Bring on the theologians, Mr Cameron

by - 20th July 2015


David Cameron’s ‘most important speech yet on extremism’ has now been delivered.

With terror waiting in the wings, it appears tragically to have added very little at all to the junk thinking that has got us to such an impasse. 

Platitudes piled up about ‘values’, ‘equality’, and ‘beliefs’ do not comprise an ethic to live by, as is already amply demonstrated.

He even says of ISIS:  ‘We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values. We have a very clear creed in our country and we need to promote it much more confidently.’

What creed?  Whatever it is, no one seems to know it.  And it doesn’t seem to work.

Young Muslim idealists – 700 roughly at the last count – have flocked to join ISIS precisely because ‘our creed’ is unintelligible.

When a senior Prevent officer in the Chilterns tells me he takes his life into his hands just going into local schools to talk about radicalisation, the vaccuum is clear.

The creed that built Britain – parliament first met in Westminster Abbey - has been jettisoned because it makes demands on our comforts, and the comforting nonsense we tell ourselves to justify doing whatever we like.

Greed is our creed.  Blame is our game.  We blame everything for ISIS – poverty, the Iraq war, capitalism, Islam, unemployment – except the fact of evil and a world turned away from its own sin.

Yes, there are those in Britain who cannot assent to ‘our creed’ – the creed that goes: ‘I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.  I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord…’  But so what?  Better the creed be stated, and opposition declared – than endless evasion. 

Many many people have told me they came to Britain expecting it to be Christian.  They are astonished to discover the truth: that in fact they are offered nothing to buy into.  ‘I’m going back to Istanbul.  There are so many different people here we don’t know the code’ said a Haringey cab driver to me.

People need religious guidance, and expect it from their leaders.  That’s not the same as the church governing the country; clergy know their place.  But there is no veto on politicians using the Bible, commending Sunday schools.  Precedents, including Gladstone calling a national day of prayer and fasting, go back centuries.

The endless repetition of useless and misleading mantras such as ‘Our freedom comes from our Parliamentary democracy’. ‘The rule of law exists because of our independent judiciary’ are the fruits of our freedom.  They cannot guarantee anything in themselves. 

Our freedom comes from the fight of the Christian laity against theocratic government.  Milton protested censorship in the name of truth.  Freedom is an inalienable gift of God to mankind which God Himself guarantees against governments that abuse it.

But there’s a quid pro quo.  Freedom is not a blank cheque.  It makes demands on us publicly and privately. It is supremely an act of Christian faith.  That faith inheres in theologically grasped facts about the created order and what's required of us to sustain it, and it cannot be cashed out willy nilly. 

The creed bank is empty, Mr Cameron, and just like Greece’s actual banks, it needs re-floating with a massive injection of theological currency.