Tony Blair does God – again.
'He had a separate religious group that met weekly during the campaign, the’97 campaign, which he met with weekly. He said that he would talk to them and make sure, kinda check he wasn’t going too far in his politics from his religious faith. But none of those people were introduced into the campaign. But that was a separate domain. After 9/11, he was in some ways liberated to bring together faith and his politics.’
And now he follows the theme of Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor in his assertion that Christianity is seen as a ‘personal eccentricity’ rather than ‘an important influence on the country’.
Alastair Campbell’s assertion that No10 did not ‘do God’ has become one of the defining declarations of the New Labour era. Tony Blair later admitted that he feared he would be labelled a ‘nutter’ if he spoke publicly about his religious convictions.
But since leaving office, he has done no end of God. He converted to Roman Catholicism and set up the Tony Blair Faith Foundation to ‘promote respect and understanding about the world's major religions’.
In an interview with the Church of England Newspaper , Mr Blair said: "Sometimes I think we as Christians are more sensitive than we should be although I say that as someone who when I was in office, although I was perfectly open about my Christianity, nonetheless kept it within certain boundaries that were restricted in terms of what I said publicly. The position of prime minister puts you in a unique category.”
Well, try telling that to God: “Sorry, Lord. I’m not a sheep or a goat. I’m in a unique category.”
“O, really?” said God. “What category is that?”
“I’m a prime minister,” said Mr Blair.
“Ah, a special category, but not quite unique. There have been quite a few of you. And some of them, you know, did me,” said God.
“Did you?” queried Mr Blair.
“God,” said God.
Mr Blair looked puzzled, and God became a little impatient with the former prime minister's slow understanding. “Some of them did what Alastair Campbell said you didn’t do,” replied God. “They did me.”
“But if I’d done you while I was in office, people might have thought I was a nutter,” protested Mr Blair.
“Indeed they might,” said God. “But look what my servant the Archbishop of Canterbury endures. And consider also the perpetual scorn endured by my servant the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster - even from their professing co-religionists.”
“But they are a bit nutty,” Mr Blair insisted.
“And you think that by becoming a Roman Catholic and establishing a faith foundation, you are no longer perceived as a nutter?” challenged God. “Is doing the Pope out of office somehow more acceptable than doing me whilst in office?”
"But in British society there is a risk that people see faith as a personal eccentricity," said a defensive Mr Blair. "I could not be a nutter while in office, but now it doesn’t matter. Now I believe people should be proud of their Christianity and able to express it as they wish. The real test of a religion is whether in an age of aggressive secularism it has the confidence to go out and make its case by persuasion."
“And you never had the confidence to make that case while you were prime minister?” asked God.
Mr Blair reminded God: “I was in a unique category.”
“Ah, yes. You were in a unique category,” God recalled. “The same office as that occupied by William Gladstone and Winston Churchill."
God paused for a moment, and added: "They did me, you know.”
Mr Blair explained: “While I was prime minister, I believed equality and diversity were more important than religion. There were so many competing groups - the gays, the Muslims, Ruth Kelly. You have got to try to work your way through these issues."
“Really?” lamented God. “What then has been the fate of the adoption agencies? Your policies have closed them. Your policies have created a world in which faith schools are discriminated against, heterosexuals are silenced, fatherhood demeaned, marriage sidelined, prayer risks you losing your job, and the developing foetus in the womb in as much danger as ever it was.
“You used your ‘unique category’ to pursue a fundamentally anti-Christian agenda. Now, when Christians dare to be convicted, they are portrayed as bigots. When they articulate a view with which others may disagree, they are dogmatic. When they fall short of perfection, they are pilloried and cast as hypocrites. When they defend the unborn, they are unenlightened. When they oppose animal-human embryos, they are anti-science. When they express concern over the fatherless, they are homophobic. When they speak up for the poor, they are wishy-washy liberals. When they defend faith-based education, they are intolerant. When they seek to uphold marriage, they are ‘right wing’ reactionaries.”
Mr Blair was silent.
God continued: "These are the fruits of your policies, Mr Blair. Everywhere you look today, Christians are marginalised and the faith is something few can discuss openly. And your defence is that of being unique?”
Mr Blair was about to speak, but God raised his hand. “Depart from me,” he said, sorrowfully.
And Mr Blair departed the presence of God.
And returned to his desk to continue working on his faith foundation.