Friday, November 06, 2009

David Cameron does God

He will be criticised by the zealots on both sides of the divide: by the religious fundamentalists who demand an unequivocal exposition and adherence to a strict theology, and by the anti-religious fundamentalists for whom any expression of faith in the public realm is anathema.

But in a very welcome, not to say wholly refreshing interview for the London Evening Standard, David Cameron has talked about his Christian faith in a fashion which would have had Alastair Campbell gnashing his teeth and jumping over a cliff with the Gadarene swine.

In talking about God, Church, prayers (and what he really thinks of Boris), the next prime minister of the United Kingdom (d.v.) is perfectly candid, indeed quite ‘chilled’, in revealing that he prays regularly and understands Christianity to be a 'good guide' by which one might live.

Is faith in God important to him? He says: "If you are asking, do I drop to my knees and pray for guidance, no. But do I have faith and is it important, yes. My own faith is there, it's not always the rock that perhaps it should be.

"I've a sort of fairly classic Church of England faith, a faith that grows hotter and colder by moments but...I suppose I sort of started life believing that one's individual faith was important, but actually the institutions of the church were less important.

"I do think that organised religion can get things wrong but the Church of England and the other churches do play a very important role in society."

It is revealed that Mr Cameron waited until he was 18 years old before being confirmed in order that he was sure it was what he really believed. He explains: "I was a good, sceptical, questioning Christian when I was younger. I liked to think it through, thinking am I really sure about this? But I don't feel I have a direct line (to God).

"I think that it's perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, but I think the teachings of Jesus just as the teachings of other religions are a good guide to help us through.

"Do unto others as you would have them do to you; don't walk on by. These are good and thoughtful ideas to bring to life."

And it was suggested that his Christian insight was foundational to his speech at this year’s party conference.

It is no surprise, being Anglican, that his religious fervour runs 'hotter and colder by moments'. Cranmer has suffered (and suffers) the same: it is evidence that one is human. There is a via media between the ‘hotter’ moments when one may be deluded that one has a 'direct line to God’, and the ‘colder’ moments when one may be equally deluded into believing that God has cancelled the contract.

And perhaps Christians in politics may experience more ‘colder moments’ than those in many other professions.

There will be those who assert that this interview says nothing: that is just 'motherhood and apple pie'. But they would be wrong, for in the declaration that Mr Cameron is a practising Anglican (as opposed to a cultural one), there is insight into his preferred methods of motherhood and his favourite recipe for apple pie.

Of course, all of the world’s religions are enriched to some extent with great spiritual expression and are replete with millennia and centuries of insight into the human condition. In a plural society, Mr Cameron is rightly concerned to create space for them all in the public sphere, yet that admission is not based on equality or equivalence, but respect. He is not ashamed to say that it is the Christian faith about which he is ‘sure’, and it is Jesus in whom he ‘really believed’. Significantly, he highlights the ‘Golden Rule’ as being that which distinguishes between theology that is ‘good and thoughtful’ and that which is not.

Poignantly, and admirably for such a senior politician, he is unembarrassed to talk about grief as he discloses his greatest fear: that he might lose another child. He says: “That's fear Number One. Particularly as it has happened already, it is a sort of permanent fear.” He added: “The most natural thing in your life is to look after your little ones.”

And one begins to grasp something of his belief in the stable building block of society: "My family is the most important thing in my life. I had a strong and supportive family upbringing. And it was not the wealth, it was the warmth that counted. It was the love of good parents and brothers and sisters. I am very simple in that way."

And curiously, he revealed that his greatest driving force is a fear of failure and making a mess: “Fear of getting things wrong inspires me more than the wonder of getting things right.”

Cranmer would like to remind Mr Cameron that we are now in age in which politicians are so afraid of doing the wrong thing that they no longer have the courage or conviction to do what is right. Fear has to be dealt with.

Being Anglican can be one of the most difficult Christian paths to follow: one often feels that one is neither one thing nor another; as was once observed, that one is somehow 'crucified between the two thieves’ of the Puritans and the Papists; suspended between doctrinal fanaticism and superstitious ritualism. And this must be how David Cameron sometimes feels, suspended not only in his party between the modern Whigs and Tories, but in the country between the decline in institutional religion and the burgeoning of generalised ‘spirituality’; between the secularisation of society and the plurality of faith communities.

But it is refreshing to note that David Cameron is genuine and sincere in his expression of Anglicanism, and not pretending to be what he is not in order that people might not judge him to be a ‘nutter’. Cranmer would rather have a prime minister of any faith (or none) who is proud to declare his faith (or lack of it) than a pseudo-Anglican with undisclosed sympathies and undeclared beliefs whose awkwardness stems from the fear of what people might think.

