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To be quite frank, it does make me uncomfortable when politicians talk about their Christianity.

The fact is Editor, not everyone in this country agrees that the Church is a force for good. I can't honestly say that I think it is. What most people see is a Church which is homophobic, discriminatory against women, prudish and uptight, rants on about things like abortion, euthanasia and contraception, and generally tries to remove people's freedoms.

As I equate being a conservative with being free, I find the Church often incompatible with conservatism. And if I as a conservative think that, then imagine how much of those on the left must feel about it too.

Religion has had it's day Editor - we (on this side of the Atlantic at least) live in more enlightened times.

I support DC as regarding his beliefs as being his private choice.

A politician should always take a moral and ethical view on every item of legislation and they must use their faith (if any) and experience (if any) to make their best judgement.

Take the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill - Ruth Kelly is going to have to defy a three line whip and resign to vote with her conscience or she will have to sacrifice her beliefs for the legislation. Or have a convenient "meeting" elsewhere at the time.

It is a two-way thing. If someone is firm in their faith then it defines a huge part of them and might help me decide whether to vote for them or not. However it is only part of the political mix.

I don't want to live in a US system where you have to wear your religion on your sleeve so openly just to garner votes.

I am content within my own soul with my religious beliefs and content within my own head with my political beliefs.

Tony Bliar didn't have either of those things.

"if they'd known the extent to which ethical values would overshadow pragmatism"

- Bliar showed his ethical values many times, yet they were frequently not Christian ones. On abortion; on homosexuality; on Iraq, it is difficult to see how Bliar's beliefs are motivated by Christianity.

If a politician is a Christian, he or she should be open and honest about it. If they are not, then they are not a true Christian.

I think that Michael Davidson is confusing 'the Church' with 'Christianity': individual Christians and churches have undoubtedly been guilty of all the things which he lists: Christianity itself is equally undoubtedly a force for good.

Where a society abandons its historical religion, we get the USSR; Nazi Germany; Maoist China. Not exactly the kind of liberal values that Ming presumably supports.

If a religious person conducts themselves according to Christian principles I see no reason why they shouldn't be considered as leader. Blair did the cause of religious politicians real harm in this respect because of his deceitful nature.

"If a politician is a Christian, he or she should be open and honest about it. If they are not, then they are not a true Christian."

I am inclined to agree with the first part of that statement. If Politicians in this country are motivated by religion (of whatever fashion), then they should be open and honest about it.

However, if they choose to keep their religion private, then that is their decision and makes them no less of a Christian for doing so.

One of the oddest things in this debate is the apparent virtue of private belief. Christ never said 'keep the good news to yourself' - rather, he kept telling his followers to make disciples of all men. If David Cameron really believes Christianity is true then to keep it to himself is tantamount to sitting back in the knowledge that those around who are unbelievers are destined for a Godless eternity. Privacy of view is simply not an option for Christians and to try to make a virtue of that approach just shows up a politician attempting to jump on the Christian bandwagon.

The problem was that Blair wasn't nearly devout enough

If had been he might have paid a little more attention to Just War doctrine

It was Private Eye that first alerted me to the fact that Blair was deeply religious - and this was much after the 1997 election. Had I actually voted for him I would have felt that I had been seriously deceived.

I don't want politicians to flaunt their faith in public but I also don't want them hide it.

"Religion has had it's day Editor - we (on this side of the Atlantic at least) live in more enlightened times."

What belief system would you rather we use as a basis for our country's Government, Michael?

As far as I am aware this country has never had a non-Christian PM.

However certain 'transatlantic' interpretations of Christianity are alarming. Worse, they may threaten the very existence of the planet.

On TV last night Blair gave alarming indications that his participation in the evil war against the people of Iraq may have been inspired by such lunacy.

Good to read this morning that the Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned the ghastly Americans as 'violent imperialists'. More power to his elbow.

I'm with Ming!

I want politicians who are answerable to us, not God. Judge them in this world, not the next.

I also want politicians who make decisions on the basis of evidence. Blair, who is able to have profound believe in God despite flimsy evidence, was the wrong person to evaluate the evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

The point is not whether you want a Christian PM or Christian MPs. The issue is how you want to be governed - whether you want society to be built on principles laid out in the bible, Das kapital or anything else. In theory a Christian PM is more likely to end up implementing Christian principles, but the case of Mr Blair demonstrates that this isn't necessarily the case.

