Tuesday, 29 December 2015

David Cameron's Britain is many things. Christian, it is not.

I don't pretend to be a Christian. But through my time, particularly at Primary School, I felt I had quite a Judeo-Christian upbringing. The Biblical stories and teachings that were read to us in assemblies. Though I did not grow up to be particularly religious (bar the celebration of some Jewish ceremonies such as Passover, which I still celebrate with my family to this day) many of my values and beliefs that I hold today owe at least some influence to those teachings.

These were then reaffirmed for me when I learned more about Christianity and its teachings in Religious Studies at Secondary School. For any faults, many of these values of Christianity that I learned in Primary School remained consistent with what I later learned. It is these values that I believe, at least in part, my sense of fair play, compassion, and good will to others stems from. Granted, I am more of an agnostic, and in many ways my parental upbringing was probably more humanist, but I do believe that the influence of hearing these biblical stories and teachings in primary school also contributed to shaping my values.

And it is my personal view, that based on this, Cameron's Britain is fundamentally NOT Christian.

This is not to say that I believe Christianity and Conservatism to be fundamentally incompatible. Indeed, I believe One Nation Conservatism (that's true One Nation Conservatism, not what Cameron and co. claim to be) can be very in tune with Christian values. An emphasis on social obligation, rather than selfish individualism. To look after those less fortunate than yourself. That the ruling classes should not be indifferent to the people's suffering, precisely because such indifference would bring about an unstable society and the possibility of revolution - the very last thing a conservative wants.

And yet, when I look at Christian Today writer Harry Farley's recent article in The Indepndent recently, I cannot help agreeing with one thing: that David Cameron's Christmas message is utter hypocrisy.

He references those in refugee camps in the Middle East - those same refugees who he flatly refused to admit into the country until the public outcry over the summer. Whom he reluctantly agreed we would take 20,000 of in 5 years - less than Germany takes in a month.

He says we should pay tribute to the doctors and nurses who work over the Christmas period to help the vulnerable - those same doctors and nurses whom he has given another pay freeze for the next four years, while large corporations get a tax cut. Those same doctors who are being forced to work more unsociable hours for no extra pay.

He refers to Jesus Christ as the Prince of Peace, and that his birth representing peace is important for us to remember as a Christian country. This is without a hint of irony, having just referred to the UK's bombing of Iraq and Syria in the previous paragraph, and without even touching on his government's arming of violent, right-abusing regimes such as Saudi Arabia.

This is not about me claiming that my own ideological viewpoint can claim to be more fundamentally 'Christian' than David Cameron's (though Jeremy Corbyn makes a good argument for the links between Christianity and socialism here).

Indeed, as I have stated above, there are strands of conservatism I believe to be very much in tune with the values of Christianity that Cameron himself highlights.

But, as with Cameron and his party's claim to be governing 'in the spirit of One Nation', his claim to be governing a Christian country is, as far as I am concerned, just that; a claim. Nothing more.

Rhetoric does not always correspond to reality. You can apply this to much in today's society - the way a hostile media (and government) demonises benefit claimants to the point that the public believe nearly a quarter of all claimants are fraudulent (the reality is less than 1%), to the belief that immigrants come here to exploit the benefit system, or make up nearly a third of the population (the reality is immigrants pay in to the economy more than they take out and recent immigrants make up less than a quarter of the population).

Cameron's Britain is arguably many things. You could call it pragmatic. You could call it tough. You could call it socially liberal (though I believe that is more down to previous Labour governments and Liberal Democrat influence with the Conservative Party tailing behind, rather than active willingness on their part).

You could say that it encourages hard work (though I think the word to describe much of this government's efforts to get people into work would be 'punitive').

But for David Cameron and the Conservative Party to govern this country in the way that they have, and then claim to be governing a 'Christian' country, is both a disgraceful hypocrisy, and an insult to the values that Cameron, in his Christmas message, purports to represent.

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