Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Guardian Editorial--General election: the politics of God

Although Gordon Brown is famously a son of the manse and refers often to the importance of his upbringing, David Cameron has described his Anglicanism (in a quote he attributed to Boris Johnson) as "a bit like the reception for Magic FM in the Chilterns: it sort of comes and goes". They all contributed thoughtful pieces to our recent discussion on citizen ethics, putting their political beliefs into an ethical and moral framework independent of religious belief. Yet like ancient earthworks in the early morning light, the outlines of Britain's religious past remain discernible even among those who would only describe themselves as cultural Christians. Their shadows explain, for example, why Mrs Thatcher's most prominent defeat was on Sunday trading, and Tony Blair felt he could not formally convert to Catholicism until after he left office.

The danger is that Anglicanism's privileges, woven into national institutions, increasingly provoke demands for parity from other faiths. In some constituencies, religious influence is rising. Their demands will be a challenge for the next prime minister, the more pressing if constitutional renewal – and the removal of the bishops from the second chamber – is as high on the agenda as we hope. Dr Rowan Williams observed (before he became archbishop of Canterbury): "We have a special relationship with the cultural life of our country and we must not fall out of step with this if we are not to become absurd and incredible." It is time to step out, not of public life, but from the legislature.

Read it all.


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