Ekklesia: Tory manifesto has a ‘God-shaped hole’
Jonathan Bartley, the group's co-director, said: "David Cameron has been left facing an embarrassing situation today following the launch of the Conservative manifesto, which makes no reference to religion, faith, faith schools or the contribution of church or other religious groups to society."
Does he not know that 'religion' is not the same shape as God?
David Cameron has already said the he wants to see 'a big growth in faith-based organisations and charities' and that 'we should celebrate them'.
Yet Ekklesia lauds and praises Labour's manifesto, because it states overtly:
“Faith is enormously important to millions of people in Britain, shaping their values and the way they live. We respect the importance of belief and welcome the contribution that people of faith make to our communities and society more widely. We will actively combat extremist groups who promote fear, hatred and violence on the basis of faith or race.”
Has it not occurred to this all-discerning and wise 'think-tank' that there might be just a little disparity between Labour's words and their actions?
Do empty words fill a 'God-shaped hole'?
And yet they condemn David Cameron for spouting 'empty rhetoric' because 'the Tory vision of the Big Society does not seem large enough to take account of the work of religious groups - at least by name'.
The reality is that the Conservative Party's 2010 manifesto is the most Christian in inspiration for a generation.
With its focus on the liberty of the individual and a commitment to subsidiarity, it is building upon Tory-Christian thinking which goes right back to the biblical principles which inspired the 'Father of Conservsatism' Edmund Burke. The notion of ‘liberty’ has a quite distinct theological lineage, not only from sin and the power of evil, but also in the Calvinist understanding of church governance – liberty from oppressive hierarchies.
David Cameron has committed the next Conservative government to such notions as ‘One Nation Toryism' and ‘Compassionate Conservatism'. The former denotes a political stance aspiring towards unity of the citizenry in the nation, as well as harmony between divergent classes and interest groups. The latter offers a new way of thinking about the poor: they know that telling the poor that they are mere passive victims, whether of racism or of vast economic forces, is not only false but also destructive, paralysing the poor with thoughts of their own helplessness and inadequacy. It is about empowerment to a better life.
There is little more that is more Christian in its inspiration than a lucan expression of privilege for the poor, the outcast and the destitute. This builds on the most enduring of Conservative themes, articulated severally by Disraeli, Baldwin, Macmillan and now Cameron.
And Margaret Thatcher observed in 1977: "Our religion teaches us that every human being is unique and must play his part in working out his own salvation. So whereas socialists begin with society, and how people can be fitted in, we start with Man, whose social and economic relationship are just part of his wider existence."
David Cameron does not resile from a word of this.
He is an enthusiast for democracy because of the Protestant instinct within him of the significance of the individual before God: democracy, he believes, most effectively safeguards the value of the individual, and, more than any other system, restrains the abuse of power by the few.
The Christian inspiration of the Tory gospel is manifest in this manifesto for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Ekklesia prefers to fellowship with the darkness.
Let him who is without the God-shaped hole offer to fill the hole in others.