‘… we obviously spend a lot of time celebrating Christmas and thinking about Christmas, but actually, really, Easter in many ways is the one that counts. Even those of us who sometimes struggle with some parts of the message – the idea of resurrection, of a living God, of someone who’s still with us – is fantastically important even if you sometimes, as I do, struggle over some of the details.’
So spake the Blue Spectre during his pre-Easter, Downing Street reception for Christian leaders two years ago. He hosts this lickspittling waste of taxpayers’ money annually, with this year’s turn suggesting he now struggles less than he used to. One might even consider that he has become more, what… Blair-like?
He commenced in the usual ingratiating way – the self-deprecating gag:
‘The Bible tells us, actually, to bear one another’s burden and you will fulfil the law of Christ; after the day I’ve had, I’m definitely looking for a few volunteers for that.’
Oh, isn’t he a wag? Making light of the serious business that was the resignation of his avaricious Culture Secretary, lest his own misjudgement be judged ill by the gathered faithful. Examples of his deflective faux-fervency abound, eg:
‘I also wanted to say I’m proud this year to have completed a small pilgrimage, which is I have finally made it to the place where our Saviour was both crucified and born.’
In that order? Is this deliberate signification of ‘born again’, ie, resurrected? The fantasy detail he previously struggled over?
Two years ago he embarrassed himself with his praise of the embarrassing Baroness Warsi (who, though currently out-of-favour, might be spared the rumoured reshuffle chop now Maria Miller has walked). This year he scrapes from a similar barrel:
‘And as Eric Pickles said this week, we should be proud of the fact that we are a Christian country, and I am proud of the fact we’re a Christian country and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say so.’
Ah, Pickles. Another cabinet member who conveniently feigns ignorance of the definition of secularism in order to disparage all those bullying atheists who hurl persecuting rocks and disrespectful bombs at the over-sensibilitied faithful. Doubling up on recent comments by the berk-some Baroness, Pickles crowed:
‘I’ve stopped an attempt by militant atheists to ban councils having prayers at the start of meetings if they wish. Heaven forbid. We’re a Christian nation. We have an established church. Get over it. And don’t impose your politically correct intolerance on others.’
Pickles’s meddling with the law aside, his and Cameron’s crass conservatism is disturbing. Such statements endorse the Crown-connected, established Church and its consequent highly privileged position. Our supposedly apolitical ‘Head of State’, crowned by God’s earthly conduit, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is the Defender of the (Protestant) Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England, the anti-Papal rights and privileges of which must be affirmed upon coronation. These silly, discriminatory titles – available to just one, single denominational family – confer authority to appoint (on Prime Ministerial ‘advice’) the Church’s bishops, 26 of whom, in the only governing body in the western world to have unelected ex officio ‘Lords Spiritual’, effect the continuation of compulsory collective worship in state-funded schools in the only western ‘democracy’ to do so. The monarchy’s recent moving towards a multi-faith position might be deemed gradualistically progressive (even secular?), but is actually, in effect, a deviation from its constitutional responsibilities, a seeming paradox requiring of Parliament’s attention before Charles, the wannabe ‘Defender of Faith’ (not the faith), assumes the throne.
Such contradictions apparently trouble not those of a Pickled mindset. The cheap retort of resort is that those of us who resent this state of affairs “just don’t get it”; for example, Cameron’s previous strawman accusation that Richard Dawkins compared John Maynard Keynes to Jesus Christ. Such comparison would indeed be inappropriate – after all, the chippy scourge of money-lenders knew fuck-all about economics! But there’s apparently an awful lot that ‘don’t get it’ and need to ‘get over it’: the 2011 Census revealed four million less professing Christians, with those of no religion up to a quarter of the population. Not to mention the increasing numbers of other faiths. Such a trend would seemingly constitute further argument for disestablishment of the Church of England, and ratification of a proper secular constitution. As long as the CofE can take advantage of its privileges, don’t be surprised if authority figures of other religions deem it legitimate to likewise take the constitutional piss.
I heard Cameron recently sound off during Prime Minister’s Questions about his aim to be ‘re-elected’. Nevermind the fact that he wasn’t actually elected (in that he didn’t secure a mandating majority) in the first place, he deems himself of clout sufficient to position himself, not merely as political, but also religious leader. I mean, is this Easter message really appropriate (though he gets the order of events right this time)? The continued resurrection myth-placement into a festival that is really about fertility (eggs) and fecundity (bunnies) aside, are not such religious messages the role of church bigwigs (for delivering to those who want to hear them)? Nevermind the monarchy flouting the constitution, Cameron – who is appointed not by God but by the people (or by Clegg, when the people can’t decide) – is seemingly, arrogantly, operating outside his remit. Understandable, perhaps, from the triple majority-winning Blair; highly worrying of a man yet to win an election.
He tried, in that pseudo-matey way, injecting another funny:
‘People sometimes say, you know, “You talk about the Big Society; don’t you realise this is what the Church has been doing for decades?” And I say yes, absolutely. Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago, I just want to see more of it and encourage as much of it as possible. And that is something I think we should all want to see: a bigger role for faith-based organisations in our society. And if there are blockages, if there are things that are stopping you doing more, think of me if you like as a sort of giant Dyno-Rod in Whitehall: I want to make it easier, I want to unblock the things that help you do what you do…’
There is serious contradiction here: encouraging church and charity to pick up those dropped by him and his Chancellor (whose best man, it has been reported, heads a hedge fund that benefited substantially from the recent sale of Royal Mail. Which could be a complete coincidence. And, you may consider, irrelevant here.). But then, our Prime Minister’s background is PR, and air-brushing such disparity is his suit. I don’t know the guest list at that reception, but I assume they are not all stupid. Though flattery is a proven marketing device, surely some of the assembled brows must have furrowed – like many not present – at his patronising translucency. At being wooed with the finesse of an underwear-fumbling fresher. At the cringing effort to encourage the Christian faithful to go out and rally (‘evangelise’) the conservative vote.
More phoney even than Blair? He certainly needs a plumber. ‘Cos he’s full of it!