Thursday, 17 April 2014

David Cameron is right about loving one’s neighbour but has he missed the whole point of Easter?

Tony Blair’s spin doctor Alistair Campbell famously said that the Labour government didn’t ‘do God’ but the Prime Minister’s Easter address to church leaders has him trending on twitter as #CameronJesus. Today he has called for Christians to be ‘unashamedly evangelical’.

David Cameron’s pronouncements have sparked controversy and criticism from both sides of the political spectrum. Is the astronomical rise of charity food banks a consequence of the Coalition government’s welfare policy creating a new class urban poor? Is the exodus of traditional Tory voters to UKIP linked to Cameron embracing same sex marriage? What would Jesus, who had a heart for the poor and upheld the principle of ‘one man, one woman for life’, say to Cameron about both these issues?

Would he side with the 40 Anglican bishops and 600 church leaders who wrote a letter this week calling on all political parties to tackle the causes of food poverty? Or with conservative evangelicals who sought to prevent the legal redefinition of marriage? Or both? Or neither?

But others have raised different questions altogether. Giles Fraser, priest-in-charge at the Parish Church of St Mary, south London, has criticised Cameron for reducing Christianity to merely ‘a religion of good works’.

The Prime Minister’s praise for the ‘countless acts of kindness carried out by those who believe in and follow Christ’ and his expounding of Christ’s command to ‘love thy neighbour’ is all well and good Fraser says.  

But it is not, as Cameron would have it, ‘the heart of Christianity’. Easter is about Christ’s death on a Roman cross and his resurrection. And Jesus was not crucified for ‘doing good’ but for what he said. Fraser argues that Cameron has sidestepped ‘full throttle Christianity’ to embrace a diluted faith devoid of doctrine that will be more palatable in a society which is essentially secular and post-Christian.

He laments the fact that what we get from politicians is ‘a pallid imitation of Christianity’, just ‘empty gesture politics’. Real faith, he argues, means ‘taking hard decisions and standing by them’. It is about addressing ‘darkness and struggle’. We have to ‘walk the way of the cross’, to ‘face rejection and humiliation’.

Fraser draws attention to those many places around the world where Christianity remains a criminal offence and asks ‘If Christianity was illegal in this country, would there be enough evidence to convict you of it?’

Cameron and Fraser are both partly right. Jesus did say that loving one’s neighbour summed up the moral teaching of the Old Testament Law and Prophets. And he did call his followers to take up their cross and follow him. He demanded nothing short of utter obedience, complete devotion, with all its consequences. ‘If you love me you will obey my commands’.

St Paul said that what ultimately mattered was ‘faith expressing itself through love’ and that ‘everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted’. Both service and suffering are part of the package.

But, having said this, Christianity is not primarily about what we do for God. It is rather about what he has done for us. This does not mean that following Christ does not have profound moral implications. It does. But good works are not the way to God, but a response to his grace and mercy.

The two key questions raised by the historical events that we remember this week are not primarily about how we should live – important though that is – but are rather about the person and work of Christ. ‘Who actually was Jesus?’ and ‘Why did he choose to die?

Miss those and we miss the whole point of Easter. And the Gospel accounts leave us in no doubt as to what Christ taught about either. We cannot divorce Jesus’ moral teaching from what he said about his own identity and mission, and our predicament.

Cameron and Fraser each have part of the truth. But before we ask what God would have us do, we need first to know who this man nailed to a wooden gibbet in first century Palestine actually was, and is, and why it was necessary for him to die… and to rise. 


  1. Why the obscene delay between posts? Did they finally let you out of the asylum after your post on the Canaanites?

    Finally, Jesus sacrificed exactly Jack Squat. He's enjoying eternal bliss now, correct?

  2. Winston, you appear to have absolutely no idea just how much Jesus sacrificed for you, & for me. Jesus is God Almighty, & as such is too Holy to have any contact with sin, yet He carried the sins of the whole world on His back, because of the love he has for us, His creation. He was tortured, humiliated, beaten, & suffered the most agonising death man could devise, in order that we might have a way back into a relationship with God, instead of ending up where we all richly deserve to be. Thank God for Easter!

    1. If Jesus truly paid the price for sin, why isn't he being tortured in hell eternally? That's our supposed fate, is it not?

      And no, crucifixion is not the most horrid death imaginable. Death from cancer without adequate palliation is far worse. Jesus didn't even stub a toe in comparison to that.

    2. If cameron is a christian why is he robbing the poor to pay the rich, and why is he destroying the welfare state and privatising the NHS. Why does he not share his wealth with those he is making destitute?. Why does he despise the poor.

  3. Winston - "obscene"? Are you Peter's keeper or line manager? Posts in feb, one in mar, one in apr - looks like he's pacing himself. Not unreasonable - why the angst?

