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Nice one John - but might it be just as accurate to equate the story with the government's long term determination to force everyone to attend at regional processing centres whenever they wish to renew their passports, and pay through the nose for the privilege?

This dilemma faced by the church is similar to the growth of a warped political version of Islam, in which Imams' reflect broadly upon political issues. The religiosity has gradually been eroded by certain Imams' seeking to politicise their religion, rather than reasonably remaining to religious ideals. During Eid, for instance, the sermons undeniably speak about remembering victims of this issue or that political issue, rather than talking about how to improve ourselves and serve our country.

Islam is a faith and code of conduct for over a billion people worldwide. However, for some people, Islam has become simply as a political tool for exploitation purposes. That is why religious messages are becoming far more political in nature. We should remain, as many Christians do so, peacefully proselytize our faith, rather than using it for political purposes.

And, guess what, Giles Fraser got most of his salient facts wrong: they were not an unmarried couple (Joseph did not as he first thought to do "put her away privily" he married her and that's why she had to go to Bethlehem at all), they were not homeless (so far as anyone knows they had a perfectly respectable home, and carpenter's workshop, in Nazareth) they were not refugees (they were on a journey, as John Redwood points out, required by their Government)and the soldiers who massacred the innocents but fortunately missed Jesus were not "Imperial" (they were Herod's men and Herod was the local nationalist ruler. Talk about wrenching the facts to fit the political message !!!!

John Redwood is spot on. Matthew gave up being a tax collector, a profession that was despised in Palestine at that time, to become one of Jesus's disciples.

Rome auctioned off tax territories to various individuals; after the tax-collectors gathered the amount they had bid, any money that was left over they could keep for themselves. Many of them collected as much money as they could in any way that they could in order to become rich very quickly. Tax-collectors were considered to be so dishonest that they could not testify in courts of law. The Pharisees disliked the fact that Jesus would eat with anyone, especially tax collectors.

Luke 18:9-14 "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, 'God, I thank You that I am not like other men--extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.' And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!'

I don't ever recall church leaders giving attention to unemployment as a social ill. Unemployment is life-destroying and I believe is at the heart of most social breakdown. When a person is denied the opportunity of work the possibility of a structured and responsible lifestyle is broken down. This creates another level of existence, a sub-culture, in which a person either turns in on themselves and accepts social alienation or even worse they get drawn into an alternate lifestyle which their children often inherit.

Now with the most optimistic forcasts predicting that mainstream unemployment is predicted to hit 1.8 million in the next year its time for church leaders and others to set greater focus on the misery of unemployment. I do not expect that the future Conservative government will be able to end unemployment, however government can play an active role in providing training for the jobless and at least affording them the skills to compete in the labour market.

Many modern churchmen seem to me to have become extremely nervous about pointing out that we, as individuals, are sinners, identifying the nature of our Error and advising us on some possible ways to do better. Yet they still see that condemning sin and urging repentance must be a core part of their message. So instead of individual sins, they focus on collective sins - failings of our society. Such condemnation is known as "prophetic" witness in the modern church jargon (prophets were always condeming their societies). Prophetic witness is good, but it should not be done to the exclusion of identifying our (several) individual failings (without necessarily singling us out for personal public disapprobation!).

Re: comment by Mash.

My understanding of Islam that they make no distinction between the secular and the religious, nor between the political and the religious. The sentence "religious messages are becoming far more political in nature" is meaningless in Islam because the two were never separated in the first place.

This is why Islam may be fundamentally incompatible with Western societies where these things are separated, often by a constitution or similar legal ruling.

Andrew Lilico, good points on personal responsibility. This particularly applies to those in public life like politicians. Church leaders should be quick to expose and condemn those in politics who stain public life and set a bad example. Church leaders seem to lack the moral conviction to personally name-and-shame those who set a bad example in public life.

@Tony Makara 13:11

In The Welfare State We're in James Bartholomew suggests that mass unemployment is a direct consequence of the welfare state.

The persistent unemployment of Britons when immigrants to the UK appear to seek, and find work would seem to support his case.

I'm an apathetic atheist [not believing that there's a god but not getting uptight about it either]. If there's ever a capitalist parable in the bible it's the "Good Samaritan" - he helped his fellow man out of his own heart not because the State said he should; and he was also wealthy enough (presumably by his own efforts) to be in a position to do so.

No doubt these days the man who was robbed would expect the State to provide - at the taxpayer's expense - a range of 'victim support' outreach services and a slew of counsellors to aid his return to society.

My only fundamental objection to the 'Good Samaritan' parable is that nothing is written about the efforts made to hunt down and bring to justice the robbers....

Dave B, in my opinion the service-sector cannot provide enough jobs for a population of our size and we need a large manufacturing base to eradicate unemployment. Nontheless there are certainly severe problems with the way the welfare state operates. I'd like to see JSA replaced with a training allowance, in that way people who are out of work for a set period, say six months, are then given the opportunity to re-train.