35 Comments:

Anonymous martin sewell said...

It is indeed refreshing to hear this. DC has spoken to a number of faith communities in the recent past about the need for Government to co-operate with, and evolve more responsibility to them, as part of the process of healing the "broken society".

My only concern is that any specifics of policy must not be left too late for the faith groups to plan and respond in a timely way.

It has been remarked that the Catholic church works in centuries not hours - so if DC wants to get initiatives going he needs to offer some clear pointers as to what such partnerships might entail on both sides.

There is no point in having aspiration but no substance.

6 November 2009 at 15:37  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you could as easily say the same about blair, but did being a Christian make him a good Prime Minister ?

6 November 2009 at 16:06  
Blogger TreeSleeper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6 November 2009 at 16:21  
Anonymous Stuart said...

Yes, the honesty does make a refreshing change and I'm not used to it frankly.

6 November 2009 at 16:43  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

I wonder if DC , when PM, will continue to appoint theologically liberal cum atheists as C of E Bishops?

6 November 2009 at 16:46  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

Any assertions of belief in Christianity by anyone is a good thing, as far as I am concerned. Do I believe Mr Cameron? I'm afraid that I don't believe anyone about anything. As far as I am concerned, people will be judged by what they do and not by what they say. And Alastair Campbell is one of the evil persons who have conspired to traduce just about everything we hold dear. If Mr Cameron wants to be seen to be honest, then he will hold a referndum on the EU; the Lisbon dictatorship; or preferably on coming out of the anti-democratic quagmire.

6 November 2009 at 17:38  
Anonymous Philip said...

Mr Cameron's support for the CSJ/IDS social justice agenda, and his acceptance that there's more to life than making money, are evidence that he takes his values from beyond the usual realm that dominates politics: mammon.

Yes, there are areas that Christianity has seemingly yet to influence him, as demonstrated by his support for 'gay pride', civil partnerships, and his support for removing the freedom of the RC adoption agencies to not put children with same-sex couples. And will he end discrimination against Christians and faith groups and repeal laws that attempt to force them to act against their beliefs, or to employ staff who don’t accept their ethos? The CSJ policy would appear to be dependent on the voluntary sector, much of which is faith-motivated.

Anyhow, despite any areas of disagreement, I have found that Christians in the Party wish to support Mr Cameron in every way they can.

And for the hotter and colder seasons and ups and downs of faith he refers to, there's the anchor of the assurance of the Cross, where God has made every provision necessary to deal with the individual's no.1 problem (sin).

6 November 2009 at 17:38  
Blogger Gnostic said...

All very noble, Your Grace, but will his faith steer him onto the path of common sense or along the tortuous lane of doing the right thing by the country rather than his political party?

Thought not...

6 November 2009 at 17:48  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Ms Gnostic,

Go and have a glass of red and put your feet up. You are becoming a little cynical, and it will consume your soul.

6 November 2009 at 17:54  
Blogger Miss Snuffleupagus said...

Yes. I like Cameron!

6 November 2009 at 17:55  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Miss Snuffy,

You have a glass of red and put your feet up as well. You doubtless deserve it.

6 November 2009 at 18:01  
Blogger Lord Lavendon said...

Ah nothing like a good glass of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

6 November 2009 at 18:05  
Anonymous IanCad said...

Very insightful Your Grace. The Anglican role is well described. Allow me to pick a nit.
"decline in institutional religion and the burgeoning of generalised ‘spirituality’;"
Should not this be reversed? Institutional religion as far as I know is best defined by its most powerful manifestation. In this case the New Labour government. Blind faith in the notion that spying, equality and non-judgementalism are prerequisites for Heaven here on earth is religion.

6 November 2009 at 18:24  
Blogger TreeSleeper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6 November 2009 at 18:32  
Blogger TreeSleeper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6 November 2009 at 18:56  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to read that Mr. Cameron is a faithfull Christian. Just like Herman Van Rompuy, the future Reunited EU president. You have to be if you want to piss farther than I can. An if you want to talk blabla at the same time like Herman you need the help of God which means that you have to be a very good Christian. The future of the Reunited EU is in good hands.

Manneke Pis
Brussels (Bruxelles)

6 November 2009 at 19:56  
Blogger English Viking said...

Your Grace,

The dreadful screeching sound your communicants can hear will the bottom of the barrel being furiously scraped by yourself, in what appears to be a desperate attempt to shore up the Tory vote amongst Christians, most of whom have now seen this vacuous toff for the liar he is.

