Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Welby praises "profoundly thoughtful" IDS: "We're very careful about saying he's got it wrong"

When Zeinab Badawi, for the BBC's Hardtalk programme (c21.30), asked the Archbishop of Canterbury if he was "making the Church too political" (which she defines as "going into the realm of policy"), Justin Welby was unequivocal:
Of course you have to talk about policy, but we're political, not party political.. We have more people on the ground in more places, leading worshipping communities, than anyone else in the country. Professional people living in their parishes across 9000 places in the country, often in the areas of the utmost deprivation. Of course we're aware of the pressures on the poor, and when I read my Bible I find that Jesus commands me to be very outspoken about the pressures on the poor..

The Church has been talking on welfare benefits and the reforms to that for some time. Iain Duncan Smith is profoundly thoughtful.. the Work and Pensions Secretary who's leading on this legislation and on these reforms is one of the most educated and thoughtful people in this area there is. I think we're very careful about saying he's got it wrong.

Sometimes the application of policy is complex in its impact on individuals, and that needs to be recognised, and we hear that. And when we hear that we speak about it. I'm very careful about saying the reforms are wrong: of course they've got to be right for those who contribute and right for those who receive.. The incentives to work are hugely important; training for work is hugely important.
It is a bizarrely ill-informed BBC view of the Church of England - the Established State Church with 26 Lords Spiritual in the Upper House of Legislature - that it should not "interfere" in the realm of political policy. Politics is the stuff of life, and policy can be transformational. What Christian isn't going to have a view on it? What is the Church for if it is not to speak truth to power? What does she think the Bishops actually do every day in the House of Lords if not scrutinise legislation and ask awkward questions?

Whilst it is undoubtedly the case that the Bishops do not represent a political party, it is absurd to pretend that they are not political animals. They may not represent parliamentary constituencies, but the Archbishop of Canterbury makes it clear that they are closer to their communities than any other national organisation, and this informs their diocesan and national roles. They may be constitutionally non-aligned, but like the independent Crossbenchers, they ask political questions and take political decisions. Of course, their parliamentary profession of neutrality is coloured by their individual inclination: the vast majority veer very much toward the left; to Socialist Labour and to the sacred writ of the Guardian.

Which is why Justin Welby's appreciation of Iain Duncan Smith is rather interesting. It is one thing to point out that the Church is "very careful about saying he's got it wrong" - that would be a cautious expression of the non-aligned politics of Upper-House neutrality. But praising the individual as being "one of the most educated and thoughtful people in this area there is" comes very close indeed to an affirmation of policy, for it is concerned with individual motives and morality. Rowan Williams found Iain Duncan Smith's pronouncements "disturbing". But not Justin Welby. What is the likelihood of "one of the most educated and thoughtful people in this area" getting it wrong?

Iain Duncan Smith is concerned with feeding the poor, housing the homeless and loving the lonely, because such actions reflect the humanitarian priorities which lie at the Christian core of his being. He is good-natured and sincere; concerned with individual lives and family welfare, not bland and impersonal matters of economics and statistics. There are quite a few bishops - Anglican and Roman Catholic - who would take the Owen Jones line on IDS and his reforms: he's not evil, but certainly unforgivably cruel. They attack the politician more than the policies, hence their visceral hatred, still, for Margaret Thatcher. But Justin Welby appreciates personhood. And this would be true whether we're taking about Iain Duncan Smith or Ed Miliband: Socialism may bankrupt the country, keep families in poverty and deprive children of a good education, but Archbishop Justin would still have Mr Miliband in for a coffee to chat about welfare policy and education, not least because minds are only changed through dialogue and persuasion.

But personal praise? His (former) Grace can't quite see His (present) Grace saying of Ed Miliband or Ed Balls that he is "one of the most educated and thoughtful people in this area there is". No, anyone who supports inflationary policies which hit the poor hardest, or who advocates tax increases which penalise enterprise but don't actually raise any money, is neither well-informed nor particularly thoughtful. But they're still worth a coffee.     


