Giles Fraser

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Giles Fraser (1964–) is an English Anglican clergyman and a prolific writer and broadcaster on religious topics. He is a priest at St Mary's, Newington, South London, and a contributor to BBC Radio 4's regular religious sermon slot "Thought for the Day" and philosophy show The Moral Maze. He has in the past written columns for Church Times and The Guardian.[1] In his journalism he often seems to be functioning as a troll or devil's advocate, taking extreme or eccentric political positions. To keep things varied he as often not comes down on the side of the left as the right.

He has been described as "one of the country’s leading Anglicans" (by Edge Hill University in Lancashire, which gave him an honorary doctorate).[2] The Guardian described him in 2011 as "an unlikely hero for the Church of England" and "the media's favourite anti-vicar".[3] The Daily Mail called him sneeringly "the toast of London’s Left-wing intelligentsia".[4]

His father was Jewish, although he has been Church of England since childhood; he has been married to an Israeli Jew since 2016.[1] He is a strong defender of Judaism as a religion, although has also been sympathetic to the Palestinian cause (or if you're a right-winger, he believed "it was acceptable [for Hamas] to deliberately kill innocents").[5]

Politics[edit]

His politics are complex, but have elements of Christian socialism combined with a hatred of liberalist individualism. In 2011 he quit a position as canon chancellor at St Paul's Cathedral, London, over his support for the London branch of Occupy.[6] He has criticised Trump and right-wing Israelis such as Benjamin Netanyahu for their tolerance towards neonazism.[7]

However he has also expressed traditional, conservative viewpoints on women's role in society.[8] He opposes liberalism, believing the community should come before individual rights; in this context he aligned atheism with liberalism and Christianity with socialism.[9] He takes the traditionalist viewpoint that people should look after their parents, rather than expecting society to look after them, and condemns those who leave their communities to pursue educational opportunities or move overseas rather than stay at home to care for their families.[10] He was particularly condemned as sexist for saying, "it is the daughter of the elderly gentleman that should be wiping his bottom", although this gender division of labour was explained by discussing the case of a woman who was inquiring about care for her elderly parent (to avoid sexism he could still have asked if the elderly gentleman had any sons).[8][11] Professor Steve Peers has questioned what Fraser's attitude is to people who leave their families to pursue or study religious vocations or evangelise in distant lands.[12]

On the other hand, he has condemned traditional education with its emphasis on discipline.[13]

He is an advocate of Brexit, apparently because Remainers are all liberals.[10]

Circumcision[edit]

He is strongly in favour of circumcision, opposing a court judgment in Cologne that banned male circumcision and Icelandic proposals for a similar ban. He argued that circumcision was central to Jewish identity and Germany introducing a ban would be "to do Hitler's work for him" (Zing! Godwin's Law alert!) His dislike of liberalism is central to this, and a belief that history and tradition are more important than personal choice. He did not mention the tradition of female circumcision.[14][15] He also spoke in favour of circumcision on BBC Radio 4's The Moral Maze (when Iceland was considering a ban), claiming opponents of foreskin-snipping were trying to restrict the practice of religion (when they believed circumcision should be a choice for an individual) and comparing medically-accurate accounts of the harm caused to the blood libel falsely-levelled against Jews.[16] Susan Blackmore called his comments on circumcision, "utterly repellent, as well as unfair and ludicrous."[17]

LGBT issues[edit]

He is in favour of gay clergy and homosexuality generally, but took the interesting moral viewpoint that gay clergy should lie about their sexuality if the church prohibited homosexuality (rather than e.g. telling the truth or joining a different church).[18][19]

Secularism[edit]

He has defended the BBC's "Thought for the Day", a regular platform for religious leaders (but not atheists) to deliver a little moral lesson to Radio 4's audience (described by Radio 4 presenter Justin Webb as, "They are all roughly the same… If everyone was nicer to everyone else, it would be fine"). Fraser manages to turn the BBC's reserving airtime for religion into an assault on religion by the sneering atheists of the BBC.[20]

He once debated Richard Dawkins on BBC Radio 4, and according to conservatives everywhere thoroughly defeated the celebrity atheist. After Dawkins produced figures showing that most Christians based their opinions on secular influences not Christianity, Fraser asked Dawkins to give the full title of Darwin's On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, which Dawkins struggled with.[21][22]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. 1.0 1.1 See the Wikipedia article on Giles Fraser.
  2. Church Leader Given Honorary Award, Edge Hill University, 2017
  3. In praise of … Giles Fraser, Editorial, The Guardian, 27 Oct 2011
  4. Moral maze as wife of BBC's right-on priest quits vicarage, Sebastian Shakespeare, 20 Aug 2014
  5. The Moral Maze: Israel and Gaza, Harry's Place, 24 July 2014
  6. Former canon of St Paul's appointed parish priest at inner-city church, Sam Jones, The Guardian, 1 Apr 2012
  7. Why America’s antisemites can hate Jews but still claim to admire Israel, Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 17 Aug 2017
  8. 8.0 8.1 Thought for the day: is it time to silence BBC preachers who keep women down?, Catherine Bennett, The Guardian, 2 Mar 2019
  9. No, I am not a liberal – I believe that community comes before the individual, Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 20 July 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 Why won’t Remainers talk about family?, UnHerd, 22 Feb 2019
  11. "hang on... that was because the story started with HER contacting the GP. i am still not sure I agree... but this quote does misrepresent a bit, in the narrative context", Mary Beard (@wmarybeard), Twitter, 23 Feb 2019
  12. Family values and Brexit: a reply to Giles Fraser, Steve Peers, EU Law Analysis, 22 Feb 2019
  13. Like John Smyth’s accusers, I bear the scars of a muscular Christian education, Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 5 Feb 2017
  14. This German circumcision ban is an affront to Jewish and Muslim identity, Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 17 July 2012
  15. "To those who hated my Guardian circumcision piece, one question: Are you really happy for the Germans to ban what it is to be Jewish?", Giles Fraser (@giles_fraser), Twitter, 17 July 2012
  16. Opinion: How cutting cultures deny dissenters their voice and identity, Antony Lempert, National Secular Society blog, 23 Feb 2018
  17. Untitled post, Susan Blackmore, Facebook, 23 Feb 2018
  18. Why gay bishops have to lie, Giles Fraser, The Guardian, 6 Jan 2013
  19. Lies, and more anti-gay lies, Giles Fraser, Church Times, 11 Jan 2013
  20. Here’s my Thought for the Day: stop sneering and keep the faith, BBC, Giles Fraser, 31 Oct 2017
  21. For once, Richard Dawkins is lost for words, Stephen Pollard, The Daily Telegraph, 14 Feb 2012
  22. Richard Dawkins' debate with Giles Fraser, Conservapedia