David Cameron’s Easter message

Apologies for saying that I would be having a break and then posting the very next day, but I felt that this was definitely in need for sharing.

David Cameron hosted a reception for Christian leaders at Downing Street this week to celebrate Easter.  In the speech he gave there is much for Christians to celebrate and also a possible change in stance on the gay marriage issue.  I’ve highlighted the parts that are most significant in bold:

As you know, we have receptions here for Diwali, for Eid, for Jewish New Year, and I think it is right and it is proper in a Christian country to celebrate this – the most important of the Christian festivals, Easter – right here in Downing Street. So I’m very proud to have brought together such a prominent group of Christians in so many different walks of life, so many different charities, so many different churches. I think it’s a great event that we have it and I’m proud to hold it again. And it is, as I said, we obviously spend a lot of time celebrating Christmas and thinking about Christmas, but actually, really, Easter in many ways is the one that counts. Even those of us who sometimes struggle with some parts of the message – the idea of resurrection, of a living God, of someone who’s still with us – is fantastically important even if you sometimes, as I do, struggle over some of the details. It’s a very important message. It’s a message of hope.

What I wanted to say to you today, really, I think I’ve got three points, one plea and two challenges, if that’s all right. The three points are these: the first thing is: I think there is something of a Christian fight-back going on in Britain and I think that’s a thoroughly good thing. I think you could see it in the enormous reception of the Pope’s visit; I think you could see it with the successful return visit that Sayeeda Warsi led. I think you can see it, actually, in the reception to Sayeeda’s superb speeches about standing up for faith and celebrating faith and, as she so famously put it, actually doing God in Britain. So I think you can see it in those things. I think you could also see it in the very happy celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. I think that was another event that helped in this Christian fight-back, and I think there have been one or two good examples of the Christian fight-back as a thoroughly good thing: the fact that we’ve had that argument and won that argument over Bideford Council and the fact that if councils want to say prayers before council meetings they should. We do in the House of Commons, why on earth shouldn’t local councils do that as well? I think we see the fight-back in this very strong stance that I’ve taken and others have taken in terms of the right to wear a crucifix. I think this is important. People should be able to express their faith, and so I think there’s something of a fight-back going on and I think we should welcome that.

The second point I want to make is: I hope that the fight-back will be based around values more than anything else. I think that we have lots of things going for us as a country, all sorts of difficulties and challenges, but the greatest need we have in our country is to have strong values and to teach our children and to bring people up with strong values. The values of the Bible, the values of Christianity are the values that we need – values of compassion, of respect, of responsibility, of tolerance. Now, I’ve made this argument many times that you don’t have to be a Christian or you don’t have to adhere to another religion to have strong values, to believe in strong values or to pass those values on to your children, but the point I always make is that it helps. We’re always trying to tell our children not to be selfish, but is there a better way of putting it than ‘love thy neighbour’? We’re always telling our children to be tolerant – I know I am, and often a fat lot of good it does me – but is there a better way of explaining tolerance than saying, ‘do to others as you would be done by’? It’s the simplest encapsulation of an absolutely vital value and the Christian church and the teaching of the Bible has put it so clearly. We’re always telling our children that they must make the most of what they have; they must not waste what they have been given, and is there a better way of putting that than ‘don’t hide your light under a bushel, make the most of your talents’? So I think that Christian teaching can help us to have the strong values that we need as a country and we should be celebrating that and shouting about that.

The third point I want to make, and I think this is part of the Christian fight-back, is we should be very proud of the institutions that the churches in Britain support. I think, particularly in an age where we’re really making some progress on improving levels of attainment in school, we should celebrate the link there is between churches and schools, and indeed between mosques and schools and synagogues and schools. Faith has a huge amount to bring not just to our national life in terms of values; it has a huge amount to bring in terms of strengthening our institutions and I think it’s a good time to celebrate that.

Now my plea: my plea is that I hope that in spite of the disagreements and the arguments we will undoubtedly have, the plea is that I hope we don’t all fall out too much over the issue of gay marriage. Let me just make this point. What the government is consulting over is a change to civil marriage, to what happens at the registry office. It’s not consulting over what happens in the church. I’ll just make this point, which is that inevitably there’s a consultation, inevitably there will at some stage be a vote and inevitably there’ll be some quite strong arguments between now and then, and there’ll be some strong words used. But I hope we can keep the strength of the language at a reasonable level and that goes for both the proponents of gay marriage and indeed the opponents of gay marriage.

The point I’d make is this: if this does go ahead it will change what happens in a registry office; it will not change what happens in a church. If this doesn’t go ahead, to those of us who’d like it to go ahead, there will still be civil partnerships, so gay people will be able to form a partnership that gives them many of the advantages of marriage. So I hope we can just keep the debate at a rational and sensible level, but on the basis that we’re not always going to agree. That was my plea.