The issue of whether the PM or whoever can be a Christian is a smokescreen: it's whether Christian principles are deemed acceptable. So let's be upfront about it.

Sometimes it's better to be ruled by a good atheist than a "Christian" - and I say this being a Christian myself.

If people believe in a lovely space daddy who listens to their whingeing, six-handed elepant-headed gods who give you money if you offer them milk, a god who says that homosexuals should be executed, or even the flying spaghetti monster, let them get on with it.

However, they should keep their damn mouths shut about it if they want to govern this country. Evidence, evidence and more evidence, not "gut" or "insight from on high" is what we need.

One of the things that makes us different to other countries is the very, very high levels of disbelief in God, a tolerance of other peoples' views even if we think they are ridiculous. Using religion as a
political tool is sickening; just look at the primaries in America and the way they all wear their belief on their sleeves.

If you are morally praiseworthy as a result of your religious beliefs, that's fine, but it's the results that matter. Blair was damn right to keep quiet about it.

I dont have a problem with devout Christians and I dont think his being a Christian makes him a nutter. There are plenty of other reasons for thinking him a nutter...

I have no problem with people being religious, as long as they dont try to convert me. I choose not to believe and as long as those who would wish to make me believe understand that, then its all good.

I am a PPC, I am a Christian. It is my christian faith that has motivated me to get into politics in the first place. It is this that gave me the desire to work for the good of the people as my service to God. There is no conflict.

The idea of a private faith is not compatible with christian teaching. If someone is a christian, you should be able to trust them as honourable, honest people.

I am a PPC, I am a Christian.

Were you asked about your beliefs during the selection process?

Passing Leftie,

Thanks for that profound insight into the relationship between religion and politics.

My objection to Blair is not that he's a Christian but that he appears to be a hypocritical Christian.

If I vote for a politician because they are a member of the Conservative Party then I expect them to vote according to Conservative principles. If they wish to vote according to Christian dogma then they should form a Christian Party and let people elect them should they so wish. If a politician feels they are unable to vote against their deeply cherished beliefs then they should do the honourable thing and resign.

I suspect that Tony Blair's christianity was rather like his alleged support for Newcastle united. That aside, much politics is about taking a moral stance and fighting for what we believe to be right. The abortion issue for example. I believe most Conservative voters to be anti-abortion, same goes for the promotion of family values and a sense of compassion, these are all core christian values. I personally would like to see a movement like the moral majority in this country, a group with political imput that stands for positive values.

"individual Christians and churches have undoubtedly been guilty of all the things which he lists: Christianity itself is equally undoubtedly a force for good"

So Christianity is always a force for good, it's just Christian churches and individual Christians who aren't? This seems fairly paradoxical - if you take the churches and believers away from a religion what is left?


My main thought on this issue is that I have always thought that this country needs a Prime Minister who is capable of taking difficult decisions in difficult circumstances.

If the police/special forces request authorisation to shoot terrorists or kill hijackers, the Prime Minister must be able to give it.

How would a devout Christian feel about being asked to approve these actions, bearing in mind the commandment "Thou shalt not kill"?

If a referendum on abortion were held, and the country voted to continue with the existing ("pro-choice") policy, or indeed introduce an even more liberal policy, would a deeply religious PM be able to allow this, or could his/her beliefs get in the way?

I don't care which football team the Prime Minister supports, as long as it doesn't affect his/her decision-making ability.

Likewise, I don't care which faith (if any) a Prime Minister has, as long as it doesn't affect his/her decision-making ability.

Within the rigid context of the question, can a devout anyone be a minister, whether Christian, Jew , Muslim or whatever? One might even debar "devout" atheists, pacifist or vegans on the basis of polarised beliefs!

What matters is whether the individual feels able to reconcile personal beliefs with the requirements of governing a population that has a variety of other beliefs.

I'm merely a 'hatch, match & dispatch' nominal Christian but nevertheless very conscious that it is our Judeo-Christian heritage (good and bad bits) that has moulded our nation.

If I had any theological grounding at all, I might imagine some sort of phrase like "Render unto God that which is God's. Render unto the nation....". If you can't, then don't stand for office.

In general terms can't see that there is a problem in being a practising Christian and the PM. I think it was the hypocrisy that got me in the case of Blair. His party on the ground in some areas were attacking some of our candidates on the basis that they were devout Christians. The senior members of the party will have known that.

Fundamentalist religion scares the pants off me and has no place in modern politics. GWB, Israel, OBL, Iran etc demonstrate why with frequent regularly, but ultimately belief starts where rational thought ends and I would like my politicians to be rational.

