A religious state with a “progressive” agenda is a state engaged only in populist fantasy

A Prime Minister cannot reveal a faith, of personal or national application, and then openly contradict its fundamental beliefs in his actions or in the actions of his government

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The post-modern relationship between religion and politics remains sensitive
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Benjamin Harris-Quinney
On 19 December 2011 12:31

I recall working with the former Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar when he made the statement that Europe was founded on the basis of a Judea-Christian heritage, and that this formed a significant part of the common bond between nations of Europe and the West.

In the speech President Aznar did not go so far as to directly comment that the Christian doctrine was a positive thing, and yet he was greeted with great controversy and criticism in making the statement, despite its relatively uncontroversial grounding in historical fact.

In his Oxford speech David Cameron not only referenced the part Christianity has played in our shared Island history, but made reference to the positive and valuable nature of the Christian doctrine and faith in society, in so doing he moved wilfully from historical fact to personal interpretation.

In this course Cameron contradicts much of his progressive agenda, most notably his recent party conference commitment to make homosexual marriage legal, and licensable in religious buildings and institutions.  The withdrawal of Baroness O’Cathain’s motion to delay the provision for homosexual marriage in the Lords on Thursday would seem to make the pledges made in the 2011 party conference speech a fait accompli in law.

Whatever blurring of the boundaries may have been applied after the fact, the Christian view of the practice of homosexuality is clear, it is a sin and an abomination, and therefore must form no part of the church, nor of the faith.  Christianity presents itself as an absolute, not a philosophy for debate, nor one to be drawn from only in part.

The recent and untimely death of the great modern philosopher Christopher Hitchens marks the truth of this statement, as the unyielding and uncompromising nature of religion formed perhaps the most significant reference for his life’s work.

The personal religious beliefs of a Prime Minister are, and should remain, an entirely private matter if that is their desire, and yet the Blairite traditions of ahistoricism and a la carte religious morality present a challenge to this practice.   

A Prime Minister cannot believe in all things, nor be all things to all men. He cannot reveal a faith, of personal or national application, and then openly contradict its fundamental beliefs in his actions or in the actions of his government. Such a practice is tantamount to populism, and if David Cameron is to end the cancer of British populism which began in Anthony Giddens lectures at the LSE, he has to stand up for what he actually believes in, not what polling indicates that the week in hand demands or what pressure group it would be most beneficial for him to flirt with. 

It means taking a stand that post-modernity will find uncomfortable and unfamiliar, this was the course of Churchill and Thatcher, and that is why we remember them.

Benjamin Harris-Quinney is the Chairman of the Bow Group. He tweets at @B_HQ

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