'Call me Dave' a Christian? He seems to have a vague grasp on some of the words of Christ, an apparent acceptance of some sort of 'spirituality'.

He'll trot out his religion every once in while, when he thinks he might get a few more votes out of it. Who knows, he may even equal the dizzy height attained by Blair and Bush in all things Christian. Then again, he strikes me as one of those who go through life thinking that God is an optional extra. A bit like Judas.

6 November 2009 at 21:07  
Blogger Unsworth said...

Your Grace

Heartening to see a befitting modesty and realism rather than the overweening and blinkered arrogance which we have come to expect from the Government. At least Cameron understands that mistakes are always possible, so caution is the watchword. I'd prefer that our politicians considered matters carefully instead of rushing to judgement - and headlines.

6 November 2009 at 21:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are christians and there are christians, praying does not make you a christian nor does going to church,believeing in God and Jesus does not make you a christian nor does eating fish on fridays. Christians acknowledge Christ as their Lord and Saviour having truly repented of their sin choosing to live their lives in humble obedience to God through Christ by keeping His commands. Cameron has done non of this, he ,like others speaks of a self invented faith and path to salvation believing in their own god, however this is not the God of the Bible. There is no way to God but through Christ, has Cameron confessed Christ before men? The c of e is in its death throes as congregations dwindle yet house churches thrive, because the house churches teach Gods word and live it, the c of e drifts back to rome forgetting that hundreds of its own suffered in the flames at the stake rather than accept the godless unbiblical teachings of the popes. Christ alone.

6 November 2009 at 22:56  
Anonymous len said...

The thought that springs to mind is "What is an Anglican?"he doctrine of the Anglican Church seems to be an interesting mix of Catholicism and Protestant theology.
True religion is neither rules-based nor ritual-based. True religion is a relationship with God.Both Catholic and Protestant religions agree humanity is separated from God and needs to be reconciled to Him. False religion seeks to solve this problem by observing rules and rituals. True religion solves the problem by recognizing that only God could rectify the separation, and that He has done so.

Anglicans seem to wander in a sort of no-mans land and David Cameron seems to be no exception.

6 November 2009 at 23:19  
Anonymous martin sewell said...

Anonymous,

If you are right, I fear that you are going to find heaven a rather lonely place.

Some of us derive considerable comfort from the fact that only person to whom Christ promised paradise was the thief on the cross who did not seem to have done much to match your stringent criteria.

Whilst you hammer at the gates with cast iron self assurance, the rest of us will place our confidence in the Jesus who showed rather greater compassion towards human frailty than your post suggest you do.

6 November 2009 at 23:32  
Anonymous not a machine said...

There are times when the political mind and the god centered one appear to be in conflict ,the athiests who do not see beyond the words are missing somthing , it is encouraging for a family man of his generation to give , other men a question to ask themselves.
jam and jerusalem perhaps suggest church is a female construct and in a era where male idendity is based upon sexuality , the discpline of gods wisdom , is unattractive and being lost to men.

Why where robes and be contemplative when you can you feel you have to be king of the rut.

men without wisdom will go onto to do unwise things and be unable to lift/teach there offspring to a more independent state and be secure in right from wrong .

Some cite the bible as imperfected morality in a modern society , can someone tell me if the modern society of a youth making bang bang gestures for classmates mobile phone viewing is a modern society success story ??

7 November 2009 at 00:00  
Blogger Owl said...

Saint Tony decided to (mis)use the pulpits of the RC church to support his march towards the presidency and even created a "charity" to make sure it is well funded. Saint Dave is not being slow to follow his role model and discover the christian pulpits of the UK, CofE and others to bolster up support on his march towards the premiership.
I just can't figure out why they both fail to convince me of their sincerity. If any pictures of Archangel Dave nurturing the poor and sick children in some hospital appear in our completely independant media (I am refering to our bloody newspapers) then I will probably be violently ill.
I wonder if anyone has explained to Dave what faith means and not just in terms of propaganda for votes. No, I suppose not.

7 November 2009 at 00:57  
Blogger Manfarang said...

"hotter and colder"
Clearly a politician with the courage of his lack of convictions.

7 November 2009 at 03:16  
Anonymous OB1 said...

What a strangely naive bunch you all are. A long time ago a man rode into Jerusalem on donkey, welcomed by crowds waving palm fronds. Not many days later the frond wavers were asking for his head.

Just a day ago I was reading furious blogs from angered Brits, boiling at Cameron's "betrayal". Now he's saintly and truly Anglican.