Blogger john in cheshire said...

I wish just once that someone as influential as AB Welby would reply to the bbc halfwits they have to endure - 'when you have a more educated understanding of the questions you are asking, come back and ask me again'; rather than just pandering to their ignorant prejudices. I'd forgotten that Ms Badawi existed; the last time I had to put up with her bombast was years ago when she was with Mr Metrosexual on the Channel 4 news. She was useless then and she doesn't sound to have improved. But she probably feels more at home amidst the hive that is the bbc.

28 January 2014 at 10:21  
Blogger John Thomas said...

" ...sacred writ of the Guardian ..." Wow! I've many times said that the C of E, or at least its leaders, are The Guardian readership at prayer - now CRANMER is saying that! Vindication at last!

28 January 2014 at 11:16  
Blogger David Hussell said...

A belated and very timid slight balancing of the obvious leftward bias of the C of E, from Archbishop Welby, helpfully highlighted by Cranmer. Thank you Cranmer.

Generally in my experience, the congregations are more mixed in their political affiliations than the predominantly left leaning clergy. Indeed some of the evangelical congregations are responsible, caring right wingers, One Nation Conservatives, like IDS.

I attribute this distinct leftwards lean amongst the clergy to their very thin understanding of how human nature and the world outside the Church works. Like career politicians, career clergy have usually zero experience outside the Church. Rowan Williams was a classic. Many of those that join the Church in mid-life come from the public sector, and consider profit a dirty word. Welby is in that regard a breath of fresh air, and of pragmatic realism regarding the means, whilst retaining the striving for a release from poverty.

Everyone of good will, Christian or not, wants the poor to succeed , out of poverty. But right and left disagree on the mechanism. Clerics like many idealists, see simplistically that the Christian thing is for the "haves" to hand it over to the "have-nots" - simples ! Job done. They give not a thought to how that impacts upon human motivation, self esteem and family structures, or at the strategic level, an economy, rooted in a capitalist global economy. They ignore economics - it's a no go area for most clerics. Their approach is summed up, I believe, in the phrase "unworldly".

As many have observed the path to ruin is littered with good intentions. I'm all for tough love myself. Encouraging welfare dependency is not a Christian thing to do. Welfare should only act as a temporary bridge until individuals and families can get back on their own feet. But our wages are too low and will continue being so whilst we have unlimited numbers pouring into our job market, undercutting the existing employees and self employed. Open borders stacks the cards against self reliance. This is an exceedingly complex area.

28 January 2014 at 12:10  
Blogger Nath said...

I often feel that like Margaret Thatcher our left leaning Bishops fall into the most un-Christian of beliefs of thinking that everyone is essentially good.

They seem to have forgotten we had a fairly significant fall between once being made good and today's state of affairs.

If St. Paul can see the virture in suffering as breading perseverance and ultimately character surely our Bishops should not be too quick to alleviate it absolutely but recondition and remould suffering into endeavour, trial and aspiration.

If we consider the five evils identified by Aneurin Bevan: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor and Idleness one can see that to a large extent they remain and rather than have been eradicated by 50 years of welfare spending they have rather become engrained in certain communities.

I we are to treat these symptoms then the status quo must change. The existing system is failing us, we must find a new medicine.

28 January 2014 at 12:56  
Blogger David Hussell said...

Nath @ 12.56

I suggest that our Bishops tend to think that way, "that everyone is essentially good" as they see institutional sin as being the main culprit. They have a point of course, but overemphasize the destructive nature of capitalism, which it undoubtedly has, whilst failing to see its constructive, creative side. The two parts have to be balanced of course, in an humane society.

But the bishops also downplay traditional protestant personal responsibility, thus reflecting the spirit of the age. Nowadays most C of E bishops are liberals, of some sort. It's the shortage of the other key theological components in the C of E Episcopy, conservative evangelical and conservative anglo-catholicism, that is so unbalancing to the C of E at present.

But this pervasive liberalism reflects national life as well. Maybe we must wait for liberalism to be shown to have failed, as it surely is doing, before we can progress to something that works ?

