The Guardian: ‘Measure not your politician by their Christianity’
The last time Cranmer came across an ion was during a riveting discussion involving the exchange of electrons between an aqueous solution and a solid. And he was more enthralled by that tedious process than he is with the puerile level of religio-political comprehension of Mr Ion. His Grace is in the mood for fisking, so here, in negation of Mike Ion, is Cranmer’s cation:
According to the conservativehome website more and more Christians are likely to vote Conservative at the next election. In support of this assertion, it cites the Tory party's pledge to recognise marriage in the tax system, its commitment to move towards 0.7% of GDP being spent on overseas development, support for faith schools and the views of many Tory candidates on the need to restrict the present abortion laws.
It is impossible for Cranmer to take seriously any journalist who manifests sloppy grammar or carelessly deploys the lower case when a word demands capitalisation. Or perhaps the small-c ‘conservative’ was purposeful, and the small-h ‘home’ a tedious emphasis of an alleged insignificance. That aside, it is difficult to grasp Mr Ion’s objection to his list of ‘support’ for the assertion. All of these issues are of varying degrees of concern to Christians of all denominations. It stands to reason that if the Conservative Party is identifying with these priorities that it will attract voters for whom they constitute some degree of importance. Support for faith education and an indication of reducing the time limit for abortion will attract in particular the traditionally Labour-supporting Roman Catholic vote; recognising marriage in the tax system and increasing overseas aid will accord with all Christians who favour the traditional family unit and desire to express compassion to the world’s poorest.
As Tom Harris points out the premise that one party is more "Christian" than any other is both facile and worrying.
The absence of commas is appalling, as is the adulation of Tom Harris who purposely caricatured His Grace’s beliefs and conveniently ignored his riposte and counter-arguments. But neither of these is as appalling as Mr Ion’s facile and worrying inability to reason. If one party supports church schools, favours marriage, seeks to save the child in the womb, feed the poor and house the homeless; while another seeks to close church schools, undermine marriage, promote abortion, maintain levels of poverty and pursues economic policies which increase homelessness, it is perfectly reasonable to assert that the former may be ‘more Christian’ than the latter. One does not need eyes to see or ears to hear that if one church is preaching Christ crucified from its pulpit while another is sacrificing chickens on the altar, that only one is trying to build Jerusalem while the other propagates the dark satanic mills.
Back in 2007 my local Tory MP (Mark Pritchard) initiated a Westminster Hall debate on "Christianophobia" – it was a pity that he couldn't find time to secure a debate about how we can prevent further services transferring from our local hospital in Telford over to Shrewsbury, but obviously he felt this issue was of greater importance to the good people of the Wrekin. During the debate Pritchard argued that the "political correctness brigade" were to blame for fewer schools putting on nativity plays and argued for the need protect our "Christian traditions".
Actually, the liberty to debate services in your local hospital stems from the constitutional liberties guaranteed by the contract between the Monarch and the people, and these liberties are fundamentally those bequeathed and preserved by the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law. The more freedom of speech is hindered; the more freedom of conscience is limited; the more each passing generation is inoculated against the meaning and significance of the nation’s Christian traditions, the more we are diminished. To dismiss this important debate is to dismiss a primary concern of all Christians, and perpetuate the fear that practices not in conformity with the Gospel will be forced upon the unwilling consciences of believers, particularly in the public services. Increasingly it will be the independence of the Christian conscience and those churches that can sustain that independence in spirit and in fact that will come to be seen as the defences of human liberty.
There is a real danger that people use "Christian" as shorthand for "white British" (just as they also often use "Muslim" as shorthand for "British Asian") with the implication that Christianity is seen as synonymous with "Britishness".
Ah, now Cranmer understands. Anyone who expresses concern about the diminution of Christian expression in the public sphere is a closet member of the BNP. Who are these ‘they’, Mr Ion? The Gospel of Christ knows no racial barriers, and Asians may belong to any faith and have done for centuries. Christianity has never been synonymous with Britishness, but ‘Britishness’ (whatever that be) has been Christian in an evolving political character and particular jurisprudence for more than a thousand years. England is Christian, and in that there is no shame. And it is no ‘danger’ that the ‘white British’ may wish to identify themselves as Christian, for the overwhelming majority manifestly do. The danger, Mr Ion, is in those who foment religious strife and who cry ‘danger’ where there is none.