Now let me go to my two challenges. The two challenges are these. The first one is overseas and the second one is at home. The one overseas is this: I think there’s huge potential for what I call and what others call the Arab Spring and the growth of democracy in the Middle East, but there’s also an enormous danger in terms of the persecution of minorities and particularly the persecution of Christians. Now, Britain is fully engaged in the world; we have the second largest aid budget of any country in the world. We’re one of the few countries keeping our promise to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid, and we do have real influence, real heft in these countries. I think there’s a really important moment, and this is the challenge, is for the churches and Christians to work together with government on agendas to persuade these newly democratising countries not to persecute minorities and to respect Christians the world over and the right to practise your religion.

The domestic challenge is, and you’d be surprised if I didn’t bring it up, the issue of the Big Society. I think there is enormous potential in churches and faith-based organisations to tackle some of the deepest problems we have in our society, whether it is educational and under-attainment, whether it is homelessness, whether it is mental health. Just wandering around the room chatting to some of you, I was talking to a lady who runs very important residential clinics for young people who have been self-harming or indeed have eating disorders – a classic example of someone of faith who has a great belief in wanting to do good, in wanting to change the world and we should be encourage those faith-based organisations into the solving of social problems.

Tomorrow I am going to be going to the City of London, not to make a speech about the importance of the City raising finance for business, but on the importance of the City raising finance for society. Big Society capital in effect with the Big Society Bank is going to make money available so that organisations, that social entrepreneurs in this room can take that money and expand their social enterprise to cover different parts of the country or to make it bigger to solve bigger problems, to take on bigger challenges. This is an agenda that I think is vital for the future of our country; it’s one that I’m passionate about, but I think it gives the biggest possible opportunity for churches up and down the country to have a real social mission as well as having a moral, religious and a spiritual mission. I think it’s a great opportunity for faith to show its power to move mankind, to move mountains, to get things done.

Update: I’ve been informed that the residential clinics mentioned in David Cameron’s speech are those of Mercy Ministries UK who are a national charity dedicated to providing a six-month residential Christian discipleship programme for young women suffering from life controlling issues, such as eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and the effects of abuse in all its forms. http://www.mercyministries.co.uk/index.html

Categories: David Cameron, Easter, Faith in society

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37 replies

  1. Great rhetoric, plays to the crowd nicely, then…It is the the then I am looking at. With so much of Dave’s talking, he talks the talk but does not walk the walk as they say. His government is full of lack of integrity via its big boys in position of influence. I’ll wait for the then…before I clap my hands with glee.

    • I’m not sure how much of this is spin. He is a politician who does talk the talk, but at the same time he is making the right noises and engaging with Christians in a way that the Labour government never did. I tihnk we’ll get at better idea of his true motives as the gay marriage saga moves on. Is he willing to listen to both sides of the argument or is he going to risk alienating a large proportion of Christians in this country? If he does he is likely to turn many Christian voters and churches against him and what trust there is for him could well be lost.

      The Parable of the Two Sons (Matthew 21:28-31)
      “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’
      “‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.
      “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.
      “Which of the two did what his father wanted?”
      “The first,” they answered.

      Actions are always more important than words and they reveal what lies in a person’s heart.

      • Good Easter to you. Yes actions are always more important than words. Time will tell with both Obama and Cameron. Are they looking out for the ‘aliens’, the ‘widows’, the ‘orphans’, the ‘poor’ and or the ‘ill’? Or are they in fact mealy Pharisees? Time will tell.

  2. I agree that it is encouraging that Mr Cameron is making the right noises about engagement with the Church and there seems in his message (if you belive it) to be a move away from ‘money first and people second’ for which his party is famous. One concern I have with his message is the off the cuff? comments he twice makes in relation to struggling with some parts/ details of the Christian message. I would have been interested to know what these parts/ details are. I don’t know to what he refers but Christianity (following Christ) is not about lowest common denominators – I personally don’t believe that a social gospel ALONE is the work of the Church – everyone surely wants to do good and be part of a loving society – Jesus was about changing the world through changing people for the good – and of course faith without works is dead.

    • David Cameron has talked before about struggling with doubts around the Bible and the Christian message. From what I’ve seen, I’d describe his faith as real but fairly shallow and generally liberal. His grasp of the true gospel message appears to be somewhat limited. Here is an example of what I mean: http://www.gentlewisdom.org/5031/no-mr-c-thats-not-the-central-message-of-the-bible/

      I think I’d still rather have a PM with a weak faith rather than none at all though.

      • Good Easter.

        Hmm. A weak faith can be worse than someone with no faith as weak can be corrupted. An atheist who has a love of people and cares for those in need and does not favour the rich and the elite is a better leader than someone who does not show such care but has a weak or little faith. Just because you have faith does not make you a good leader or a good person. Faith without works is useless as far as I can see.

