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Cameron, Jesus and the Big society.

One of the better twitter hashtags of late has been #CameronJesus, proving satire isn’t dead and that comedy and politics do mix.  It was prompted by a series of claims about both Christianity and Conservative theology that they bear greater examination, especially the underlying motivation for speaking out at this time.

There seems to be a strange idea that Christianity is about niceness, that Jesus came to make sure everyone has an aga and access to a school with an outstanding ofsted. Historically having an Established Church has not helped with this. The Church of England has been described as “The Tory Party at prayer”  by many and the strange quirk of bishops sitting in the House of Lords doesn’t help with the idea they are (small e) establishment.  Methodism with its bringing desire to go into the poorest areas, Anabaptism with its priesthood of all believers and organisations like the Quakers all grew out of the belief that working with the most disadvantaged was a Christian duty, while the CoE still struggles to fill vacancies in the grim north. 

However this view ignores the work of CoE churches across the country with the poorest, and the fact that Christianity is not the preserve of one denomination or clique. When Cameron claimed

he was simply doing God’s work when he launched the “Big Society” initiative of volunteering and civic responsibility.

“Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago,” Mr Cameron said. “I just want to see more of it.”

he wasnt even basing his view on a traditional view, or any biblical basis. It reminds me of this poster;

 

Jesus told the rich man he could only enter heaven if he sold all his possessions, he said the first would be last and the last first. In the parable of the labourers in the vineyard He directly opposed the conservative ideals of hard work leading to “just rewards” That parable is probably worth looking at in a little more depth. The first workers complain it is unjust that they are paid the same as those employed at 5, despite the fact it is what they had agreed too. The landowner points out that he can use his money as he sees fit. No doubt some Tories would compare this to charity and the Big Society, but the landowners attitudes are in complete contradiction to their beliefs.

Look at the attacks on benefits, the idea those who receive them are scroungers. The landowner (Jesus) does not say its reward for hard-working families but rewards for all. Indeed it may be worth considering why some had not been employed, were they perhaps older, disabled, of a different nationality or race?

Christianity has never been about equality in the sense of that so many seem to believe. Distinctly anti materialistic it challenges conservative values at every turn. The poor, the dispossed, the outcast will be placed above the rish and the powerful. The beggar at the gates will look down on the rich man from heaven.. In one of the rare references in the Gospels to what the world will look like after Christ returns this is made very explicit. Any act against the oppressed will be punished as an act against Jesus himself. This is not a nice theology, this is one of a radical overturning of established norms, with punishment and eternal damnation.

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

The party of the Bedroom Tax, bans on prisoners books, workfare and ATOS has no right to claim it is founded on the principles Jesus espoused. So why is Cameron bothering? The answer comes later in the same article, and is a warning shot to those already concerned about the ever decreasing separation of Church and State shown by things like the APPGP and religious encroachment onto abortion provision.

It is the case that Christians are now the most persecuted religion around the world,” Mr Cameron said. “We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other faith groups wherever and whenever we can.”

This dogwhistle call to the religious right will have been music to their ears. It is common for white, cis, middle class Christians to claim they are hugely oppressed in the UK. Rather like racists who claim you cannot talk about race, while doing nothing else, they insist that they are suffering worse than the English Martyrs under Mary or their Catholic cousins . Powerful lobbying groups like The Christian Legal Center demand the right to be bigots, and often claim to be persecuted. Every court judgement against them feeds their belief. The passing into law of the right of gay people to marry will have alienated many of this group. Cameron is trying to shore up support with people who believe that their right to be prejudiced overrides the rights of the oppressed and vulnerable. If that is the Cameron big society it is not only unchristian, but must be opposed by all regardless of faith.

 

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