Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The most Christian PM since ...


David Cameron is on an evangelistic roll as he speaks publicly once again about his faith, the work of the Church of England and the importance of faith for morality. Thanks Church Times!


David Cameron seems an enigmatic kind of chap. At best, is he an 'all things to all men' kind of leader, trying to please this constituency and that? This, it seems, is to the despair of many a Tory. At worst, is his Prime Ministership a charm offensive which hides an agenda for maintaining the classy British society of which he happens to be at the top as a rich, Old Etonian? This, according to many a left-winger, is the real Cameronian inside oil. Either way, some have wondered about the Christian commitment of David Cameron. But on that score we now have this to consider: with H/T to ++Cranmer, we hear David Cameron saying some good things, including this at a recent 'Easter reception' at 10 Downing Street:

" I’m proud to hold a reception for Christians here in Downing Street and proud to be a Christian myself and to have my children at a church school, which – I often get my moment of greatest peace – not every week, I’m ashamed to say, but perhaps every other week I pop in to the Thursday morning sung Eucharist beautiful service in St Mary Abbots, and I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a little bit of guidance."

He goes on to make an observation I included in my sermon yesterday (there was an AGM to follow the service):

"This third thing I wanted to say, which I suppose is a little bit more controversial, but I was reflecting on this meeting tonight and what to share with you and I have a thought – which is not a new thought, but I think it is a true thought –which is when I think of the challenges which our churches face in our country and when I think about the challenges political institutions face in our countries – in our country, I see a lot of similarities. We both sometimes can get wrapped up in bureaucracy; we both sometimes can talk endlessly about policies and programmes and plans without explaining what that really means for people’s lives. We can sometimes get obsessed by statistics and figures and how to measure things. 
Whereas actually, what we both need more of is evangelism. More belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that. And I’m sure there are people here of all political persuasions and no political persuasions, and I’m certainly not asking you to agree with everything the government does, but I hope you can see – hopefully more than moments, but real moments of evangelism, enthusiasm and wanting to make our world a better place."

There is more at the link, including heartfelt concern for persecution of Christians. But perhaps the nicest comment he makes concerns the pastoral ministry of parish priests, referring directly to the priest of the parish whose school his children go to and his own local priest in his constituency:

"So it’s lovely to have here tonight the vicar from St Mary Abbots school, Gillean Craig, and also the vicar who looks after me spiritually in the constituency, Mark Abrey in Chadlington, who, when I often – anyone asks me about the pastoral care that many vicars carry out across the country, I remember 5 years ago when we had to mourn the loss and bury my son Ivan, I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind than Mark. And of course, Ivan would have been 12 yesterday, which has had me pause to think about that."
Britain's most Christian PM since Margaret Thatcher?

But then Giles Fraser pours a bit of (needed) cold water on the idea of DC's Christianity being the meat and bones kind that gets you crucified ... here.

That critique fires bullets all around. Is what I believe and stand for as a Christian likely to get me crucified?


mike greenslade said...

"Britain's most Christian PM since Margaret Thatcher?"

Ha! That is the funniest line you have written in months, Peter! No wonder Islam is doing better than Anglicanism - especially in places like Bradistan.

Peter Carrell said...

If I can bring a smile to people's faces ... my job is well done.

mike greenslade said...

So true. If only Margaret Thatcher had enjoyed the same wisdom...

Father Ron Smith said...

I heard a Franciscan Friar preaching at our Holy Week Mass this morning. What he emphasised was the deep need of humility in the Church. Following Jesus means, sometimes, empathising with the lowly - the lepers the disenfranchised - which is, most often when one might experience the love of Christ. Lot to think about!

Caleb said...

Fraser's critique is essential, and particularly relevant to the titles of your recent politics blogs (assuming it's a Yoder reference). One of Yoder's key observations is that the New Testament language of "imitation of Christ" refers exclusively and specifically to a political stance that will inevitably get you crucified.

I imagine it's quite difficult to walk the way of the cross as a Prime Minister, as the way that role is structured requires you to be the crucifier. I suppose a PM could still walk the way of the cross by taking a brave and radical moral stand that will likely get him/her ousted.

Father Ron Smith said...

Thanks, Caleb, for your comment!

And this, I think, Prime Minister Camreron (a practising Anglican) has actually done. By accepting the need to recognise in law the monogamous Marriage of Same-Sex couples in the U.K., he has risked being ousted by his more Conservative membership. He has helped Britain to be freed from its homophobic culture, and given dignity to Christian (& other) Gays.

Peter Carrell said...

One could also point out, Caleb and Ron, that David Cameron has been and may still be in danger of 'crucifixion' by the right of his own party on the question of Europe.

Arguably the best of the European project is about unity of humankind in the face of jingoistic nationalism and separatist tribalism.

Caleb said...

I don't know if a bit of political opposition while in power is "the cross"...

Anyway, his underlings were crucifying on his behalf on the same day his Church Times article came out:

"David Cameron's constituency office calls police on food bank campaigners Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Keith Hebden"

David Cameron’s constituency office has come under fire for calling the police on the Bishop of Oxford and Reverend Hebden as they attempted to present him with an open letter on food poverty.

Their letter, part of the End Hunger Fast campaign, was signed by 42 Anglican bishops and more than 600 clerics and called on the three party leaders to work with the parliamentary inquiry into food poverty to implement its recommendations.

However, despite David Cameron’s Witney office expecting their visit, they were barred from presenting the letter and instead greeted by three police officers. Around 40 people had walked to his office following a service, and while the congregation stood on the opposite side of the road, the Rt Revd John Pritchard and Rev Hebden went to deliver the letter on their own. The police “weren’t there very long” when they realised the situation, Reverend Keith Hebden told The Independent, saying that they could see Cameron’s office staff looking out the window as they were forced to abandon their visit.

He added: “It is deeply ironic, to say the least, that on the same day David Cameron was writing in the Church Times talking about what a good Anglican he is, he was wasn’t able to receive his own bishop in his constituency office. I think this speaks volumes.

“They were expecting us, we had phoned ahead. Most of my surprise was reserved for them not even opening the door. The letter was positive and addressed to all three party leaders, so it wasn’t political.”