Warsi: "The stronger we are as a Christian nation, the more understanding we will be of other faiths"
His Grace won't re-rehearse the praise he has poured out on Sayeeda Warsi in the past (time and time and time and time and again): she is brave, articulate and forthright in her beliefs. She glides through the complexities of Pakistani politics, confronts ‘honour’ killings and forced marriage, exposes voter fraud and immerses herself in very relevant and pressing social issues which benefit more than her co-religionists: her eyes are not solely on the glorification of Allah and the wellbeing of the Ummah.
But she understands Pakistan's history more that Britain's, and is more attuned to the politics of the mosque than that of the Conservative Party. She proclaims: "For many years, I have been saying that the stronger we are as a Christian nation, the more understanding we will be of other faiths. That is why, a year ago, I went to a bishops’ conference and said that this Government would 'do God'. It is why the Pope’s visit was so important for our country. And it is why I am proud that this year, for the first time, the Prime Minister held an Easter reception in Downing Street."
Yet 'doing God' must be on her terms. And her terms are those of her leader, for whom Jesus was 'the founder of the Big Society', and who preaches that Christians should be 'tolerant and welcoming and broad-minded'. It is the 'love your neighbour' side of the gospel without any theological truth. Jesus did both. The Church must do both, even when that truth is unpalatable.
Baroness Warsi says: "We need to create a country in which people can be unashamedly proud of their faith – where they don’t feel that they have to leave religion at the door. That means being proud of Christianity, not downgrading it. It means encouraging people to say that their faith inspires what they do. It means supporting religious charities in delivering public services in schools, hospices and rehabilitation."
His Grace despairs. The Conservative Party preaches this, but does absolutely nothing to address the injustices of Labour's equality legislation. What Baroness Warsi is saying is that we need to create a country in which people can be unashamedly proud of their Christian faith – as long as they don't hold that faith too strongly. Where they don’t feel that they have to leave religion at the door, unless it's going to offend someone. She says this means being proud of Christianity, not downgrading it. Yet the Coalition are intent on doing precisely that, merely by virtue of imposing a 'wishy-washy' liberal kind of Christianity upon Roman Catholic adoption agencies. One may only deliver public services in schools, hospices and rehabilitation if one is not too doctrinaire.
Sayeeda Warsi says she speaks 'as a proud British, Muslim, Conservative woman'. How many pround British, Christian, Conservative men is her party embracing and promoting? If you happen to believe that homosexuality is a sin and shouldn't be taught to primary school children, or you object to 'gay marriage' on sincere theological grounds, are we really to believe that such candidates could sit in David Cameron's Cabinet alongside the Baroness?
Britain does have a proud history of pluralism and inter-faith dialogue. And the Government is right to take advantage of the Church of England's parish structure in order to move 'beyond the photo calls outside the mosque, beyond hosting the local imam for tea in a draughty church hall'. But, with enormous respect, this is what politicians do in order to get re-elected. They have to be seen, and perception is all. And in order not to offend (and so alienate any constituency), their speeches are bland and the expression of their faith 'wishy-washy'.
But it's a bit rich of of the Baroness to talk about the 'need to take the lead internationally'. She says: "That means pressing other governments to safeguard religious minorities – be it the Copts in Egypt or Christians and other minorities in Pakistan. It means raising problems of persecution at the highest level, as the Archbishop of Canterbury recently did in Zimbabwe."
This, from a member of the Government which links overseas aid to gay rights but not religious liberty; and which bent over backwards to stress that the recent visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury to Zimbabwe was absolutely nothing to do with any branch of governmment. Indeed, a Foreign Office spokesman said: "He is not a representative of the Government and his proposed meeting with Mugabe in no way reflects a change of Government policy."
Baroness Warsi's understanding of the Christian faith is about as extensive as David Cameron's. In the words of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell, Joseph Devine, the Prime Minister 'has surrounded himself with religiously illiterate, secularist advisers’. He wrote: 'It would appear his priority up until now has been to have an exchange of ideas with more liberal and radical minorities, including sexual minorities. It would appear that those immediately surrounding and advising the prime minister, and perhaps Mr Cameron himself, are not religiously literate and simply have no reference to religious sensibilities.'
So, 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'.
His Grace is not frightened of these debates: politicians are, though they pretend ad nauseam to be having them. And as a result of this disjuncture, 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 until the Prime Minister and the Baroness grasp that the cross of Jesus is not a duvet and the crown of thorns was not wrapped in cotton wool, they will not understand that Christians may occasionally be intolerant, unwelcoming and narrow-minded. Indeed, they may even be downright angry: 'The stronger we are as a Christian nation', the more we will certainly love our neighbour, but the less we will tolerate idolatry, sophistry, and hypocritical politicians.