Perspective on David Cameron KJV Speech
Enough food comparisons. When analysing the content of this speech there are a number of political aspects that we need to be aware of to aid our understanding of its real significance. This article concludes that Cameron's political concerns behind this speech are: right-wing voters, Christian voters, and international perceptions on an increasingly isolated UK.
Here are the main points made by Mr Cameron and our perceptions of the intent behind them.
1. Redefining relationships with the Church of England
a. John Pienaar of the BBC called Rowan William's article, published 9th June, as "the most baldly political intervention by a serving Archbishop of Canterbury in memory". It was the boldness of this archbishop that has really forced a redefinition of the relationship between the Archbishop and Prime Minister. Cameron, as he has done previously, rises to the rebuke of the Archbishop and answers him back. He says in other words, "You can speak about us as politicians but we will answer back, and that is a healthy position to be in".
b. Slap on the wrist for Church of England (CofE)– Cameron suggest that they need to sort out their internal equality issues and deal with them without getting the nation involved.
c. Cameron appreciates the moral guidance in the Bible which he expects to be embodied by the C of E. He implies that they need to stick to issues of guiding morality as opposed to calling policies "stale", which was the Archbishop's view on the Big Society.
2. Redefining our relationships with people of other religions in the UK
a. Cameron says in other words: "We are a Christian country – that's why we let you in in the first place – don't abuse that". This is a message to those who hold to the belief that Islam must become the dominant religion- "it won't in this country so don't even think about it", is the undertone.
i. At its worst extreme these sentiments can be Hitleresque appealing to the most extreme right-wing sentiments- the soundbite not the content will get the most right wing on his side: another victory to compound his display in Europe.
b. In the face of extremism, which touts a strong set of values, we cannot afford to be valueless. Cameron says: "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."
i. Extreme right-wing parties are in the ascendency due to an apparent weakness on Europe and immigration. Do not doubt that Cameron is already thinking about the next elections.
3. The Big Society in other words (Faith based groups at the heart of social action)
a. The term "Big Society" was not mentioned, in fact, it is still felt to be a vacuous or "stale" policy idea. In reality the harshness of cuts is met by this necessary contradiction of people doing more to help each other for little or nothing. Here is as close as he got: "...and do extraordinary things to help build a bigger, richer, stronger, more prosperous and more generous society."
b. The notion that all men are equal, which Cameron rightly says comes from the Bible, has shaped human rights movements through history. This however, chimes with his belief that "we are in this together". This only serves to mask the fact that the reality faced by millions across the UK is light years away from the Camerons and the entire front bench.
Cameron states: "In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus says that whatever people have done "unto one of the least of these my 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."
He would much rather the church rallied to deliver public services than have such a huge burden upon the state. That's why we need a bigger society, to facilitate smaller government, a smaller economy, and a smaller Britain.
4. Re-alignment of international relations
a. In a time of isolation from Europe and potential financial isolation from the major world players, this message would not only have enhanced his image with Americans, but more clearly aligned our countries on a spiritual/moral level- perhaps in the same way the Muslims view attacks on Muslim states. Is this a potential extension of the special relationship?
To show that Cameron's thoughts were not just localised he stated: "And by 2050, some people think China could well be both the world's biggest Christian nation and its biggest Muslim one too." He also directly quotes president Obama's audacity of hope. Coincidental that he mentions the US and China?
5. Politicians ultimately control the Bible's influence on policy
a. The penultimate paragraph goes back to mentioning how he as Prime Minister and I assume politicians in general are in position to challenge the kind of beliefs that affect inequalities. The "meat" of this grandiose speech therefore is sandwiched between this notion that politicians have the last say on the reach of scripture into politics.
i. At least Cameron is putting his cards on the table. These observations are not made to insist that Cameron should take one view or the other- it is just crucial that we know what it is he is saying from what he isn't.
Cameron probably hoped that the effect of this speech would be to:
Compound his message to departed right wing voters that he is taking a harsh stand against religious extremism by declaring that we are unashamedly a Christian country (without being evangelical). That we are tolerant but not a walk-over. He even cites Thatcher: 'Indeed, as Margaret Thatcher once said, "we are a nation whose ideals are founded on the Bible."'
Send a message to bewildered Christian voters that he is a man not ashamed to declare faith and in fact looks squarely to the Bible for guidance- surely a better person to vote for than his agnostic counterparts. After all, according to the most recent surveys there are believed to be 62% Christians in the UK [Ceri Peach].
Let the Church of England know that while he's not the most practicing Christian, he holds to Christian values and will not be afraid to get into the "ring" of debate if the church wants to hit out against the government.
Send a message to the religious world that the UK is Christian and will not be the victim of some cloaked take over by growing intolerant religion on UK soil.
Counterbalance the view of this cruel man of cuts with a conscientious man of faith, seeing through a glass darkly, fallible, but well-intentioned. We are perhaps just a speech short of a Churchill-type call to rally together to stop the bleeding for all these Tory cuts as a duty to our God and country.
What the church should take from this
The expectation for the church to be at the forefront of social action is and has always been a mouth-watering invitation to be God's hand extended. We know that if we are given an opportunity to serve that the Lord can do so much more by just being present to make the difference.
At the very least, we have grounds on which to address a Prime Minister grappling with his faith. A man with a confessed consciousness of the importance of the Bible has opened himself for guidance.
Just be aware of the book of Revelation's comments on the role of political powers. It is the church that needs to be as wise as serpents and as harmless of doves. We are not dealing with a transparent set of people. But we should maintain our integrity and not be enticed to be involved at any cost.
In Cameron's conclusion he returns to one of his pivotal arguments to the church:
"But just as it is legitimate for religious leaders to make political comments, he [the Archbishop of Canterbury] shouldn't be surprised when I respond. Also it's legitimate for political leaders to say something about religious institutions as they see them affecting our society, not least in the vital areas of equality and tolerance."
Cameron sticks the knife in over tolerance and equality. He is all for the morality that allows governments to have greater control over the queens subjects. There seems to be no capacity to successfully grapple with Biblical principles which he feels threatens equality issues. There is still rare safe space for a Bible-believer despite Camerons' words. He has yet to appreciate that the God who inspired the scriptures does not tolerate the wisdom of man – to Him it is foolishness.
Let us treat carefully this invitation for greater involvement, and stay standing upon the firm foundation that is the Word, it is a foundation that cannot be destroyed.