending beyond all the limits of the definition of Hate Crimes. Basing on the new Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021, a sufficient reason to prosecute for hate speech is not only a criticism of genderism, but even a simple admission that only women menstruate. To complete the feeling of choking on the snake of progress, it is worth mentioning that this law is already used to prosecute not any misogynists, but ... feminists and lesbians. Yes, both these attitudes, without changing anything in their assumptions - are no longer classified as modern and progressive, but even… reactionary and fascist! The first for reminding that the suffragettes went to prisons not for allowing some masquerading ones to use women's toilets and to win women's sports competitions. The second, because they stubbornly claim they want to sleep with other women, not with men claiming that gave women personalities.

First the man - then the politician

This is the current level of ideological disputes in Scotland, so the more consternation was caused by the appearance in the local Government of a Secretary openly and loudly declaring his commitment to Christian values and bearing witness to their confession in private and public life. Kate Forbes, the 31-year-old Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, is an activist of the Scottish National Party (organisation responsible for all the above-mentioned ideological experiments), an enthusiastic supporter of the country's independence - and at the same time a zealous faithful to the Free Church of Scotland, the 19th century Presbyterian faction, described today with a bit of scorn as “something like Church of Scotland but with Christianity”.

The daughter of Calvinist missionaries in India, where she spent her childhood, Forbes speaks of her devotion to God with a passion her parents worthy. To be straight, I believe in the person of Jesus Christ. I believe that he died for me, he saved me and that my calling is to serve and to love him and to serve and love my neighbours with all my heart and soul and mind and strength. So that for me is essential to my being. Politics will pass. I am a person before I was a politician and that person will continue to believe that I am made in the image of God” - the present Secretary said a few years ago in an interview for the BBC, and let's remember that these are not words that are often heard today from Western politicians.

Paradoxically, such an expressive Christian Forbes’ ethos radically stands out from the current dominant SNP line, until recently multi-faceted, with a strong morally conservative wing, once built under the patronage of the legendary Winnie Ewing, the first SNP MP elected to the House of Commons in 1967. However, this trend was almost completely eliminated within SNP. Emblematic for that was resignation of Dave Thompson, the animator of the Christians for Independence movement, and now the leader of the Action for Independence campaigning group, the spiritual father of Forbes' political career, with whom she started as an assistant. But on the other hand, the young politician gained recognition from Christian communities, even those on the other side of the Tweed River.

Let’s express our faith with no fear

The current Secretary, however, is loyal to his party, although she does not hesitate to point out a separate opinion - which is also no longer popular in the ranks of the SNP mainstream, whose leadership hunts for not-politically-correct. “trans-” and “queerphobs” not to mention even more ... reactionary attitudes. Meanwhile, Kate Forbes prayed out loud during the 2018 Public Day of Prayer: „May our politicians recognise that the way we treat the most vulnerable — whether the unborn or the terminally ill — is a measure of true progress”. So, while even politicians from the unionist opposition admit that there is no one in the Scottish Parliament who does not like Kate personally – among her own Party there were serious doubts her Secretary promotion to one of the most important positions in the Government of autonomy. Forbes is to deal with, inter alia, preparations for the introduction of its own currency by independent Scotland - and can it be done by someone whose attitude to the LBGTQ movement is at least controversial?!

Forbes, however, received the appointment as a Secretary, which was seen as a gesture by the SNP leadership towards more traditionalist voters, especially those in the region of the Highlands and Islands, where Christian communities (Church of Scotland, Free Church of Scotland and Catholic), although do not support Holyrood extreme postmodernism, but of course also constitute real strongholds of the independence movement. Couple months ago, the most radical gender circles therefore launched a collective attack, both public and behind the scenes, in an effort to keep Forbes from voting to form a Government. However, an MSP from one of Scotland's most beautiful constituencies - Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch - replied with dignity that she represents all his constituents, regardless of their attitude to religion. But Christianity is the essence of her existence, and she considered and considers such honesty about her faith as the absolute most important. - I would like my example to inspire others to overcome the fear and difficulties of publicly expressing our faith in public service – Forbes announced.

Critics quieted down. But we can be sure that not for long ...