Monday, July 13, 2009

God Doesn't Do Party Politics, But If He Did...

I don't do God. But even if I did, I would make sure I kept my religion out of my politics. The debate sparked off by Archbishop Cranmer in a post titled ONE REASON CHRISTIANS SHOULD VOTE CONSERVATIVE illustrates the dangers of mixing religion and politics - particularly party politics. Labour MP Tom Harris has now weighed in with a powerful piece asserting that God doesn't belong to one political party - which is, of course, true. Cranmer's thesis is that if Christians want to restrict abortions, then the Conservative Party is the only party to vote for. Tom argues that this is akin to bringing American style abortion politics to this country.
Tory-voting Christians all too often try to make this specious argument, that a single party (theirs, of course) most accurately represents “Christian values”. Labour-voting Christians, in my experience, tend not to, or at least, they do it less often. Perhaps that’s because they look across at the American political system and are repulsed by the stranglehold that the Christian Right have over Republican policy and don’t want to see the same thing happen here.

This is the only part of his article I must take issue with. I've certainly come across Labour supporters who are religious who cannot fathom how a God fearing Christian could ever vote Conservative. And secondly, I know of no mainstream Conservative who would ever want the so-called Christian Right to have a stranglehold over the Conservative Party.

Although I am not religious I share many Christian values (at least, I hope I do), and so does the Conservative Party. So indeed do other political parties. There are plenty of Labour MPs, and a few LibDems who would share Cranmer's concern about abortion law reform. But these are matters of conscience - not matters of party politics. And long may they remain so. To that extent I am with Tom Harris on this, rather than His Grace.

God doesn't do party politics*, but if he did, I suspect that he would have voted for all three political parties over the last 100 years.

* Yes, I can see the deep irony of an Agnostic writing about God as if he exists...

61 comments:

Boo said...

Personally I worry when politicians do God. They generally mess it up for us believers (though some of us help).
Its the same when certain politician make an emphasis on their faith. Why do they feel the need to convince us? Be good and let your life speak for you.

Spectator said...

A well balanced view, Iain.

If the Conservative party endorsed the views of Cranmer the blogger then it could not count on my vote ever again.

Jay said...

"Jesus was a socialist" - Quote from a Teacher when we were discussing her religious beliefs and her politics.

Anonymous said...

In Scotland it is well known that the Labour party has pitched internal battles over which religious affiliation should be in control - Catholics or Protestants. But it's the Catholics who associate Protestants with Conservative voters because the Tories are seen as the Establishment party and closely tied to the CoE.

strapworld said...

If you do not believe in God how can you say which political party he/she supports.

Jesus believes in sharing wealth- so that places him in the Labour Camp.

God believes in discipline and obeying his laws. That would take him/her into the Conservative camp.

But both believe in the sanctity of life, so the supporters of abortion will not get the support of either. So That removes the Labour Party and the Lib Dems -both parties being great supporters of that mass murder-from their support! The Tories, however support much of the Labour Party changes, not least homosexuality laws and that removes them from the support of God and his/her son.

So we have a Parliament who would not, in my humble opinion, have the support of our supreme beings.

So should the second coming take place shortly, and I was a member of parliament, I would know that my time was up!

Similarly, if i was a non believer I would be quite concerned!

Archbishop Fang said...

The church moved on in the 90s from being the conservative party at prayer to being the conservative party at Blair, apparently

dearieme said...

Christians can reasonably be Liberals or Conservatives but not Socialists. Thou shalt not covet, Thou shalt not steal: that's socialism prohibited.

Oldrightie said...

For centuries politics and religion have been one and the same, I would have said. Certainly a lot of people have died for that understanding.

Anonymous said...

His Grace's assumption here is that abortion is the only issue which exercises Christians, and therefore the party deemed to be most pro-life is the party to vote for.

Of course, whilst abortion is a key driver in voting intentions for many Christians, it is not the only issue.

For example, many Christians are equally exercised by poverty, or religious freedoms. They might therefore be equally tempted to vote Labour or Liberal Democrat accordingly.

The truth is that Christians, like non-Christians, are a complex demographic and vote according to a wide number of determinants. That is why no single party can claim to have a monopoly on God and his botherers!

Will 883 said...

So which 'Christian values' do you believe you have, Iain?!

I'm sure I won't be the only atheist pointing out that many so-called Christian values - charity, inegrity, etc - are actually nothing more than positive human values.

Also, you should read Dawkins' God Delusion book about how being an agnostic is a cop-out. For example, you either say you believe in aliens or you don't - there is no word for people who think aliens probably don't exist but aren't 100% sure.

