On this last Sunday morning before Christmas, churches across the nation will, no doubt, be packed to the crumbling steeples with the devout heeding the call by David Cameron for a return to “Christian values”. Logs, eyes, splinters, camels and needles spring to mind.
The Prime Minister, who describes himself as a “vaguely practising” Christian, took the unusual step of “doing religion”. Celebrating 400 years since the publication of the King James Bible, now available in a new edition complete with a foreword by the apostolistic Michael Gove, the Prime Minister told the Church of England:
“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today. Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend. The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option. You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”
Once you get past the rather strange use of language, it would appear that “moral neutrality” will not be tolerated and what Britain is today is the fault of the Bible. God knows what the bishops thought. In terms of fighting something with nothing, he and his coalition government seem hell bent on removing basic human rights, support for the poor, the sick, the old, the young, the dying and just about anybody else who is not inclined to vote Tory. His logic is clear. He will take away everything so you will not be able to, using his words, “fight something.”
This “vaguely practising” Christian goes on to quote the Gospel of St Matthew:
“In Matthew`s Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done “unto one of the least of these brethren”…they have done unto him. Just as in the past it was the influence of the church that enabled hospitals to be built, charities created, the hungry fed, the sick nursed and the poor given shelter…so today faith based groups are at the heart of modern social action.”
Presumably then, the NHS, the National Insurance scheme and an underfunded education system are the work of the Devil and should be closed down forthwith. Charity shops and destitution are the answer. By now, Jesus and the rest of his brethren are having a right old laugh.
Not content with appropriating some fairly sensible words from St Matthew, Cameron goes on to quote the blessed St Margaret:
“The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country. Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, “we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible”. Responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, self-sacrifice, love…pride in working for the common good and honouring the social obligations we have to one another, to our families and our communities…these are the values we treasure. Yes, they are Christian values. And we should not be afraid to acknowledge that.”
Jesus has now stopped laughing and is looking at the small print in St Matthew and is also checking the small print in the Gospel according to St Luke.
There may be some evidence of hard work in the coalition cabinet, but the responsibility, charity, compassion, humility and self-sacrifice must be hiding under a bushel somewhere. There is certainly love. The love of power, influence and money. The common good and social obligations for the salt of the earth remain an inconvenience. Jesus is now loading his spear of burning gold and arrows of desire into his chariot of fire in preparation for a a second coming.
Cameron ends his speech to the Lords Spiritual with a deft avoidance of responsibility:
“Whether you look at the riots last summer…the financial crash and the expenses scandal…or the on-going terrorist threat from Islamic extremists around the world…one thing is clear: moral neutrality or passive tolerance just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Shying away from speaking the truth about behaviour, about morality…has actually helped to cause some of the social problems that lie at the heart of the lawlessness we saw with the riots.”
Nothing to do with him, then, or his government’s attack on young people or the huge increase in youth unemployment designed to destroy and so alienate an entire generation. An eye for an eye has become 18 months in Strangeways for a pair of trainers. Cameron goes on:
“Put simply, for too long we have been unwilling to distinguish right from wrong. “Live and let live” has too often become “do what you please”.
Frankly, we need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and a much more active, muscular liberalism.”
At this point, Jesus wept, and turned to the beatitudes in Matthew 5: 3-12 as recorded during the Sermon on the Mount. After all the stuff about the poor in spirit, the meek, the merciful, the pure in heart and the peacemakers, our Saviour turned to Luke 6: 20-22 reported during the Sermon on the Plain.
“Blessed are you poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you that hunger now: for you shall be filled.
Blessed are you that weep now: for you shall laugh.
Blessed are you when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake.”
Luke, unlike Matthew, also gave us four woes from the Sermon on the Plain, no, not the one Cameron took back from Brussels:
“Woe unto you that are rich! For you have received your consolation.
Woe unto you that are are full now! For you shall hunger.
Woe unto you that laugh now! For you shall mourn and weep.
Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you! For in the same manner did their fathers to the false prophets.”
The translation, of course, coming from Aramaic, through Hebrew, Greek, Latin and early 17th century English might be a bit dodgy. But it’s not as dodgy as Cameron in his desperate crusade (remember them?) to win votes by suggesting that those with a different faith or no faith at all lack morality or responsibility. Perhaps he should instruct his speech writers to put down the King James Bible and take a look at Dante`s Inferno.
Where the hell is Christopher Hitchens when you need him? He is probably in heaven, laughing at this nonsense and sharing a birthday drink with Jesus.