Cameron: "Jesus was the founder of the Big Society"
That was the declaration of the Prime Minister at a reception for prominent Christians last week in Downing Street. From the Church Times:
Speaking to an assembly of about 60 invited guests drawn from Christian organisations, on Wednesday of last week, Mr Cameron remarked: “You’ll all say that our Lord was really dealing with, starting the Big Society two thousand years ago, and you’re absolutely right. I’m not saying we’ve invented some great new idea here.Indeed. And His Grace noted his lack of invitation. Not that he'd have accepted, of course, being naught but ash. But it's nice to be asked.
“What I’m saying is that one of the best things about our country is that people step forward as individuals, as families, as communities, as organisations, as churches, and do extraordinary things in our country in terms of helping others and helping to build a bigger, richer, more prosperous, more generous society; and all I’m saying is wouldn’t it be great if we did even more of that.”Yup.
He looked to the Churches, he said, to support the project: “I think Churches, and religious organisations, have a huge amount to bring to the Big Society. I look around the room and I see Churches that are already running schools, I see Christians who want to start free schools, I see organisations deeply involved in civic society and providing great services... So I think the Big Society is something that people of all faiths, but particularly of the Christian faith, can get very involved in.”His Grace likes '...particularly the Christian faith'. Would the Prime Minister care to expand on this point? Or is it not possible without denigrating other religions and risking an incitement to hatred?
Mr Cameron, who described himself as “a wishy-washy sort of Christian”, used the occasion to thank the Churches for their contribution to national life. He also thanked those who had provided personal support for his family, including his parish priests in Oxfordshire and London, and Sister Frances Dominica and the staff at Helen House, the children’s hospice that had looked after the Camerons’ son Ivan.A 'wishy-washy sort of Christian'. Hmm... His Grace is not sure that there can be any such sort of Christian: certainly, the 'luke-warm' variety get a particularly hard time in the Book of Revelation. One wonders which religion category the Prime Minister ticked on his census form.
He spoke robustly about the place of Christianity. “Britain is a Christian country. Christianity has given a huge amount to our country, and continues to do so. As one of my colleagues, Said (sic) Warsi, put it... as a Government, we shouldn’t be frightened of, as she put it, doing God.Right. But what when the precepts of that God happen to conflict with Government policy? It is not possible to speak 'robustly' about the place of Christianity in Britain without robustly defending the liberty to manifest that religion in the public sphere. Freedom of worship is inadequate: freedom of religion is what is required for this to be a 'Christian country'.
“I’ve never really understood this argument about ‘Should the Church get involved in politics? Yes or no?’ To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church, is involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions...Quite. The Prime Minister takes His Grace's (and Sir Humphrey's) theme - see top-right corner.
“So I don’t think we should be frightened about having these debates, and these discussions, and frankly sometimes these arguments about politics in our country and what it means to be a Christian and what faith brings to our politics.”His Grace is not frightened of these debates. But the Conservative Party does not show itself very willing to have them. As a consequence, the level of political discourse in modern Britain is diminished. Contentious moral issues, no matter how worthy of scrutiny or debate, are swiftly closed down with threats of suspension, expulsion or dismissal. In this age of hyper-sensitivity to offending anyone on any matter, genuine debate is suppressed and liberties are thereby surrendered. David Cameron is an Anglican: in that, His Grace greatly rejoices. Not all Anglicans agree on every matter of doctrine, and that via media is both it weakness and strength. But we have the Prime Minister's definition of the Christian faith: speaking 'as a church-goer' a few months ago, he said: "I think Christians should be tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded." His Grace has no problem with that. Except that the 'founder of the Big Society' was occasionally intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded. Whom should Christians obey? The original founder of the Big Society, or the one who seeks to reform it?