I agree that the problem with Blair was hypocrisy, not that he is a Christian. For any Conservative (whether they have religious faith or not) to suggest that Christianity in incompatible with conservatism, or political service, is very sad and shows how little some people understand the Conservative tradition.

But in charging Blair with hypocrisy I come from a slightly different angle than the "right to life" issue. He has clearly been on the brink of joining the RC Church for many years. I remember pointing out on this website about a year ago that he would convert soon after he left office. Why then did he subordinate his convictions to the political expediency of (a) the act highlighting his religious convictions, when Campbell had told him not to "do God" and (b) some unspecified difficulty about converting to the RC Church whilst PM. If (b) is genuine, didn't he have a duty both to his faith and to religious toleration and equality to confront the issue and leave the position clear for successors? Is he implying than a Catholic cannot be PM (did he tell IDS and Charles Kennedy?) or is he implying that it would be awkward that he had already appointed bishops? If that was awkward, surely it's a lot worse continuing to do so when you know that your heart, and intentions, are with another church. I think IDS (or was it M Howard) stated that they would delegate any necessary advice to the Monarch re the established Church to a senior Minister who was a member of the C of E. Seems no reason that Blair could not have announced he was doing the same because he was starting a journey towards being received into the RC Church. In his early days I suppose it might have caused a fuss in Northern Ireland, but even that figleaf is not credible during his later years in office.

No, Blair appears to have put spin above his religious convictions and, along the way, put a lot of Catholic priests in an odd position by giving Mass to a member of the C of E. Alternatively he has found it convenient for family reasons to attend RC Mass, and now finds he's got to pretend he will convert (even though he will always find an excuse not to). Either way it's rather a pity that he was not more religious/scrupulous, rather than the other way around.

Well, I think the distinction between belief and rational thought is a good deal less clear cut then you imagine.

Any kind of philosophy proceeds from some form of fundamental belief. For example, a socialist believes that equality is basically a good thing. A liberal believes that freedom is basically a good thing. A conservative believes that a people's traditions are bascially a good thing. Such beliefs can be articulated in a rational manner, but they can hardly be called rational beliefs, to start with, because none of them can be falsified in a scientific sense.

I think it pretty well inevitable that most politicians (other than the most unprincipled) will have strong core beliefs of some sort.

Those who are happy with the idea of a devout Christian PM need to ask themselves how happy they’d be with a devout Muslim PM. Then you’ll get the idea how we poor atheists feel.

I get nervous when I see politics mixing with religion. Do we really want politics in this country to go down the American route - "God expects you to vote Republican", "God is on our side", etc?

I'm a long-time atheist and, while I'll admit that I sometimes envy those who have the support of their faith, I see little evidence that organised religion is a force for good in the world. On the contrary, throughout history and into the present day, religious conflict is at the root of wars, genocide and man's worst atrocities - all committed in the name of some god or another.

Politics is a messy enough business already. Keep religion out of it.

Atheists frighten me. They are not accountable to anyone other than themselves. I want someone who knows that he or she will be judged one day for their conduct.

11:37 said: "If I vote for a politician because they are a member of the Conservative Party then I expect them to vote according to Conservative principles."

Absolutely, but the question is then what are Conservative principles. On the economic side, there is no doubt (or should be no doubt) that the party stands for small and competent government. On the social/moral side though, are Conservative principles those which endured for many years before being swept away by the "modernising tendency", so that the party can be viewed as (temporarily) taken over by social liberals, or is the party socially liberal and therefore one which does not want the agenda of social/moral traditionalists who have a history of voting Conservative?

Stuck in the middle, it depends what you mean by "devout Muslim." Someone like Ahmednadinejad would indeed be alarming. Someone like Tansu Ciller wouldn't be.

Posted by: Didactophobe | November 26, 2007 at 06:33
Where a society abandons its historical religion, we get the USSR; Nazi Germany; Maoist China. Not exactly the kind of liberal values that Ming presumably supports.

Or we get Scandinavia, with arguably the best standard of living and education anywhere in the world.

"I don't care which football team the Prime Minister supports, as long as it doesn't affect his/her decision-making ability."

ToryJim, Tony Blair claimed to be a lifelong Newcastle supporter and said he used to love paying to sit in the Gallogate end to cheer on the legendary Jackie Millburn, now Millburns last game for Newcastle was in 1957, which was when Blair was aged four and the seats didn't go into the Gallogate end of the stadium until the 1990s, which all goes to show that Tony Blair is given to telling the odd lie or two.

