Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Three views on faith and politics

Nick Cohen's column in The Observer on Sunday.

“Like millions who should know better, [Sir Martin] Rees is not religious himself but ‘respects’ religion and wants it to live in ‘peaceful co-existence’ with it ... [this notion is] the most cowardly evasion of intellectual duty of our day”.


His lordship Maurice Glasman, participating in the Christian Socialist Movement's Tawney dialogues on faith and politics (audio file).

"I think it is time to say that, even more than Tawney, that the most important person in the history of the labour movement was Jesus.

And why was that? Because Jesus was the son of a carpenter; Jesus had friends, he had the disciples; because Jesus has given hope to working-class people throughout the history of our country, that the dignity of labour will be respected, that a better world is possible, and that things are not merely summarised by the present constellation of power, whether the money power or the state power, but that through association, we can build a better world together.

And I do think, as Tawney argued, that the greatest figure in that has been the English image of Jesus, which is one of the most neglected figures. If you look at Keir Hardie, if you look at Lansbury, Tawney, if you look at GDH Cole, if you look at all those figures who carried a transformative, radical agenda into the political arena, it is that the Christian heritage has been very important.


Finally, how Labour prime minister Clement Attlee set out his own spiritual views with his biographer Kenneth Harris.

"Believe in the ethics of Christianity. Can’t believe in the mumbo-jumbo"

Harris: Would you say you are an agnostic?
Attlee: I don’t know.
Harris: Is there an after-life, do you think?
Attlee: Possibly.

As I say in a blogpost for Labour Uncut, I think Maurice Glasman is probably right about Jesus' influence on the Labour tradition; that Nick Cohen's apparent insistence on a culture war between faith and human rights is badly confused; and that I suspect that the public debate about faith and secularism could occasionally do with just a little bit more of the spirit of Clement Attlee.

Faith, politics and the left - and how we should 'do God' - also happens to be the theme of the next issue of Anticipations from the Young Fabians.

To be continued ...

1 comment:

Newmania said...

I wonder if it is the stoic thread in the Christian weave that socialists of a certain sort object to so strongly. Christ offers hope but also counsels acceptance and humility and the centuries as a slave religion made it, allegedly , fit for slaves ( I think Neitzche called it the slave religion praising passivity and docility and thwarting the will..etc.)
I think also of Shelley`s Prometheus , indeed the Promethean myth itself or Blake`s famous criticism of Milton, that he was of the devil`s Party
The heroic intellectual sniffs an enemy Dawkins ,Hitchens et al are merely the latest.
There are more mechanically satisfying problems, for example the notion of morals built from nothing which Polly Toynbee and others have resolved in the humanist tradition and whose best expression is George Elliot but the Promethean in every intellectual is what heats the crucible I suspect. The sin of pride Sunder ..tsk tsk , not a failing of yours.

Frank Skinner is good at this subject. He said he went out and had along evenings argument about why god could not and did not create the universe with a friend. When they got back he offered his mate a cup of tea forgetting it as the " we are all just wormfood .." discussion became more heated .

Eventually his friend said .."Hey that tea won`t make itself you know ! "
To which he replied"

"Why not ?"