28 January 2014 at 13:46  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Goodness! Left-wing and socialist bishops in the Church of England? Not in Barchester I'm glad to say, where my Lord the Bishop thinks (and I agree with him) that the rot set in with that Stockwood fellow and that Bolshevik in the deanery at Canterbury. Peter Simple warned of this tendency years ago, pointing out the follies and enthusiasms of Dr. Spacely-Trellis: whatever next? And who are these 'professionals' in 9000 parishes? Does His Grace refer to the clergy? If so, 'professionals' does not seem the right word: Mr. Slope resembles neither Bodie or Doyle, more's the pity...

28 January 2014 at 16:20  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

One feels great unease at the thought of a political church. A church is for ALL people, left and right, rich and poor, and so on, albeit the rich used to sit at the front, but that’s just how it was, yet all are equal before God. We are quite definitely not equal among us on this earth, and that is the way it was designed to be.

One wonders what part of “My kingdom is not of this earth” does Mr Welby have trouble with. Perhaps it’s the requirement to see to the needs of the poor as Christ instructs us.

It would be unfair to criticise the man without offering him the way out of his self imposed predicament, so here it is…

The state has taken over welfare for the poor and has made such a good job of it that paying the bill has been passed on to generations yet unborn. Another form of child abuse, if you will. However, as the church has been doing it for centuries previously, it can be seen why the need to continue is ingrained. So with that in mind, perhaps the CoE can provide what the state does not. The spiritual mission that Christ has given it. People need more than a tin of baked beans in this wretched life. Spiritual noursihment, even…

28 January 2014 at 18:05  
Blogger Inspector General in Ordinary said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 January 2014 at 18:05  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 January 2014 at 19:07  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

28 January 2014 at 19:09  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

Phil Roberts said...

Take the last 30 years.

Which party increased living standards the most Labour or Conservative?

Err Labour

Under which party was the most money made by businesses?

Err Labour

I don't see either party has much of clue at the moment. IDS has introduced reform that puts even more pressure on families, but at least has suggested something sensible over pensions for spouses that bring up families rather than work.

Why not start with non working spouses being able to transfer their tax allowance to their husband/wife?

If we want to succeed we need a change of direction. A huge change of direction. Many many laws need to be scrapped, Education from Schools to Universities need a complete overhaul. We need to have a different culture, we work hard enough but with most jobs doing what exactly?

(And why, if anyone does anything, does it always start with removing workers rights and making the poor poorer? Easiest option and quick short term rewards? Probably -- that tells you a lot about our leaders' complete lack of humanity or more worrying, any vision for the future)

They are all to my mind simply rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. Stop it and save the ship it is the only one we have left!


28 January 2014 at 19:13  
Blogger Integrity said...

BTW Your Grace,
How did it go at Lambeth Palace on the 20th Jan?

28 January 2014 at 19:13  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

Oh yes indeed,Your Grace,do tell...was Mrs. Welby's hobnobs as tasty as mine?

28 January 2014 at 20:39  
Blogger Mrs Proudie of Barchester said...

or indeed, 'were'...it's the sherry again...

28 January 2014 at 20:40  
Blogger Manfarang said...

"Which party increased living standards the most Labour or Conservative?

Err Labour"

Yes in cloud cuckoo land.
Many young people face a future where they are worse off than their parents.

The bishops can use their pulpits to express their views.
reform of the House of Lordes is long overdue.

29 January 2014 at 05:18  
Blogger Phil Roberts said...

"Many young people face a future where they are worse off than their parents"

Part of the reason for this the fact that there are too many parents and not enough young people


29 January 2014 at 07:13  
Blogger John Thomas said...

" suggest that our Bishops tend to think that way, "that everyone is essentially good" as they see institutional sin as being the main culprit. " (David Hussell, here) - if they do indeed see things that way, they're Marxists and not Christian (or Judeo-Christian) at all ... Dare I be a little naughty, and suggest that they did all along seem to be that way ...