The point under discussion is:

"The public might have been less willing to give [Blair] the triumph of three consecutive general election victories if they'd known the extent to which ethical values would overshadow pragmatism."

IMO Blair was not pragmatic - but not really because his ethics overshadowed pragmatism. I agree with the ever increasingly large group of people who are now saying that Blair's style of sofa government led to incompetence in delivery. It was the process that he got so badly wrong and Brown went along with it and he isn't as articulate or as charismatic as Blair to be able to talk himself out the mess he has got into.

I personally welcome senior politicians who believe in something superior to our daily existence, who do hold to certain principles and whether they derive this from a philosophy or from one of the mainstream religions doesn't really matter (as long as the philosphy or religion is in itself "good").

It is their hubris or lack of personal humility that leads to the sort of situation the country now faces and people like Bush and Blair eventually become delusional.

One definition of fanaticism that I enjoy is:

"Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your original intentions".

Iraq war anybody?

Reading everybody's posts on this subject have left me more confused than 'sorted'! However one thought does strike me --- given that the public as a whole do NOT trust politicians very readily nowadays (I wonder why?), it goes without saying that if a PM exhibits his Christianity - however sincere and honest he thinks he is being - while at the same time being less than straightforward in his political life, then this is going to undermine the credibility of his espoused religious beliefs.

We are a secular society and it seems to me that it works provided that there is balance between the various religions and the secular state. Up till now that has been achieved. Now of course, the religious side is infected by people who don't know what balance and tolerance means, so that puts stress on the secular side, and probably on other religions as well.

There has to be balance and tolerance, for a densely populated society to be peaceful. I am not sure that an overtly religious or Christian (in this case) Head of State can be truly true to both his religion and the secular state.

"Or we get Scandinavia"

I sincerely hope not.

Religion and politics are a toxic mix, one only has to look to the Mid-East.
I become very concerned when a politician starts espousing religion, as the ethical and moral values are at variance with the inherent mendacity that is politics.
The recent comments by Blair lead one to question as to how he was able to square his conscience on a number of issues, not least of which, WMD/Iraq and the death of Dr Kelly.

Alan S 12:31 "Atheists frighten me. They are not accountable to anyone other than themselves. I want someone who knows that he or she will be judged one day for their conduct."

Does a religious belief always exert a force for good? Are all atheists lacking any moral terms of reference?

No doubt the Taliban believe they will one day be judged, but few would choose to live under their political leadership.

I'm happy that, here in a democracy, our political leaders are answerable to their party, the electorate and the international criminal court.

"the ethical and moral values are at variance with the inherent mendacity that is politics."

That's quite a subtle comment. Do you think that reflects badly on politics, or badly on religion?

Sea said:
Passing Leftie,

Thanks for that profound insight into the relationship between religion and politics.

My objection to Blair is not that he's a Christian but that he appears to be a hypocritical Christian.

It's my pleasure to educate you, Sean.

Christianity is such a vague set of beliefs that people across the political spectrum with very varied beliefs seem to have coopted it for their own reasons. Martin Luther King was a Christian Solicialist, whereas Thatcher used Christianity to champion the free market and the cult of greed. It's hardly suprising; it's based on a self-contradictory book written by lots of people with different views.

In what way is Blair a hypocritical Christian? To which one of his publicly espoused religious positions are you referring?

"Martin Luther King was a Christian Solicialist"

Passing leftie, Martin Luther King also liked prostitutes and received money from the Soviet embassy. So he was something of a charlatan. Whilst I do not wish to denigrate the advances of the civil rights movement under MLK its fair to say that the man wasn't the most pristine of characters. A fine public speaker though and a man who challenged inequality.

"In what way is Blair a hypocritical Christian?"

For the reasons expressed so eloquently by Londoner.

"In what way is Blair a hypocritical Christian?..."

Proverbs 34:14

Tony Blair's sins were awarded the congresssional gold medal, Judas only got thirty pieces of silver for his!

"Christianity is such a vague set of beliefs that people across the political spectrum with very varied beliefs seem to have coopted it for their own reasons."

You are failing to understand the beauty of Chistianity, summed up in "love your neighbour as yourself". God's love applies to all of us, no matter where we sit in our party or even across the political spectrum.

Apologies for bringing a bit of theology into the debate, but I couldn't leave such a remark unchallenged.

TimC, the world is a better place for christianity in spite of all the atrocities carried out in its name.