Please review your religious status ASAP!!

Unsworth said...

" but if he did, I suspect that he would have voted for all three political parties over the last 100 years."

Why in Heaven's Name would any self-respecting God do that? In my view it's not a question of which party is best - but which party is the least bad.

Vicar said...

The Tories are materialistic heathens who believe only in money.

I hope this doesn't come as a surprise to anyone.

talwin said...

"God doesn't do party politics, but if he did, I suspect that he would have voted for all three political parties over the last 100years"

Yes, and I further suspect that right now he would be pretty pissed off with lying, cheating, sleazy and incompetent New Labour.

Anonymous said...

So Tom Harris says that "this is akin to bringing American style politics to this country".
Such hypocrisy!
Many Labour MPs in Glasgow/West of Scotland are Roman Catholics, as are their constituents.
Old Labour or New Labour they toe the Vatican line because they know they would not be elected otherwise(or selected by their local party members).
I don't know where TH stands on the abortion issue but everyone in Scotland knows that if he came out against the RC hierarchy on this--he would be toast. "American style politics" are here already.

Boo said...

"there is no word for people who think aliens probably don't exist but aren't 100% sure."

Er Reasonable.
Being 100% sure is arrogant and misguided.
Even emperical truth is based on the assumption that what happened yesterday will happen today.

Its a good rule of thumb, but its not 100%

Anonymous said...

Cranmer was sacked (by Michael Howard) as the Conservative candidate for Slough for spouting his extreme views on Christianity in Politics in print.

Patrick said...

I think its safe to say that he does not support the BNP.

Rebel Saint said...

Archbishop Cranmer is somewhat misrepresented by Tom's post and I recommend that your readers look at his original post & his response to Tom.

I notice that Tom does not deplore his own front bench for trying to court the 'gay vote' or the 'muslim vote'. I also note that Tom does not complain about some of the Christian leaders who urged the faithful not to vote BNP.

The 'Christian' vote is not a single homogeneous block. What Cranmer said is that the history of the current parties towards the issue of abortion was one MORE reason Christian's should consider casting their vote with the Conservatives. Labour's whipping of it's MP's on issues which have always been free votes has been absolutely deplorable.

trevorsden said...

"God believes in discipline and obeying his laws. That would take him/her into the Conservative camp." --- Strap, Its labour who have introduced 1000's of new laws and zillions of CCTV cameras and ID cards and 42 day detention and ....

All hail the new religion.

BTW - I prefer Christian values to Muslim values which is why we should be cautious about 'downgrading' Christianity.

Peter Thomas said...

"But these are matters of conscience - not matters of party politics."

Eh? The only two ways to get policy and laws changed or reformed is either through politics or taking the law into your own hands. In Britain we tend not to do the latter so those who wish to change things have to do it through party politics, don't they?

Wallenstein said...

Yes, and I further suspect that right now he would be pretty pissed off with lying, cheating, sleazy and incompetent New Labour.
That's assuming his anger wasn't exhausted by the lying, cheating, sleazy and incompetent Tory Party under Thatcher and Major.

Or that he's not saving some of his anger up for the lying, cheating, sleazy and incompetent Tory Party that will be elected with David Cameron (you can be sure that they will display just as many human failings as any other administration).

Didactophobe said...

As a Christian, I find New Labour to be morally repugnant. It appears to be dominated by that type of socialist which despises everything that made this country great, especially its Christian traditions and heritage. Far too often, we hear of Christians being arrested or harassed by police for causing imaginary 'offence' to sundry minority groups.

I agree with Cranmer that Christians today should logically be Conservatives. Not because the Conservative Party is Christian, nor because I would want it to be.

However, I believe it is the party most likely to protect the freedom of Christians (and people of other faiths) to express our beliefs and to allow its MPs genuine freedom to vote with their consciences on moral issues.

Blackacre said...

I am not sure God would be a democrat...

Man in a Shed said...

Which party employs (again and again and yet again ) the Prince of Darkness ?

Which party relies on false narratives to deceive the electorate ?

Which is the party of spin and misdirection ?

Which party lies straight to peoples faces about its spending plans ?

Which party bullies people in its own ranks who disagree with the chosen one and always tries to smear those who oppose it ?

The answer is the same each time.

Anonymous said...

So Palin.. sorry Cranmer.. thinks that criminalising abortion is the answer? Isn't that contrary to the CoE's view that abortion should be available when necessary, but that we should work much harder to reduce the number seeking it?