29 January 2014 at 10:24  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Young people have been imported except in Scotland. This one reason why having an independent Scotland isn't a good idea. A lack of taxpayers to fund pensions and benefits in the future.

30 January 2014 at 01:16  
Blogger Born Again Agnostic said...

I used commute into central London from NW7 and it was not uncommon for a homeless man to join the train at Farringdon. Once the train was underway and commuters were a captive audience, he would make the same speech to the carriage; I came to know it off by heart, for it rarely varied...

‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m sorry to disturb you after a hard working day, but I just need a few pounds to pay for access to my hostel tonight and I would be grateful if someone could help me out...’

He would then proceed along the carriage and people would gladly give him money. I would sit looking at the white knife scar on the palm of my right hand and ponder the happy days I had working in a Christian run nightshelter for the homeless... Content with the knowledge that homeless people do not have to pay to access hostels, I would ignore him – the cost of a hostel place is largely met by the taxpayer in some shape or form (including many well known faith-based providers!).

Meanwhile, the guy would get around 8-10 donations (of 50p to £1) from one carriage alone, before clambering through the connecting door to a fresh audience/gaggle of suckers... He would visit every carriage and then get off the train at West Hampstead. If we estimate he gained £6-£8 per carriage, that makes a total of £48-£64 journey in an eight coach train.

West End Lane in West Hampstead is where I would often meet a work colleague for an after work snifter and around 11pm, while awaiting my train home, I would espy the same homeless-man, not snuggled up in a hostel, but supine in the small space between the underside of the bridge and the cutting at West Hampstead Thameslink station, surrounded by cans (full and empty) of Tenants’ Super; enabled to write yet another line in the long suicide note, which is unbridled alcoholism, by the generosity of Thamelink passengers. Do-gooding often enslaves people in a life dependence.

I have worked in social work for 33 years (qualified and unqualified) and I am firmly of the view the IDS is not going far enough in welfare reform. I think we should have a sliding scale of benefits, the top rates only ‘earned’ for those British citizens with five or more years continuous employment/NI contribution. For these job seekers, the benefits should, initially, be generous. Yet for those who have never worked or who have not a record of regular employment, then we should stop paying cash benefits. Vouchers should be given for food, utility and charity shops (for clothes and furniture). Those with disabilities or who are terminally ill (my own area of social work) should likewise have generous benefits, but there should be evidence of wanting to make themselves as independent as possible. i.e. my brother-in-law was recently diagnosed with COPD and now has a mobility car and higher rate DLA/PiP. Yet he continues to smoke! Carrot, sticks and rods – and a dash of compassion for the truly sick and disabled is what is needed.

Welby typifies the arrogance of many ‘faithful’ that they somehow have a monopoly on caring and social conscience (forgetting that if ‘faith-based’ was so wonderful, why did we need a welfare state in the first place..?). Or there is the other extreme of seeing a welfare state as something that has promoted ‘immorality’ – a punitive welfare state, more Christianity and the eschewing of liberalism, would give us a far more moral society... being their argument. Yet if we look to our brethren in Bible Belt USA, high attendance at theologically conservative churches (50%+ in many counties), a punitive welfare state, liberalism is an anathema, yet it leads the Western world in divorce, teen pregnancy, lone-parent families, violent crime, social inequality, ill-health etc. So obviously the answers are more complex, though I would suggest they have a bias towards a political rather than a religious solution...

30 January 2014 at 13:37  
Blogger Len said...

So obviously there are a group of scroungers who will do anything to avoid work and are quite content to let society look after them.This is a fact.
Then there are those who want to work and to build a future for themselves perhaps have gone through the entire education system to find themselves on the scrapheap and labelled a scrounger because they live on benefits.This is also a fact.
The whole government attitude seems to be 'look for a scapegoat' to which to blame for our economic ills and load the burden onto them, and the government are doing a pretty good propaganda job on this.

I thought 'stereotyping' was a very un P C thing to do nowadays?.

31 January 2014 at 10:54  

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