" "In what way is Blair a hypocritical Christian?"

For the reasons expressed so eloquently by Londoner."

Glad to have been of assistance, Shaun!

Anyone who thinks whether one is Christian or not should determine where one stands on the secular political spectrum is sadly ill educated. This ignorance of our religious culture (and therefore presumably other historical and cultural influences), and indeed the militant secularism now infecting some even in the Conservative Party, is very worrying.

Cameron's "once a month" Anglicanism is one of the sane, normal (if not now common) and very reassuring things about him. And I speak as one who would not rule out a Muslim as PM although I would need reassurance that his or her devotion did not extend to uniting religious law with secular law. This does not apply of course for virtually any shade of Christian as Christianity has always recognised the distinction between the two spheres (even if they might influence each other). "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" (I realise, having castigated others' ignorance, that I lay myself open a little by quoting a text that I may not have perfectly understood - but c'est la vie).

Alan Crowe @12:43 "Or we get Scandinavia, with arguably the best standard of living and education anywhere in the world."

Please don't keep spinning this oft repeated line that Scandinavia is somehow a model society to be envied by all others. I have posted before on what it is like to live there. The standard of living is not nearly as good as those living outside Scandinavia seem to believe.

It's lack of churches and religion is possibly one of the few good things about it.

During the 1987 General Election, having been a Conservative party member for 9 years and a Christian for 4 months, I was acting as a counting agent during the count and the organisers had placed us all Con/Lab/Lib alternately.

As things turned out, in the group of 3 that I was in, me and both the Labour and Liberal scrutineers were all Christians. As a new believer, it was an encouragement to me that one could be a Christian and a member of all three main parties.

"You are failing to understand the beauty of Chistianity"

LOL. The beauty of Christianity is that it’s able to adapt to its surroundings and is so unchallenging that nearly anyone could call themselves a Christian if they so chose.

At least us atheists have got balls! If we're wrong we go to hell. If you Christians are wrong, you never even get to find out.

Respecting others (love your neighbour as you love yourself) is the right thing to do, but I haven’t noticed that Christians are any better or worse at it than anybody else.

"At least us atheists have got balls! If we're wrong we go to hell. If you Christians are wrong, you never even get to find out."

We may not agree on this one, but your sense of humour made me laugh on a very dull Monday. Thanks for that.

It seems to me that one can be a good or bad Christian as one could be a good or bad muslim, jew,athiest or anything else.
Blair in my opinion as a liar and a hypocrite a thoroughly bad man.His Christianity had very little to do with anything.

You are failing to understand the beauty of Chistianity, summed up in "love your neighbour as yourself". God's love applies to all of us, no matter where we sit in our party or even across the political spectrum.

A nice angle to choose, but by no means original. The Golden Rule predates the birth of Christianity, and no religious belief is required to hold it.

I am a serious Christian and I fully intend to become an MP one day and i'd love to become Prime Minister.

I agree that the problem with Blair was certainly that he rarely acted in a Christian way.

Margaret Thatcher was a Christian, would those who disagree with PM's having religious faith say she was wrong to be PM?

A Christian MP/ PM would understand that they are ultimately responsible to the electorate as well as God, they are not suddenly going to say that they can do whatever they want because God told them too - our country doesn't allow that - you have to appeal to the electorate and fellow MP's. So saying that a PM who believes in God would end up doing things the majority of Parliament or electorate disagree with is silly because they would just be chucked out of government. The good thing about a Christian or other religious MP is that they dont just believe they are responsible to the electorate, they also believe they are responsible to God and therefore they must act in a moral way, even when the electorate/ parliament cant see what they are doing (i.e. they must be moral in secret as well as public). surely this can only be a good thing.

Why do so many people think that Christian MP's/PM's would automatically make decisions that are irrational/ mental? No Christian MP has ever acted like that - in fact Christian teaching i.e. Aquinas shows that rationality is an important part of being human, and we are called to love God by our minds. Plus the centrality of the idea of Absolute Truth to Christianity means that a Christian is likely to want to pursue what is true/ based on evidence and hold it in high regard.

Christianity teaches some very clear political principles for people to live by and governments to by run according to - integrity, compassion for the poor, respect for life, the sinful nature of humanity, community and family, stewardship of the environment, peace-making, a belief in the inherent dignity of every human being because they are made in the image of God and therefore have basic human rights. These are key biblical principles and i doubt most people would object to a government being run by these ideals, even if there are disagreements on the exact implementations. i think one of the reasons that politics and society is in such a mess today is that we haven't paid enough attention to moral values and the importance of religion in society.(In fact some would argue that the reason muslim terrorists are bombing society is because they think it is so immoral - twisted logic i know, but they may have a point).