An unemployed person could then undertake a period of work directed job-training and if they pass the training, the employer should then be duty bound by law to employ the person on a full-time basis. This would provide a real incentive to train and would provide an employer with a skilled and willing worker.

The tragedy with unemployment is that governments up to this point have only ever tried to manage unemployment rather than trying to end it.
I'd like to see a public works programme to give the unemployed an opportunity to work but unfortunately David Cameron has stated that he is not in favour of such programmes. Nontheless I feel in an economy that cannot provide work for everybody a public works programme could have great benefits, providing manpower for the nation and providing waged for for a whole class of people who are cut off from mainstream society.

It is ironic that Rowan Williams should choose the very week that the latest figures are released showing that Global warming is no more and that global temperatures have remained the same from 2001 to 2006 .

Since it doesn't exist man cannot be held responsible for it.

So the Christian thing to do is to stop growing biofuels and concentrate upon growing food for the world's starving peoples.

And since the price of oil and gas will be ever upwards for heavens sake get on and go nuclear - otherwise only French lights will sdtay on.

I never did think I'd ever say this, but I agree with Christina!!!!!

"instead of individual sins, they focus on collective sins - failings of our society."

I wonder if Andrew Lilico has put his finger on something even bigger. Once churches preached individual responsiblity for sin. As socialism arose that became unpopular since we were now told the poor etc are not resonsible for their problems and getting money off (rich) tax payers is the answer to their problems. As a consequence church leaders have picked on certain sections of the Christian message (and if there isn't a suitable one they pretended there was) in order to push for the poor and deprived etc.

Nowadays church leaders very often justify their existance by going on about secular issues over which they have little responsibilty but can look nice and careing. When one thinks of the older message of individual responsibility for sin one can see why society is drifting to welfare dependency and church attendance is falling.

I thought this was a pretty stupid piece when I heard it on Today, Giles Fraser appeared to write it with tongue very firmly in cheek.Am very suprised that CH thinks it worth discussing. Slow news day?

I would have thought the most central aspect to Christmas is the family, an institution the left have warred against in every aspect. As such Christmas is far from being a Guardian event, what is making this is the lefty closet socialists vicars who have forgotten the family message of Christmas and instead bleat on about immigrants, asylum seekers, Aid and such like and what ever gets their politically correct juices flowing, a message which is emptying their Churches, whilst issues more relevant to their parishioners don’t get aired. .

Did you get out of the wrong side of the bed Malcolm?
I thought the post contained some interesting observations about Christianity and politics.

Ultimately every 'bad act' can be traced back to an individual, others may be compliant, actively or passively, but the original thought, leading to the bad act will have come from one mind. The Nuremberg trails, which in my opinion a victor's trial, did nontheless show how responsibility is often abrogated by political motives or concepts of duty. The fact that men could murder 'Officially' does not and can never legitimize their actions.

We are all responsible for our actions, church leaders must have the courage to point the finger and say "J'Accuse" when public figures fall short, such moral judgment would greatly enhance accountability.

The Christian Church Leaders have let everyone down I'm afraid.The new year ahead is a chance for them all to lift up their voices and be heard in wholeheartedly supporting all the people of this Realm.

This could possibly be their last chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of the masses.

in my opinion the service-sector cannot provide enough jobs for a population of our size and we need a large manufacturing base to eradicate unemployment

Worth pointing out that the same idea was put forward in the 19th century about agriculture - to many then it was inconceivable that you could have an economy where most of the population lived in the cities and were fed by only a relatively small number of people.

And in 1900 half the working population of America was involved with horses.

Dave B: "The persistent unemployment of Britons when immigrants to the UK appear to seek, and find work would seem to support his case."

Immigrants have a big advantage over the indigenous population - they are geographically mobile and are settling where the work is.

Arguably, though, the benefits system means that the indigenous population doesn't have much incentive to move to areas where the work is, so you may be right after all. Perhaps I ought to read that book.

Excellent piece by the Ed, agree absolutely – and good one from John Redwood!

I enjoyed reading Andrew Lilico's other comments about individual responsibility. I have often felt the traditional church (of various denominations) is reluctant to talk about individuals' sin, and the need for individuals to repent. Perhaps not talking about individual sin denies people much of the rich meaning and value of the Christmas message through failing to address their greatest need - sin. That this is central to the Christmas message can surely be proved by why Joseph was told to name the son Mary was bearing “Jesus”: “because He will save His people from their sins.” (Matt 1v21)

And I agree with David Sergeant (1651, 29 Dec) that socialism removes the concept of individual responsibility by creating the apparently benevolent Big State for people to depend on and be subservient to, and which is hoped will meet their needs by taking money off the rich. (I’m not against tax, i.e. tax to pay for what the State should do)

Meant to say "I enjoyed reading Andrew Lilico's AND other comments about..."

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