The closer we get to a general election the more I worry that some of our political leaders will simply not be able to resist playing the "faith card" at some stage during the campaign.
The Christian faith is not a card to be played at a moment, but a life-long race to be won. Those who play the ‘faith card’ may be superficial, nominal Christians. But those who live their lives sincerely trying to work out their faith in an increasingly hostile world should not be a cause of worry but of relief. For they are the guardians of conscience, defenders of liberty, and advocates for the right to speak and to think as one wishes. And to accuse such as these of 'playing the faith card' is only to play the anti-faith card.
In 2005 we saw a glimpse of such a move when Michael Howard sought to make abortion an electoral issue.
Hmm... Cranmer must have missed that, though he was somewhat preoccupied. But let His Grace assure Mr Ion that, while Michael Howard might have talked about abortion, he certainly played no ‘faith card’. Such expression would have been antithetical to his essentially secular mindset. He has no understanding of religious conviction, no respect for Christian conscience, no grasp of the Protestant dimension of the Constitution, and no understanding of the symbiosis inherent in the delicate contract that exists between Parliament, Church, Monarch and the people. If Michael Howard mentioned abortion, it was in order to win votes. Any ‘faith card’ he played was simply a joker.
If Britain ends up (heaven forbid) mirroring what happens in the US, candidates seeking the Christian vote in the UK are likely to fall into one of two categories:
1. I am a Christian so please give me your vote. I am a good guy/girl, I go to church regularly and I am a person of simple faith just like you. You are a Christian and I am Christian – that's all you need worry about.
2. I am Christian and I have a strong moral compass (particularly when it comes to "family" values) so please give me your vote. Not only am I a Christian I am also a married Christian with a family. I think family life is the backbone of Britain; it is what makes our nation a great nation and we need to protect and promote the traditional family unit at all costs.
Cranmer agrees with Mr Ion's sentiment here, but is puzzled by his derision of Gordon Brown, who is manifestly a ‘Category 2’ Christian, obsessed with his ‘moral compass’ and who would certainly equate his ‘values’ with the ‘Britishness’ that he is still trying to define.
Let's be honest here. Category 1 is just silly – you might as well be saying "I voted for Diversity on Britain's Got Talent and so did you, please vote for me." Category 2 is slightly more sinister – "I am normal, just like you are" so vote for me. Does it matter? Well yes. Modern Christianity is in danger of becoming a privatised, pietised and politically compliant servant of the status-quo and the prospect of it ending up becoming the handmaiden of conservative, reactionary politics, similar to what has for so long dominated right of centre thinking in US politics, should worry us all.
This is an appallingly-written and utterly confused paragraph, and Cranmer is relieved that God spared the lovely people of Shrewsbury from having this man as their Member of Parliament at the last general election. To equate the agonising and eternal depths of the Christian faith with something as ephemeral and insignificant as voting for ‘Diversity’ is an insult to all people of all faiths. And note the derogatory ‘simple faith’; the caricature Evangelical salesman. There is a degree of projection here, for the only ‘silly’ reasoning is the crass superficiality of this analysis. And the final sentence reveals an alarming ignorance of the English settlement. The Christian faith has been fused at the heart of government for centuries: the English Church is bound with Parliament, and this expression of Christianity has been, to varying extents in various times, the ‘handmaiden’ of whichever political party has been in power. Through the Tory and Whig era, it has even been ‘reactionary’: the English did it way before the Americans declared their statehood. And let us not ignore the purposeful juxtaposition of ‘right of centre’ thinking which ‘should worry us all’. It is the gospel of the secularist, the false faith of ‘neutrality’ which should worry us all, not the temporal liberty inherent in the politics of the Right or the spiritual liberation offered by the Christian faith.
'Measure not your politician by their Christianity'?
That is the cry of the continuing hostility of this anti-Christian government to the defenders of the faith. What better touchstone can there be than that which measures a man by his honesty, integrity, humility, goodness, kindness, self-control? It is written in Magna Carta that ‘the English Church should be free’. In the context of Labour’s overweening power and onslaughts like this from The Guardian, the precepts of Magna Carta take on an urgent contemporary relevance: they remind us that the Christian Church is the defender of liberty and of conscience against the totalitarian State. It is time for Christians in politics to ‘do God’, for if they are silent, who is left to defend what remains of our liberty and rights of conscience?