Who's afraid of David Silvester?

David Silvester

The UKIP local Councillor for Henley-on-Thames, David Silvester, might have a rather unconventional view of the Bible, and the link between sin and the weather, but is that really a national news story?

The belief that the recent floods across southern parts of UK are divine wrath for David Cameron's decision to legalise gay marriage is hardly a mainstream Christian position. If it were espoused by Mark Driscoll, John Sentamu or Pope Francis, there might be more of a problem - and more of a reason for such wide news coverage.

But Mr Silvester is a local Councillor for the Oxfordshire town of Henley-on-Themes. He has no congregation or significant pastoral authority of any kind.

Politically, he stands alone on a council dominated by the Conservatives and the Henley Residents Group.

Even if his meteorological/religious beliefs did inspire him to try and ban same sex weddings from Henley's churches, he lacks the power to actually accomplish that.

So why is the media so concerned about what he has said? Yes it's slightly off the wall, and if there's one thing news in the internet age loves, its off the wall opinions, but we see this sort of thing all the time and doesn't make the headlines.

Reverend William McCrea, MP for South Antrim of the Democratic Unionist Party, has been on record as condemning the "sin of the nation" in sermons. Issues of the ability of lesbians to have children and the rising number of mosques in the UK are the sort of thing to bring on the wrath of God in his eyes.

Yet in 2008 when this sermon was made it was not regarded as newsworthy.

The main reason the David Silvester seems to have become so popular is that it fits an ongoing set of narratives. UKIP has recently had to shed members like Godfrey Bloom who called a group of women in a meeting "sluts" and objected to tax-payers money going in aid to "bongo bongo land". Given the popularity of the ridicule this caused UKIP, another similar story was certain to be greeted with great relish by the media.

It also feeds into previous comments made by Christians about floods and judgement on society. Reverend Graham Dow, former Bishop of Carlisle, said at the time of the 2006 to 2007 floods, "We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation.

"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate."

People enjoy stories of this kind it seems not because they are seriously concerning or actually newsworthy, but because they feed into pre-existing and culturally resonant biases. They like events that conform to the idea of how they see the world, and incidents that further play on what's recently been important.

With UKIP seemingly gaining ground in local councils and potentially European elections also, scrutiny is naturally increasing. While that's right and proper, it only makes sense to scrutinise the party for doing something. If a member with no real power espouses a personal view, why is that a news story?

Because it's funny? Because it's another case of "look at zany/silly/old fashioned UKIP!" or "look at the foolish/judgemental/arrogant Christian!"

While it's important to scrutinise an up and coming political party, this story says more about the society that thought it important, than the party at the centre of its focus.

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