Man in a Shed said...

Also which is the most anti-Christian government ever in British history ?

The real question is why is Tom Harris still a member of such an appalling organisation ?

Malcolm Redfellow said...

That post by "Cranmer" (a.k.a. defenestrated Hilton) was disreputable, tendentious, self-deluding and blatantly trawling for custom.

Such was clear from his introduction: the abortion issue is not going to go away until the practice be abolished altogether. The “practice” (surprise, surprise) will be stopped by reducing the present 24-week limit as an incremental step in the right direction.

Not just the salami tactic but also hypocrisy. In Hilton's parallel universe, there obviously are no women in Ireland, north or south, seeking abortion, legally or otherwise, because the law does not permit such a thing. Well, the IFPA checked off 85,559 women who sought terminations in Britain between 1980 and 1999 -- and they were only the ones who sought IFPA advice, rather than free-lancing on a shopping trip to Manchester or London. Logically, the number must now be well into six figures (and the “Galway for Life” website, now apparently discontinued, reckoned on 10% of all pregnancies in the Republic being terminated). Presumably, if “Cranmer”/Hilton and his ilk had their way, we would be preventing pregnant British women travelling to Belgium, or pretty well anywhere, lest they there seek termination.

Tom Harris’s goes at a tangent to that: the lust of the ultra-right to see the intolerance and ignorance of the likes of Sarah Palin and think: “Yes, let’s have some of that over here!”. Tom, earlier in his piece, defines that as the 4G strategy (God, guns, gays and gynecology).

What makes Tom even more pertinent is the stench that arose among Hilton’s contributors: a few of whom seem to have jumped on board here. I found it astounding that politico-gynophobia (“NuLab Harridans”), a mental leap from chimpanzees to African population problems, homophobia, climate-change denial, referenda, and young-earthery were all implicitly wrapped up in the debate about reproductive rights.

I was always dubious about Harold Wilson's thing on the the "Labour Party being more Methodist than Marxist". Equally, the last thing reasonable conservatives want or need is a take-over by the DUP and Iris Robinson, “Spokesman for Health, Youth and Women” [sic] (see the Belfast Telegraph for further divine guidance).

VotR said...

Any way of convincing voters not to vote for Labour in the next general election sounds great.

canvas said...

Iain, you're right, politics and religion are a disasterous combination. I'm sure David Cameron would like to think his modern Conservative Party is an inclusive one - open to people of all faiths and non-believers.

Why bring 'God' into it? Sheesh. I want a secular government but the only problem is the Queen. 'The Act of Settlement' need modernising asap. Will DC do this? I doubt it. Shame.

Church of England said...

I do not agree with civil partnership because it goes against the traditional definition of marriage and favour the reinstatement of Section 28 in the education system to stop the promotion of homosexuality.

It is time we claim back the moral high ground and traditional Christian values.

ILLIBERAL DEMOCRATS said...

One thing is for sure, God could not be a Liberal Democrat because you either believe in something or you dont. LD will say they believe in both and if that fails sit on the fence!

Armchair said...

I am an Atheist. I loathe religion and find it rather silly actually.

The day the Christians get a hold of the Conservative party is the day I leave politics.

I have nowhere else to go and I won't stay in a party ruled by religious bigots and head cases.

Armchair said...

Church of England

Which bit of the moral high ground is that then?

1. Persecuting gay men because they happen to be gay?

2. Making women second class?

3. Raping choirboys?

4.instilling sexual hang-ups in people?

I would be interested to hear when the church actually occupied this moral high ground.....in anything other than their own collective self-delusion

bladerunner86 said...

Iain politics and religion are inextricably linked... I thought you would know that.

Anonymous said...

If you read the Old Testament with all the smiting and tribal ethnic cleansing that goes on it is totally obvious that God is a BNP supporter.

But his lad let him down and became a terrorist in the Judea Peoples Popular Front...or an I'm getting confused now?

Nathan said...

To say that religion and politics don't mix is to say that people whose view are informed by faith (by which we usually mean beliefs about God and his interaction with humanity) should not make reference to that faith in explaining their views -- at least not in public. What you really mean, then, is that people who believe that God has spoken through Christ, through His Word, and through nature, about the way we order our affairs (including our public affairs) should keep their mouths shut about the perceived nexus between their opinions and God's will. This tactic is often used to cow religious people into silence with remarkable success. You may think, Iain, that references to God belong in church. But if Christ is King over all of creation (as creation loudly proclaims), then I tell you most assuredly that religion and politics do mix.

There's probably more evidence for Santa said...

