Disquiet over David Cameron’s Easter message

Well, David Cameron’s Easter reception and speech, and article in the Church Times (also reported in the Guardian) seem to have created considerable furore! I’m not the only one to have responded with a sense of disquiet.

Several secularists reacted angrily to the idea that Britain is a Christian country, declaring in a letter to the Telegraph that it ‘fosters division’ to say so. Many have responded in turn by saying that Britain’s historical and cultural heritage is Christian, so in this sense Britain is a Christian country (this heartfelt piece for example). Others felt the writers of the letter to be the divisive ones – such as the writer of the blog God and Politics, and the Bishop of Bradford (writing before Easter!) suggested that any opinion which differs from another could be labelled divisive, rendering the argument meaningless.

Others were uncomfortable with David Cameron’s speech because his version of Christianity seemed to be rather vague. A friend of mine responded with this article, suggesting that reducing Christianity to being nice misses the point, and that the ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ established by Jesus is rather more radical than the ‘Big Society’.

My cynical heart wondered which part of the electorate all this was designed to appeal to, but I try not to let that part take over. I have an even bigger problem with Cameron’s analysis of Christian values, as I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. My MA dissertation was about values, in particular those which are associated with pro-social behaviour. And I’ve been wondering if those values are the same as Christian values. And then I’ve come unstuck. What exactly are Christian values? My son attends a Church of England primary school, and in the entrance hall is a poster which says the school is based on Christian values – but goes no further.

David Cameron says Christian values are “responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility and love” but I really can’t agree. Compassion, humility and love are clearly Christian (and part of other faiths too) though I’m not sure if they are all values. Not sure what he means by charity, especially as the King James Version of the Bible uses ‘charity’ where modern translations use ‘love’ so maybe this one is a repeat. Responsibility – maybe. Hard work, definitely not. Hard work is not a virtue. Christianity does not compel us to a lifetime of hard labour, Christianity at its heart is about God’s free gift of grace.

I need to go back to my essay about values, and really think which ones are Christian and which ones are not. Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with the link to another blog, which explains much better than me why believing that hard work is a Christian value is actually an attack on Christian values. And any suggestions as to what values are actually Christian ones all welcome.

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2 thoughts on “Disquiet over David Cameron’s Easter message

  1. Thanks Jo – thought provoking as usual. I take your point 100% about Christianity being about God’s grace rather than our hard work but where does the “Protestant work ethic” come in? Eph 2:10 & all that. Not sure of the answer & I’m not sure david Cameron would understand such concepts but in that sense could it be true that hard work is a response to the Christian faith?

    1. I’m not a fan of the ‘Protestant work ethic’ but you make a good point – Colossians 3v23 as well. I think these passages are talking about us offering the very best of ourselves as a love-response to God’s grace, to do our best, to follow God’s call on our lives and the work He has called us to do. I don’t think this is the same as the idea around today that our value is only in the work we do, and that the harder we work the more valuable we are, especially narrowed as it is more and more to paid work. This is why the Govt has such a problem with what it calls ‘something for nothing’ and actually believes that huge wages are paid to people because they’re worth it. None of us gets what we deserve, we all have something for nothing, so yes, our ‘work’ is our response to that. But I can’t make a virtue of hard work as an end in itself. Putting in long hours at the office is not a virtue by itself – what about family, community etc? And we tend to make saints of poorer workers who work two or three jobs to make ends meet to feed their families, but as far as I’m concerned, there is something seriously wrong with our society if this kind of thing is necessary. Thanks for commenting – I really appreciate it when I get some feedback!

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