If we had more Christian/ religious politicians and non-religous politicians voting according to their conscience and their beliefs maybe this country would not be in the state it is today. If so-called Christian PM's acted as the bible told them too instead of being hypocrites, our society and our world would be a much better, safer and peaceful place.

As for whether the person you vote for will be of the same beliefs i.e. conservative/ liberal/ socialist - it is obvious what political principles they most agree with by what party they join. If you want someone to vote for conservative beliefs, then you elect someone who is a member of the conservative party - many Christians hold conservative beliefs that they believe concur with the bible. so you should have no worry voting for a conservative Christian.

I agree that Christians should be fully open about their beliefs because people who don't agree with them may not wish to vote for a Christian e.g. a person may not agree with helping poor people or looking after the environment or your family and therefore would obviously not want a Christian in who believed these things, however i have yet to meet anyone who truly disagreed with Christian principles. Ok maybe you might think abortion, sex before marriage and homosexuality are ok, but those are not the only beliefs of Christianity. As i showed above, there are many issues that the bible sheds light on for political principles. maybe its the churches fault for mainly focusing on the "sex" issues rather than everything else that has put people off christians in politics.

Is it right for Christians to force their religiously inspired political principles on others that don't share the same faith (im not talking about their religious or faith beliefs, but their political ones). Well yes actually - conservatives force their political principles on the country when they are in power, as do socialists. is that wrong? no, not if they were elected to do that, as in a democracy like ours, Christians/ religious politicians must be. If these principles turn out to be wrong or to make life worse for people, they will simply be voted out. Christian politicians know this, but believe their principles are correct and will seek to vote in parliament or make laws in government that adhere to them. they still have to convince everyone else in Parliament and the electorate at an election. Being a Christian politician doesn't mean you don't believe in democracy, of course you do, in fact many would argue that democracy came about as a direct result of Christian ideals like freedom, dignity of human beings and the sinfulness of humanity meaning that you can't have absolute power in one or a few people's hands. In fact the Protestant Reformation arguably did more for the cause of freedom and democracy than any other factor in history because it was all about the dignity and importance of the individual rather than the autocracy of the church/state. It made it a mass movement.

on top of this, england was run as a Christian country from the 1689 glorious revolution, thanks to Christian politicians and PM's this country gradually improved. It wasn't until we "threw off the chains of christian tyranny" in the 60's that the country began to go downhill fast and we've ended up in the mess we are in today. I'm not saying that before the 60's it was perfect, but it was certainly on a path of improvement.

Christianity is deliberately not a private religion, in fact you cannot be a true Christian and keep it private. Christianity is a way of life - we are called to love God and love others, and if we are loving others, how can we be keeping Christianity private because to love others is to act out Christianity in public. Jesus was also a very clearly political activist, he took on all the main political forces of the day, whether it was religious politicians exploiting the poor in the temple, or violent zealots wanting to overthrow Rome. He consistently made subversive political statements e.g. when he said if a soldier asks you to carry his bags one mile, carry them two - in rome, forcing someone to carry your bags more than 1 mile was a punishable offence.

For many Christians, faith is what inspires them to go from being selfish inward looking people, to caring for others and therefore faith inspires them to get into politics or help their communities. Faith is certainly what has inspired me to get more interested in politics and it is what has made me want to get into politics one day so I can make the world a better place to live.

Without clear principles, and a belief in a higher authority, politics can very easily become all about power and then the country will get worse, not better. Devout Christian politicians will believe that they are in politics not for power but for making the world a better place - for instance William Wilberforce - it was his Christianity, much more than his conservative beliefs that made him fight so hard to abolish slavery. I believe that in a democracy like ours, Atheists have little to fear from Christian politicians who publicly declare their faith, who pray, who believe that God is watching them at all times and guiding them, and who seek to apply their religious principles to their politics because so much of what the bible teaches, an atheist would agree with, even if not everything. And Christians will always look at the evidence because they believe in absolute truth and making the world a better place, yes they will be biased by their beliefs, just as a conservative or socialist are biased by their beliefs. It is important in democracy to have pluralism so that all sides of an argument can be presented, and Christians are just as entitled as anyone else to share their ideas, as i have already argued - they are not about to vote for things they consider detrimental to the country, they like many others believe that politics is about doing what is best for everyone and making good laws that make out lives better.

