Voices
David Silvester
BBC
David Silvester

Change in the weather

Britain | An opinion on Britain’s ‘almost unparalleled’ soaking leads to a political sacking

Issue: "Inside the wire," March 22, 2014

David Silvester got himself sacked on Jan. 19. One commenter on MailOnline.com weighed in: “I think this bloke needs to repent. Ignorance, to start with … religious, hate-filled, intolerant rhetoric.” 

But first, the weather report. For the sacking won’t make sense without the soaking. 

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called 2014, with almost inadequate descriptiveness, “the wettest winter for 250 years.” A few other facts: the water table the highest ever recorded; thousands without power in the south; troops deployed for flood relief; near hurricane winds whipping Wales; swans circling aimlessly in a field in Berkshire; frantic homeowners fighting over sand bags; engineers working around the clock; signed petitions urging Cameron to raid the foreign aid till; government authorities speaking of “an almost unparalleled natural crisis”; Cameron warning “things may get worse before they get better.”

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Where United Kingdom Independence Party politician Silvester, age 73, fits into this tale of woe is that he opined in the mailbag of his local hometown newspaper on Jan. 17 that the present storms are God’s judgment on the Cameron government’s recent legalization of same-sex marriage. I should mention that he had contacted the prime minister with his message previous to the flooding, also voicing his views in 2012 in the Henley Standard of Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.

Councillor Silvester was incensed by legislation allowing same-sex marriage in England and Wales that comes into effect this month. The Scottish Parliament cranked out a similar law last month: It awaits Royal Assent. Councillor Silvester says such decrees violate the Coronation Oath Act, a product of the 1688 Parliament establishing that future monarchs swear to maintain “the true profession of the gospel and the Protestant reformed religion established by law.”

Silvester’s more recent letter reads: “I wrote to David Cameron in April 2012 to warn him that disasters would accompany the passage of his same-sex marriage bill, but he went ahead despite a 600,000-signature petition by concerned Christians and more than half of his own parliamentary party. … Now, even as Cameron sheds crocodile tears on behalf of destitute flooded homeowners, playing at advocate against the very local councils he has made cash-strapped, it is his fault that large swathes of the nation have been afflicted by storms and floods. He has arrogantly acted against the Gospel that once made Britain great.”

Sometimes a storm is a storm and rain is rain: We do not know enough to attach particular weather to particular sins. But we also should not pooh-pooh such a possibility, because we know that God has warned with weather: “‘I also withheld the rain from you … I would send rain on one city, and send no rain on another city … yet you did not return to me. … I struck you with blight and mildew … yet you did not return to me. … I sent among you a pestilence … yet you did not return to me,’ declares the Lord” (Amos 4:7-13).

An earlier prophet (if Silvester’s letter is indeed prophecy and not a “bizarre homophobic rant blaming gay marriage for bad weather,” as The Huffington Post labeled it on Feb. 11) was the Right Reverend Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle from 2000 to 2009, who similarly warned of “God’s judgment” on Britain’s “moral degradation.”

Several councillors who quickly distanced themselves from the beleaguered Silvester admitted that their erstwhile colleague had served the town of Henley well, in voluntary work in the local shops and in community groups. But Councillor Samantha Evans added: “I am a Christian too, and I have a sister who is homosexual, and I lived through what she went through with homophobic comments.” Sarah Butcher, who circulated a petition calling for Silvester’s resignation, said that the large gay community in Henley had been “incredibly upset and hurt by his comments, as well as their family and friends.”

Hurt and upset feelings found expression in the egging of Mr. and Mrs. Silvester’s house on Luker Avenue in early February. If he is an ignorant hater, as charged, it is a grievous fault and grievously has he paid for it at the hands of these noble citizens. The UKIP suspended and then expelled the politician from the party. Meanwhile, it keeps raining, and swans float along a flooded street in Worcester.

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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