    1. Seems odd to me, especially since he usually posts so copiously.

  4. Can we compare a brutal death over a few hours to a long and tortous death?
    That said, crucification was particularly unpleasant according to historical accounts. First you carried a heavy cross through the streets, after having been beaten and whipped for hours. Many men would be so exhausted they couldn't even carry their own cross after a while.
    Next, the crucified man had nails driven through his hands and feet. I personally cannot imagine how painful that must be, or the pain each time the individual wanted to draw breath and had to rip at the and muscles, ligaments, tendons and flesh of his feet and hands, for each individual breath.
    The only pain relief came a mouthful of wine, if the soldiers felt like it and none at all if they didn't. I think there is a reason why hardened soldiers, as an act of kindness, after hours of this, apparently used to break the crucified man's legs, so that he would die of suffication.
    I'm fairly certain it was a pretty horrific way to die, I'm not sure comparisons are helpful. A horrible death is a horrible death.
    What is important here is why Jesus chose to die this horrible death and to endure it, not how bad it was in comparison to others.

  5. It was not just the details of the way he died that were a punishment; the separation from God during the time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection were part of the agony for Jesus. It may look a short time to us but was effectively outside of human time for Jesus, and we do not yet know what He went through. We do know the thought of it was enough to make Him sweat drops of blood. This was the real punishment and the punishment we deserve but do not need to suffer because He did it for us; if we trust in Him and accept what he did.

  6. Why is a delay between posts "obscene", Winston? Idiotic comment, what?
    I hear Peter has been running the London marathon, in aid of a good cause (Hospices, I believe). At least he's doing his bit to alleviate the pain of those suffering from cancer and other terminal illnesses. What do you do, matey, apart from sniping on this blog?

  7. Presumably he was too busy training for the marathon to post often enough to satisfy you, Winston. Aside from this, anyone who thinks dying of cancer can be compared to crucifixion has to be an idiot.

    Be that as it may - I wonder if I may ask Peter whether he does not think the Bishops are being unreasonable in blaming the government's Welfare cuts for the rise in food banks? Many of those on Benefits have Sky TV and Smartphones. Do they really need them in times of austerity? Welfare is more than sufficient to cover food costs, if folks are sensible and live frugally. I suspect the real reason for food poverty is the sudden loss of jobs, coupled with an extravagant lifestyle that has suddenly caught up with a nation of over-spenders.

    1. If you say so. Your lack of solid rational arguments and foundations only hurts you.

      I found the delay obscene because he often posts far more often. I can understand why he'd train for a marathon, though. If Tony Nicklinson's family ever caught up to him...

    2. I think that debt counselling is a better long term Christian response to urban poverty than food banks but I personally support both. I also think that the bishops should focus more on the behaviour and regulation of the big banks rather than the softer targets of welfare reforms and loan sharks.

  8. More hypocrisy is apparent when we see that Jesus committed suicide by cop (which was supposedly foreseen since the beginning of time).

    So for Peter to oppose voluntary euthanasia makes him a hypocrite through and through.

    1. There is a clear moral difference between Jesus's self-giving death on the cross and euthanasia/assisted suicide. Jesus was killed by others without request and willingly gave his life and endured the suffering of death in order to rescue others. Euthanasia and assisted suicide involve being killed with the help of others in response to one's own request in order to avoid one's own suffering.

    2. Wrong again, Peter. Haven't you even read your bible?

      Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. -- John 10:17-18

      And he did escape suffering, since he died a lot faster than his contemporary thieves.

    3. I come from a Sikh background. You almost persuade me to become a practising Judaeo-Christian.

      I read the Judaeo-Christian scriptures. This 'man' Jesus could not have committed suicide. To suggest so is oxymoronic: God is eternal; therefore, God cannot commit suicide.

      Judaeo-Christianity, seems to me, full of paradoxes ('I lay down my life, that I might take it again').

      One thing I am fully convinced of is this: the execution of this 'man' and His resurrection has solved the subjective-objective problem in philosophy: Plato, Aristotle, Marx and Hegel: eat your hearts out!


    4. That's very interesting. Can you expand a bit more on your last paragraph?

    5. Well, Peter, Jesus did not have his legs broken by the Roman soldiers. That would indicate a quicker death (and less suffering). Death by crucifixion is also preceded by coma, so that's further evidence that he got an easy exit, relative to the thieves.

      Anonymous: if god cannot commit suicide or be killed by mortal hands, then he did not sacrifice anything.

    6. I was talking to DS actually. I didn't actually find your post interesting :-)

    7. The problem as every curious school boy knows is this: how do we know that we know?

      Plato: conecentrate on the universals.

      Aristotle: No! No! No! concentrate on the particulars.

      Chorus: we cannot discover how to unify universals and particulars (only the Judaeo-Christian concept of the Fall can logically explain the 'broken (inconsistent) mirror').

      By the time we get to Hegel - our philosophers have given up on seeking the grand unifying theory of 'how then should we live with each other' (either we make up 'truth' to live and kill or truth is revealed by an external agency to mankind so that we can live and kill (in accord with revealed truth)).