I'm not much of an historian but I recall various figures of the past claiming Christianity or "faith". Recently we have had three US presidents (one with a penchant for extra-marital affairs, one who favoured big business' rape of the planet, and one who spent his first 100 days in office promoting abortion and diminishing democracy. Not exactly evidences of Christlikeness, one would have to say); we have the head of the UN; Australia has had two prime ministers (one now universally savaged and the other roundly admired); Germany has a Lutheran; and Britain, of course, had the charming Mr Blair.

Christians tend to have the unfortunate longing to believe that others who claim to be Christian will behave as they would; will enact laws that they themselves would like to see enacted; will, in short, behave in a Christian manner. In this, they are most frequently disappointed. And yet they manage to quickly forget their sense of disillusionment with the arrival on the scene of each new, promising leader.

Like the disciples of old, we dream if we believe change will come about solely through political means.

7 November 2009 at 05:22  
Anonymous Bob said...

come off it - you're just hearing what you want to hear - exactly as Cameron planned

'I'm Anglican but not devout' - basically appeals to typical Tory voters while not scaring off younger, secular voters

Another cynical move

7 November 2009 at 06:42  
Anonymous non mouse said...

A respondent over on Hannan's blog suggested that he might have been told to back Cameron now, or else. Interesting thought.

Except for the man himself, though, what precisely is a person supposed to back? A demeanour of 'Delightfully vague' might charm dizzy girls, but it's unlikely to strike a disaffected electorate as representing the backbone of, e.g. Churchill - under whose portrait DC likes to stand.

We need someone straightforward, strong, and clear, who can unite the voters in a common cause. Not some shapeless splodge who falls into the shape recommended by every leftie PR twit. What's the use of a united front when the leader's like that?

7 November 2009 at 09:56  
Blogger ENGLISHMAN said...

When one is well connected to the elite through the asters/pilgrims/chatam house,has 30 million in the bank,a future invite to the bilderburgers,who believes just like the henley boat crews that the plebs are there just for amusement while beating them to a pulp,it is easy to vomit forth such tripe to an electorate that seems to have the attention span of goldfish.Not one word on the future of the ordinary indigenous peoples of these islands,save more lies,more oppression,more colonisation,more taxes,more hopelessness,from YG just an encouragement to imbibe more of the thief of the intellect,when we look from man to pig and pig to man we really see no difference at all.

7 November 2009 at 10:24  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, Englishman - I think many animals have the edge over mankind: that is unless the animals have been subjected to viciousness by the humans. Dogs, cats, horses (and even pigs), e.g. can be sweeter and more brilliant than most people, in my experience. Mind you, there are exceptions; I have been privileged to know a few wonderful people: or I wouldn't know the difference ....

On the whole, though, I'm wondering if God didn't leave creation of mankind until last just because we're the dregs of His creation...

7 November 2009 at 12:03  
Anonymous chris r said...

(He says: "If you are asking, do I drop to my knees and pray for guidance, no.)

A good definition of a christian is one who is in Christ.

And Christ is in him, by the power of the Holy Spirit who leads and guides him, and whom he obeys!

A Christian has, by definition, a 'hot-line' to God and, more importantly, God has a hot-line to him.

Pity David won't acknowledge this, preferring to define himself as an Anglican, whatever that means.

Jesus spoke in very black and white terms: Those who acknowledged Him before men, would be acknowledged by Him. Those who did not, would not!

And presumably included in that is the denial or acknowledgment that Jesus speaks directly to one's heart!


In that day, many will say 'Lord, Lord ..

Is David a Christian, or an Anglican, or both?

If he simply has a set of beliefs but no relationship, I suspect Jesus might say, "I never knew you"

7 November 2009 at 13:04  
Blogger TreeSleeper said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7 November 2009 at 15:56  
Blogger Gnostic said...

Your Grace, my cynicism regarding politicians has yet to be proven wrong. I live to be pleasantly surprised. Until then I refuse to give the buggers the benefit of the doubt because they haven't earned that priviledge. I would prefer a pint of decent bitter rather than wine. You can't beat a good real ale.

7 November 2009 at 15:58  
Blogger Gnostic said...

TreeSleeper

I'd say yours was a reasonably accurate assessment of my state of religious play. You can make a far superior crutch out of a tree than you can superstition. :0)

7 November 2009 at 16:08  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What on earth is Cameron laughing about in that picture? Is there something going on underneath the camera that we should be told of?

7 November 2009 at 23:24  
Anonymous chris r said...

Tree Sleeper

07 November 2009 15:56

The Bible - God's Word - God!

9 November 2009 at 14:52  

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