G20 - the Prime Minister preaches in St Paul’s Cathedral
No, Prime Minister. Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you cannot see. St Paul’s is a building; the rock (if His Grace’s Roman Catholic communicants will permit him a little latitude) is Jesus.
The Prime Minister spoke interminably of hope and faith, enduring values and virtues, timeless truths, family lives, neighbourhoods and communities. And what conquers fear of the future is faith in the future – ‘Faith in who we are and what we believe, in what we are today and what we can become: Faith most of all in what together we can achieve.
It must have bored God to the point of contemplating the virtues of mortality.
And on the day the
Financial instability in a world of global capital flows
Environmental degradation in a world of changing energy need
Violent extremism in a world of mass communications and increased mobility
Extreme poverty in a world of growing inequalities
And so he talked of the need to have ‘faith in globalisation’, for the world to ‘come together’ to agree ‘global rules’ informed by ‘shared global values’.
Of course, the Prime Minister never articulated what these are. But he does note that the globalisation which lifted millions out of poverty has also ‘unleashed forces that have totally overwhelmed the old national rules and systems of financial oversight’.
Therein lies a plea not for the international co-operation of sovereign nation states but for new continental or global rules for the post-democratic, post-national era.
And Mr Brown then declared: ‘And as I have always said I take full responsibility for all of my actions.’
Cranmer falls off his chair laughing.
Gordon Brown has consistently refused to apologise for anything. He has ducked and dived, swiveled and swerved to avoid taking responsibility for any of the damaging actions and appalling decisions he has taken over the past 12 years. Has he ever apologised for purloining billions from private pension reserves? For gambling away even more billions when he exchanged the nation's gold for euros? For over-spending during the years of plenty? For engorging the state with a million new public sector non-jobs? For tampering with the supervisory responsibilities of the Bank of England? For lying about 'prudence' and 'the end of boom and bust'?
The Prime Minister blames ‘unsupervised globalisation’ for crossing ‘moral boundaries’. He said: “Most people want a market that is free, but never values-free; a society that is fair but not laissez faire.” And he talked of the need to fulfill the promise of Adam Smith (‘who came from my home town Kirkcaldy’) that ‘individual gain leads to collective gain, that even when people are pursuing their private wishes they can nonetheless deliver public good’.
He continued: “Christians do not say that people should be reduced merely to what they can produce or what they can buy - that we should let the weak go under and only the strong survive. No, we say do to others what you would have them do unto you.”
His father would have been proud.
But then the sermon became multi-faith and all-inclusive when he referred to ‘each of our heritages, our traditions and faiths’:
“And when Judaism says love your neighbour as yourself. When Muslims say no one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. When Buddhists say hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. When Sikhs say treat others as you would be treated yourself. When Hindus say the sum of duty is do not unto others which would cause pain if done to you, they each and all reflect a sense that we all share the pain of others, and a sense that we believe in something bigger than ourselves - that we cannot be truly content while others face despair, cannot be completely at ease while others live in fear, cannot be satisfied while others are in sorrow We all feel, regardless of the source of our philosophy, the same deep moral sense that each of us is our brother and sisters’ keeper.”
Once again, he omitted the Jedi Knights, who (according the last census) outnumber in their adherents both the Jews and Sikhs.
And he referred to a letter he received ‘from the Holy Father, Pope Benedict, reminding us that “positive faith in the human person, and above all faith in the poorest men and women - of Africa and other regions of the world affected by extreme poverty - is what is needed if we are truly to come through the crisis”.’
Why would a Scottish Presbyterian call Pope Benedict XVI ‘the Holy Father’? It rather reminds Cranmer of when Jack Straw ended a television interview with ‘Inshallah’. It was a little shocking that a British non-Muslim Home Secretary would be so ingratiating as to inculturate himself with what is so manifestly foreign and alien to him. Of course one should show respect, but Gordon Brown is no more Roman Catholic than Jack Straw is fluent in Arabic. It is an embarrassing hypocrisy to pretend to be what one is not; to subscribe to a false reverence; to attempt to dupe those who sincerely refer to the Pope by that title.
Unless, of course, one is trying to win their votes.
Incidentally, throughout the entire sermon, there was not one mention of God.
The Church of England might at least have ensured a prayer of repentance and forgiveness for permitting Gordon Brown to speak this vapid tosh. With all the talk of global trade, banks, money supplies and debt, one wonders if Jesus might not have turned over a few tables.