      Hegel pitched his theory in the abstract: the past, present and future of mankind proceeds on the basis of thesis (truth) plus anti-thesis (falsehood) = synthesis (a new 'truth').

      Marx came along and pronounced that he had 'turned Hegel on his head'.

      What Marx was saying was that he had converted Hegel's 'insight' from the abstract into the material (that which is apprehended by the senses).

      That's the world your thirsty censorious critic Winston inhabits. Winston does not yet understand why he feeds on this blog. For it is written: 'Man shall not live on bread (material) alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God (revelation).'

      Winston is stuck, stuck, stuck like a fly on pice of fly-paper in space and time (materialism) whislt you Christians soar with the eagles.

      Now for Marx.

      Whilst Hegel hung on to the absract (there must be something above mankind) Marx turned Hegel on his head. What Marx meant by this was that thesis+anti-thesis=synthesis was located in the material world.

      The poor are the truth (the thesis). Their oppressors are the powerful (the anti-thesis). The synthesis was the 'communal revolution' which culminated in the 'dictatorship of the proletariat'. That is, in the modern world, the method whereby we arrive at truth:

      The child in the womb (thesis) + 'a woman's right to choose' (anti-thesis) = abortion (synthesis).

      Now do you see how we youngsters have been thought to 'think'?

      Emotion dressed as 'intellect'.

      Of course, by employing this method of 'thinking' we cannot condemn Nazis.

      Nor Stalin's liquidation of 20 million Russians.

      Nor abortion, and if that not that: suicide.

      As Sartre said: 'we are condemned to be free'.

      Given that without revelation (external revealed truth) we are free to kill - after all without revelation we are the masters of the universe - this 'man' Jesus provides us with the only real escape: the bridge between us and revealed Truth.

      If He had not provided that bridge: then we are condemned to choose what is within our power: the Gulag, the Holocaust, Abortion, suicide, murder, dictatorship.

      We, naturally, choose power. For if there is no God: then we are God.

    8. Thank you. Most interesting.

    9. Och Doc!

      Forgive me.

      As individuals we are subjective.

      God is objective.

      I am desperate to know the Truth.

      As the Subjective I need the Objective - that which is outside of me and men: to reveal Truth.

      This 'man' Jesus the Jew by His death and ressurection provides the 'personal' through whom I can speak to your God and he can reveal to me.

      Now Subjectivity (me) touches Objectivity (God) through a mediator (Jesus).

      Michael Angelo: eat your heart out!

    10. Of course you didn't find it interesting. How stupid of me. Anyone who finds CS Lewis convincing has the imaginative abilities of a ficus tree.

  9. Winston

    'Anonymous: if god cannot commit suicide or be killed by mortal hands, then he did not sacrifice anything.'

    I consider myself a 'heathen'.

    You have clearly not read the scriptures: He was nailed to the cross.


    1. What's your point? If he was supposed to "pay our debt" for sin, then either we're going to spend roughly 36 hours in hell (like Jesus did) or he did not pay the price for sin (eternal torture).

    2. If the debt has been discharged for you - then why do you believe you will spend 36 hours in Hell?

      If you believe He did not discharge your debt then I am sure you will experience the application of the Second Law of Thermodynamics in Hell: you shall become a creature you were never meant to be.

  10. If it was "necessary" for Jesus to die for us to be forgiven, we should've just given god some anti-psychotics.

    1. 'If it was "necessary" for Jesus to die for us to be forgiven'.

      The second part of your post betrays an ignorance of a 'universal anthropology'.

      'All' cultures believed in the 'blood sacrifice' until the advent of Judaeo-Christianity which contested that belief. The 'blood sacrifice' was to comply with an ancient law - that 'any god' could not be appeased without the 'blood sacrifice' for wrong-doing and to invite good.

      In the 21st century many of us still continue the 'blood sacrifice' to erase our bad choices. For example, in the modern world choice and convenience are our gods. To appease them we employ the instruments of death: abortion - and head towards the other end of the spectrum of life - assisted suicide.

      You see - you too prostrate yourself before the ancient gods.

      You don't exist in a vacuum (there is no neutrality - not even for you).

      If you did you would suffocate - or at least have the intellectual integrity to place yourself in quarrantine: by remaining silent (even a fool can be thought of as wise if he remains silent).

  11. Giles Fraser cares more about gay rights than he does about childrens right not to be sexually abused and so does David Cameron, if he cared then he would have stopped the paedophiles stopping police investigating serious crimes committed against children in care in 2002, and he would have denounced Richard Webster Bob Woffenden David Rose and all the others for what they did, and he hasn't.

    Both David Cameron and Giles Fraser have knowingly allowed victims of child abuse to be reabused.

  12. A Christian is one who confesses the Lord Jesus with his or her lips and believes in the heart that jesus rose fro the dead. KHK


  13. Good stuff. It is interesting to read comment!!!

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