Tuesday, 22 April 2014

David Camerons new-found faith

David Cameron has been, of late, making some interesting comments trying to align himself with Christianity, expressing his support of Christianity. While I am sure that some people will jump on this as a clear sign of a) Their prayers working and/or b) their personal politics being now acceptable as a Christian, I am rather more cynical.

I should point out that I would be as cynical were it any other party leader or senior politician, and would apply the same critical judgement against them. I should also make it clear that any criticism is of Cameron as the PM, not him as an individual. At the end of the day, I do not know Mr Cameron, and cannot say anything about his personal devotion or beliefs. All I can comment on is his public statements and his public profile.

For many years, politicians have been critical of bishops and other clergy who stray into the political arena, arguing that they should stay out of politics. The usual rebuff to this is that a proper understanding of Jesus teaching means that it has to be political - you cannot follow Jesus teaching without being political.

There is something in his latest declarations that seems like him returning the favour - a politician getting involved in religion, and defining the playing field.

That does worry me.

There is something in his statements of "I believe in Christianity, and I believe that this faith tells me that my policies are right". He aligns himself with Christianity, and then redefines what this means to support his beliefs and statements. He is arguing that yes, faith means involvement in politics, but it is his sort of politics that is appropriate.

The other - related - problem I see with this is that what he says about his faith doesn't actually seem to be reflected in his actions. I am quite prepared to accept that his faith may be genuine - as I have said, I don't know. He does seem to be attending church, and doing at least some of the things that might indicate an awakening of faith in him. But his words do not demonstrate that.

The truth is, I have been in churches for many years, and I know that there are lots of people in churches who can say the right things, do the right things, be, to all outward appearances, a good committed church person. But Christian faith is not about church attendance, it is not about the things we say.

It is about what we do.

What I see in the actions of this government, led by David Cameron, is not the demonstration of the Christian faith. Of course what Christian faith in action looks like is a hotly debated question, but there are some significant aspects that echo throughout the bible: caring for the poor, the unfortunate, the disabled, the needy; not treating the wealthy and powerful with deference; honesty and fairness in dealings.

These are not things I see in this government. Whether it is Cameron or someone else, words do not make a Christian. I try to judge people by their actions, by what they do, not what they say. Whether they claim commitment to a particular faith or not, what people do tells me what is real about them.

So come on Cameron, lets see something. Or give up the political wooing of the religious right.

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