Today, theoretically is the holiest day in the Christian calendar. I say “theoretically” for a number of reasons. Firstly, Easter isn’t a “Christian” holiday per se; there is much argument about this, but according to a friend of mine, it is derived from “Hausos” which was an Indo-European (precursor of the Celts) holiday, which was then translated into “Auster” in Latin (a true “Roman Holiday?) and consequently into the Anglo-Saxon “Easter”.
Interesting, around this time, David Cameron sought to come out as being an “evangelical Christian”, and criticising those who did not share his beliefs. While the last census in 2011 showed that just over 59% of the population in the UK self-identify as being of a Christian faith, it did lead me, as a lapsed Catholic, to ask: What exactly does he mean?
My first reaction was that this was nothing other than pure political isolationism, i.e. if you are not a Christian, you are not in our gang (not that most people want to be in the Bullingdon Bullies gang, but that is a debate perhaps for another post). This isolates deliberately those of another religion i.e. Muslims (5%), Hindus (1.5%), Sikhs (.8%), Jews (.5%), Buddhists (.5%), and those who put down “other” (.4%). In total, this makes up 8.7% of the population. Relatively small fry in election terms. So while I think there was a slight Crusader-like zeal in the statement, it is clear that the full force of his opprobrium was reserved for those non-believer in any faith, who make up 31.9% of the population, and who, if Marx is to be believed about religion being the opium of the masses, are harder to control.
But it also calls into question the very nature of Christianity as well. As aforementioned, I am a very lapsed Irish Catholic. Lapsed for reasons that are obvious; and those that were cultural and therefore not so obvious. I remember hearing priests threatening eternal damnation on those who voted for divorce in the 1980s. I remember the state preventing a 14-year old travelling to England for an abortion (not that she should have had to travel), despite having been raped by a neighbour, because abortion was and is against the Church’s teachings. I’ve worked with people who were so traumatised by their experiences as novices in Ireland in the 1960s in the infamous Magdalen laundries that they left not only their vocation but the Church itself. While there is a special kind of misogyny inherent in Irish Catholicism, having dabbled with other world religions I have found it is manifested only a little less. So I am curious to know what David Cameron thought he would achieve by avowing evangelical Christianity.
Here’s what I think he thought would happen. He thought that by evoking the word “Christian” that it could expunge the deeds of the Coalition over the last four years, and conjure up an image of a moral person. What I would say to David Cameron is there is a difference between morality and piety. In the words of the Duke of Wellington, just because you were born in a stable, it doesn’t make you a horse. And essentially it was an attempt to challenge those naughty non-believers, who do make up a sizeable chunk of votes that the Tories could do with winning in 2015. I guess, in the land that was built on the laws of divide and conquer, you can’t blame him for having a go.
But getting back to the matter in hand: let’s test the theory of Cameron’s version of Christianity, and see if it holds water:
Would Christ have axed 576 Sure Start centres? I think he would not have. I know he said “Suffer the little children” – but he did then add “..to come unto me”.
Would Christ have directly targeted the disabled? He would have, but only to heal them; not to persecute them by cutting their benefits, and forcing them to prove their disabilities, which reportedly has been linked to suicides, that of Stephanie Bottrill, and an attempt by Lawrence Keane.
Again, on the subject of healing: would Christ have sought to privatise the NHS? I don’t think so; as far as is recorded, his healing services were free, gratis and for nothing. Lest we forget, we actually pay for the NHS through NI.
Would Christ have implemented policies that have forced nigh on 1 million people to be forced to go to food banks? I think, as is recorded in the Gospels, he would not have – in essence (remembering the tale of the loaves and fishes) he seemed to be a one-man food bank in himself.
And would Christ have been keen to influence bankers getting a 64% bonus increase within a year? Maybe it’s my selective memory, but I seem to remember Christ having a really big chip on his shoulder regarding bankers, to the extent of throwing them out of the temple and then splitting the temple in two with the force of his wrath?
My point here is: if you are going to buy into the myth, buy into the whole myth. I may be a lapsed Irish Catholic; but I have a lot of religious friends who take it as an affront to their beliefs that Cameron, with his lip service to Christ (touted as a radical non-violent revolutionary on a meme doing the rounds) but obvious worship of Mammon, aligns himself with Him. They do not recognise their beliefs in a man whose whole premiership thus far has been about pitting the powerful against the vulnerable, rich against not-so-rich and downright poor. Quibble with religion as you might (and I do), most people with and without faith would not want to see children go to school hungry, homelessness numbers rise, essential services be cut, and the rich profit from other people’s misery disproportionately. Evangelical Cameron may be: but his God is Greed.