With God on our side
The same sort of belief that modern,self serving, career politicians convince themselves that they serve the nation.
They are more like the money lenders in the temple,than disciples spreading the message of love thy neighbour

Lord Lavendon said...

Iain

As you take an interest in history, indeed are a contributor to a tory history blog , I trust you appreciate the role of religion ( or rather Christianity) in so much of the politics of the UK . Perhaps this somewhat underminds your assertion not to mix religion with politics, as this has happened in the past and doubtless will in the future.

Examples off the top of my head -

1) the old cliches about the forming of the labour party (methodism not marxism)

2) the tory/conservative relationship to the established church ( church of england= tory party at prayer ? ) . Look at tory radicals of the 19 century- wilberforce/shaftesbury....

3) liberal tradition- Gladstone's moralism, politics of the 19 century nonconformist radicals such a Cobden , Bright, Cadbury family, Chamberlain family of Birmingham etc etc .

Thatsnews said...

His argument seems to be: "vote like me!"

I vote like me, thanks, Cranmer, if that's OK with you.

Slightly (well, very!) off topic, has anyone noticed Brown has gone even more mad than before?

Brown goes mad. Now tries to blame Afghanistan army for his blunders!

jamestheless said...

"God Doesn't Do Party Politics, But If He Did..."

and there was I waiting for a Carlsberg-style punchline!

Wasn't politics traditionally divided along denominational lines, though?

Conservatives: C of E
Labour: RC
Liberal: Non-Conformist

(although most of the Non-Conformists jumped ship to Labour when it overtook the Liberal Party).

Dick the Prick said...

COT Dalester but Oborne's Dispatches prog was a bit wank. 1 of the case studies he used I was involved in by proxy in knowing the social worker manager who managed the response. I guess that's the political reason i'm pure Tory - empower the professionals. She had no authority to be pro-active; the law, the bureaucrats, the accountants, housing officers, etc etc. The Bichard Inquiry recommendations come live at the end of this year (cost me 3 jobs but because no devolved, dynamic budgets meant nowt anyway).

Rory Stewart has penned a phenonemal tome in't London Review o' Books about Afghanistan - credit where it's due.

How's Gio's neck? If you said I missed it. As always.

Javelin said...

Hmm ... If God doesn't have a view point how can he punish people?

Unlike the mad crazy made up world of political correctness that you and Tom live in - if there was a God he would most definately have a view point.

The problem is we will never know - and that is why politics should be kept out of God - but God could never be kept out of politics.

Anonymous said...

Abortion is not mentioned in the Bible (miscarriage is only mentioned as a misfortune or a curse), so anyone who claims to know God's view is a little arrogant.
God does not do party politics - if He did we might have less poverty, less war, less crime, and less fuss about the horrors of a 50% tax rate on people in the top decile of income when many of those in the third decile are facing an effective marginal tax rate of 81% (and for some it is 91%).
Actually, if people obeyed even Christ's second choice "You shall love your neighbour who is a human being, just as you are" we should not need party politics because we should not need national governments and all the reams of petty regulations.

killaunty said...

armchair said.
I am an Atheist. I loathe religion and find it rather silly actually.

I think you atheists are as bad as the religious you loathe to be honest,you both piss in the same pot.

killaunty said...

P.s i'm glad your dogs o.k.

judith said...

Didn't that bloke who used to be PM, Tony Something, pen an article early in his Premiership alleging that you couldn't be a Christian and vote Conservative?

Always remember canvassing one afternoon in the '97 campaign with an actively pro-Life Tory MP: we met one woman who said the only reason she would vote for him was because he was anti-abortion. An hour later, another woman said although she was Conservative, she would NOT vote for him because he was anti-abortion.

Jimmy said...

"In Scotland it is well known that the Labour party has pitched internal battles over which religious affiliation should be in control - Catholics or Protestants. But it's the Catholics who associate Protestants with Conservative voters because the Tories are seen as the Establishment party and closely tied to the CoE."

Don't be silly. No-one has associated Scottish people with the conservative party for 30 years.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

I don't do gay sex. But even if I did, I would make sure I kept my sexual orientation out of my politics. mmm..

Once again, and you do this every time, you think Christianity is some kind of lifestyle choice, or perhaps, even, an aberration.

I can no more stop my faith informing and permeating everything I do than you can suppress your sexual orientation.

Both are about identity and expressing that identity through our opinions and our choices, and about self awareness and self-actualisation.

The truth is of course, that we arrive at our political choices by using the same routes, regardless of having faith or not faith. A sense of right and wrong is implanted in most of us, and our duty is to follow our conscience and the facts as we see them.