I would also argue that the more devout a Christian is in his faith, the more likely he is to act in an ethical way, "laid-back" Christians are less likely to believe that the principles of the bible are important or that God is going to judge them according to how they have lived (as it seems with Mr Blair) so they may act less ethically. What we want then is more , dare i say it "fundamentalist Christians" in parliament, rather than ones who don't take their faith and ethics into account when making decisions.

On the point of fundamentalism. I think it's about time we stopped equating fundamentalism with extremism. Extremists want to blow up people who don't agree with them, or support other forms of violence, or want to create a theocracy or whatever. Though these people may be fundamentalist in taking their holy scriptures seriously or as literal in many places, most fundamentalists are not extremists. Extremists are a minority of misguided idiots. We must stop saying that everyone who takes their faith seriously or believes in literally what their holy scriptures says is somehow evil and out to kill everyone else. I am a Christian, I take my faith very seriously, I believe the Bible is the literal word of God, I believe that Christianity is the only way to get to heaven, I believe that we have a responsibility to tell others about our faith (convert them) because otherwise they will go to hell when they die, Though I don't believe it is possible to ever force someone to convert because you can only be truly converted if you believe something in you're heart. I believe in a Adam and eve (tho I'm not sure how much of the Genesis creation story i'd take as literal) and I believe in the literal resurrection of Jesus from the dead. However, i would never ever ever agree with using violence on people just because they don't believe the same as me. No way, and we must be very careful when we equate fundamentalist muslims who take their faith seriously and maybe believe that our society is decadent and has little good in it with extremist muslims who want to blow people up. It's great saying we should support moderate muslims against extremists, but it must be made clear that we define extremists as people who want to use violence, not as people who take their faith seriously or believe the Qu'ran is God's word. moderate should not mean just people who don't take their faith seriously, it should mean any person of faith who abhores violence.

anyway, i'll finish my rant there.

Any politician should govern based on the principles to which he was elected. They are accountable to the electorate not to God. There is nothing wrong with anyone of faith holding office in the UK because I believe the electorate would simply expel any politician from office who was any where close to the 'Religious Right'

We need to stop equating Christianity with morality here.

Some of the most immoral politicians (particularly in the US) are the most devout Christians.

Faith shapes what a person thinks and does. It is essential that politicians talk about their faith in order that we gain a better understanding of how they might govern. Not all Christians (or Muslims, or Jews) are called into political life, but those who are should not feel it necessary (or even desirable) to keep their faith a secret.

It is utterly absurd to say that a devout Christian should not enter the political sphere. I would like to hear whether he thinks being a devout Muslim or Hindu is also a possible impediment to holding high office.

However I would like to take issue with a few things that spagbob said in the post above. Firstly, I believe that faith is a matter of personal consience, and keeping it a private matter does not make you 'not a true Christian'. The early Church was in fact a secret society as Christians lived in fear of persecution. I'm sure you wouldn't argue that those people weren't true Christians.

I also find it very problematic to accuse Tony Blair of not acting in accordance with his Christian beliefs when he was in power, or of being a 'laid back' Christian. The fact is that these beliefs are subject to myriad interpretations, and it is wrong to devalue another's faith because their actions to not live up to your own idea of Christianity. George W. Bush is a born again Christian who holds prayer meetings in the White House and whose actions are directed by what he believes is the will of God -but would many Christians believe that the invasion of Iraq was a divinely ordained event? Or that Bush's support for oil companies etc. when many Americans cannot afford health insurance is in line with Christ's teachings?

The Bible itself has been interpreted in thousands of different ways. It was used in the 19th century to justify slavery and belief in racial superiority, yet Christian faith also inspired those who wanted to end the slave trade. Genisis is used both by those who argue that the planet and it's resources are there for man to plunder by divine right, and by those who believe it instructs us to be careful stewards of God's creation. In other words, people's interpretation of the word of God is informed by the society they live in, and their own particular convictions and prejudices.

You must see that your description of your own faith is contradictory. You have stated that you are a literal believer of the Bible, yet you are quick to question the literal truth of the Genisis story. How much of a literal believer can you be if you don't believe (or have no opinion either way) what you are reading less than a page in? I also take it that you ignore large tracts of the (often barbaric) Old Testament, in which God and his agents were often responsible for mass murder and genocide, or God's specific instructions on matters such as avoiding foods with a cloven hoof etc. You can say that the coming of Jesus -the word made flesh, freed mankind from many of the prescriptive laws of the Old Testament, as he said himself, but why then do many Christians set so much store by the continuing relevance of the Old Testament to their lives? It is quite simply because they, like you, interpret the Bible as they see fit and adopt or discard what they wish, as people have done for centuries.

I was brought up in a very Christian household, and had many positive experiences of God's selfless love shown through people during my childhood, not least through my wonderful parents. However, growing up has made me question many of the beliefs that my parents and their church rigidly adhere to.

I suppose that the best we can hope for are politicians with integrity, compassion, energy and zeal. If these virtues stem from a deeply held religious conviction then so much the better. If they stem from something else, that is fine too.

On general principles, Christians do a fair amount of good. Indeed, any definable alliegance which encourages people to bond with others, engage politically and work towards something with good intentions is likely to have a generally positive effect -- feminism, liberalism, conservatism, etc.

The test of these beliefs is in the specifics. When general principles are condensed into rigid dogmas, then you either agree with the dogma and you're fine (e.g. it was right to stop Hitler in WW2) or you disagree and you reach an impass (e.g. you think abortion is a sin). Religion is a very effective way of rallying people around beliefs they might not otherwise hold, but the downside is that these beliefs can be pretty arbitrary. But even supposedly atheistic states apply the same basic principles of religion, and petty dogmas aren't only based on religion -- check out the Hutus and the Tutsis.

Personally, I'm not religious and I feel more comfortable as a rule with political leaders who base their decisions on rationality and not on the diktat of ancient dogmas, designed to gel fractious peoples into positive action during brutish and unpredictable times. But ultimately, you try to judge whether people are good, and whether they represent your views, and those things don't necessarily correlate with religious views. I can respect that Iain Duncan Smith has used his religion to motivate him to great works but I don't therefore plan to vote for any Christian candidate hoping the same will be true every time.

Devout Christians have been PM and probably will be again; it's just not going to be a political sales tool as it is, particularly, in the States. And that's good, because politicians should have to engage with the here and now, where they can be held accountable by the electorate, not the everafter; if God wants a say, he can show up and cast a vote like everyone else. I can respect people feeling that abortion is murder; I have no respect for the position that abortion is "a sin", because that's pure subjectivity.

Conversely, we've not come anywhere close to having an atheist PM or American President either, and I look forward to when one steps up.

Posted by: Didactophobe | November 26, 2007 at 06:33
Where a society abandons its historical religion, we get the USSR; Nazi Germany; Maoist China. Not exactly the kind of liberal values that Ming presumably supports.

Or we get Scandinavia, with arguably the best standard of living and education anywhere in the world.

All the Scandinavian countries have a STATE CHURCH(execpt sweden.2 Years ago they seperated church and state).
80+percent of the people in Norway r listed as members of the state church. Same goes for Denmark.
But i guess the state churches of scandinavia are pretty secular like CoE.

When briefly discussing with a friend (who’s not particularly politically minded) the Human Tissues and Embryology Bill*, his only response to me was, “what we need is real Christians is politics”. I think he meant people who would speak Christian truth with authority and compassion and who wouldn’t give into pressure to accommodate un-Christian ideas to avoid rocking the boat or whatever.

Anyhow, excellent post by the Ed and I enjoyed reading contributions. Spagbob’s post (1801) excellent (I didn’t find it a rant!), in which he helpfully explains the difference between on one hand Christians who hold historic fundamental Reformation Christian beliefs and the positive contribution they can make (in all policy areas), and on the other hand extremists who advocate violence in the name of Islam.

(*This is Labour’s Bill that proposes to allow the creation of human/animal inter-species, such as animal/human hybrids, for research purposes proposes; could lead to further liberalisation of the abortion laws; and could remove the right for some children born via IVF to have a legally recognised father - IDS in the Mail described the latter provision as another nail in the coffin of the traditional family and at a time when everyone is becoming increasingly aware of the crucial role fathers play in upbringing of children…)

I've no problem with devout Christians in politics, as long as they don't use their religious beliefs to justfiy their actions. For example, if you object to stem cells because your peculiar interpretation of a non-existent being's message, I've no more interest in your views than if you said the tooth fairy whispered the message in your ear.

You need to back your arguments with evidence based on the real, material world. As long as you do this (and most religious politicians in the UK do this) then it makes no difference what irrational views you hold. We all hold irrational views (this is a feed line...)

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