This is what most people do.

I happen to believe that late term abortion, for reasons of lifestyle choice is morally wrong. I find it bizarre that a government that protects foxes by law, allows unborn people to be murdered. This is at variance with my (Christian) belief, but is not the unique preserve of those who have such a belief. Since Labour has caved in to the abortion lobby and the Tory party is traditionally resistent (or at least allows a free vote) I must naturally favour the position of the Conservatives.

Rebel Saint said...

Wrinkled Weasel, once again you speak the truth plainly. You have been missed.

Batteredstrat said...

Abortion is bad? I don't like it much but it has a positive effect on the general population.

18 years after Roe v Wade, the crime level in New York apparently dropped significantly. Originally put down to the Mayor's hardline policing tactics, in truth it was just that there were fewer teenage criminals.

What happens to the child who is forced into life against it's mother's will? Unwanted children generally make poor adults, and worse parents, and the problem perpetuates.

Let us not allow the 24 week debate to become the salami slicing exercise which ends abortion for a majority of women, as the move towards too short a time limit gains momentum.

Dick the Prick said...

Wrinkled - 'I don't do gay sex' - sounds like a Carlsberg ad. Lad, i've got a tonne of time for you but maybe you wanna check your script before pressing send.

I've clashed with Dale before, me being Catholic and 'these truths we hold self evident' and shit. If we are to reduce fiscal attack, we must also liberate our use of government - bleedin' obvious really.

Only my mum can tell me what to do - government can go spin.(She really can prevent me if needed - most of the time she's impressed that i'm even listening)

Anonymous said...

Why is it that although I loath Gordon Brown the sort of David Cameron and the Conservatives winning the next election leaves me quite depressed?

If God was in the least bit interested in British politics I suspect he would abstain.

It must all be a big disappointment for him as the eventual outcome after that six days of intense creative activity.

Alex said...

Silliest post of the week.

Of course God does politics, and by and large he brings out the nest in politicians, of all sides.

This is not to be confused with the impact of religion on politics, which is not always positive.

Archbishop Fang said...

Didn't Henry the Eighth have some Cramner chappie?
In Henry's day a man changed his religion rather than his politics, or rather he changed his religion for his politics.
How times have changed.

Will 883 said...

Boo 3.59pm - Thanks, you back my case.

Nobody should be 100% of anything, but we don’t have a word for not being 100% sure for anything except for the belief in God.

Why is that? I would argue that people should actually have the confidence to say ‘I don’t believe’ if they think it is highly unlikely, rather than simply saying ‘I don’t know’.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Dick, I had the script as I wanted it. The opening para was supposed to demonstrate (using irony)the impossibility of devolving personal identity from politics. If politicians have no personality they become remote and insensitive.

Over the past few weeks, Iain has done a few "gay posts" Some have told him to stop doing them on the grounds they are irrelevant to a political blog. I don't think so.

I am a Christian. Though I rarely refer to this in detail, it necessarily informs everything I do.

This post was about God being party political. I prefer to believe that He is interested in politics, but only in so far as it enriches humanity and promotes the dignity and equality of mankind.

neil craig said...

Organised religion (I have no problem with the personal kind) is the contention that the speaker has a direct line to the Creator of a billionn glalxies & said Creator is really concerned that we give our money to the speaker because It can't. The idea that the Creator is concenrned which party we vote for seems equally improbable.

Max Atkinson said...

When I used to sell Private Eye outside student cafeterias in the 1960s, they occasionally issued free 45 records with the magazine. One of them included a song, the words of which have been indelibly printed on my mind ever since (even though my voting behaviour has never taken heed of its advice):

"When Jesus was alive
"A million years ago,
"He voted Conservative.
"And Jesus ought to know."

Joe Williams said...

As someone whose faith guides their politics, I think your comment that God 'would probably have voted' for all three major parties in the last century still holds true today. I've blogged more fully on the matter. Though it is worth remembering God is sovereign over party politics as so can work God through whoever is in power.

Philipa said...

'Archbishop Cranmer' is a pseudonym, of course, but the name does add an air of authority which is misplaced. I find his postings on abortion repellent.

I agree with you, Iain, that religious authority should be kept out of politics. God inspires, people vote and they should vote with their own conscience not a mandate from any religious leader.

Anonymous said...

As a (the) Lord, God wouldn't have been eligible to vote until Labour reformed the House of Lords.

Jesus still has the issue of having absconded from the tomb before serving his sentence.