  3. … a possible change in stance on the gay marriage issue.

    Not sure where you’re finding that in this speech: there’s been a lot of shouting from right-wing evangelicals and RCs about how introducing marriage equality would undermine marriage, all of which, to not put too fine a point on it, is a load of scaremongering balderdash and piffle. The government’s campaign for equal marriage has never, as far as I can see, been about changing marriage in church: religious groups still get their exemption from equality legislation; it’s always (and only, more’s the pity) been about changing civil marriage. So, in short, as far as I can see, no change in stance on gay marriage.

    • Previously Cameron has been talking about when same sex marriage becomes law. In the government consultation they are very clear that they have every intention to make this law: “We do not think that the ban on same-sex couples getting married should continue. Put simply, it’s not right that a couple who love each other and want to formalise a commitment to each other should be denied the right to marry.”

      This is the first time I am aware of a government minister saying if this goes ahead or if it doesn’t. Until now it’s been when.

      • Thanks Gillan – that bit you quote isn’t Cameron, of course: it’s Theresa May and Lynne Featherstone, but no doubt the Ministerial Foreword met DC’s approval. Interesting change of gear, though, as you say; although in my mind the idea of a consultation has always carried an implicit “if” — I’ve never taken it as a foregone conclusion, so hadn’t quite read it with that emphasis. Let’s hope there are enough people who believe in equality to carry it 🙂

  4. Some great stuff here- I think of noticing persecution most especially. The praying stuff is cool. etc. but something wobbles in my waters when I read the Christian faith described in terms of a whole series of nice behaviours. Not that there is anything wrong with nice behaviour. It’s just that as Mr Cameron points out faith simply isn’t necessary for nice behaviour. That is not our USP. So I shudder at the thought of being co-opted into a governement sponsered niceness programme. Shudder I tell you!!!

  5. this is the “buzz” that I and many others feel is happening now in & around our lives, resurrecting Christianity, reaching out with Christianity & letting Christ reside in us.

  6. It’s amazing how Cameron et al are using the terms ‘civil’ and ‘religious marriage’. The consultatioin document they released on the 15th March refers to this throughout. There is no such thing as civil marraige or religioyus marriage, there is just ‘marriage’. The ceremonies which solemnize marriage (the wedding) is either a ‘Civil Wedding’ or a ‘Religious Wedding’. So for David Cameron to say that a change in the law will have no effect on the Church is a nonsense. If they want to change the name of the ceremony to ‘Equal Wedding’ then let them, as I remind my wife of 28 years, “It’s not about the day darling, but the rest of our lives together” Our wedding day wasn;t a particularly grand affair but we are still loving each other these many years later.

    • You’re right, John. In law there is only one ‘marriage’, as both the Court of Appeal and the House of Lords held in a case (R v Dibdin) 100 years ago: see my letter in The Times on 15 March 2012. The Church of England’s initial response (on its website) to the Government’s consultation paper on “Equal Civil Marriage” puts it neatly: “They [the Government] mistake the form of the cereminy for the institution itself.” There is no reference to R v Dibdin in the consultation paper. Either the Home Secretary and the Equalities Minister have been ill-advised on the law or they are being disingenuous in proposing a change in civil marriage while stating that this will not affect religious marriage.

    • John & David – I think you’re both missing the point here: the campaign for marriage equality isn’t about changing the ceremony — which, as you quite rightly observe, is a wedding, irrespective of whether it’s secular, religious, marking a civil partnership or marking a marriage — it’s about opening up the institution. I don’t think either the government or the church are mistaking the ceremony for the institution, and if anything, I’d say it’s whoever drafted that response for the C of E that’s possibly being disingenuous by suggesting as much…

      We’re talking about something much more significant than changing the label on a can: we’re talking about what’s in the can; and whilst it may be a can of worms at the moment, I remain hopeful that it can be done…

  7. I think David Cameron is right up to a point about the fight back being a good thing. However, what I really long to see is the church really returning to the proactive Christianity that we read about in Acts, and not the reactive, defensive Christianity that seems to be the hallmark of our faith here in the UK, at least publicly. We need to ask ourselves why it is that very few people, when asked about the church, use words such as “loving, compassionate, radical” – words that I’m sure were used of the early church. No, we are known much more for all the things we disapprove of and hate, and that really isn’t a good thing. We’ve taken the Holy Spirit’s job of convicting of sin at the cost of our own job of loving before all else.

    On the subject of gay marriage – how many of you, at the same time as getting angry about a change in the law, are actually going into the gay communities where you live and telling them how much God loves them? I’m guessing not many. It’s time the gay community stopped being the acceptable target of hatred and disdain for the church, and actually heard the gospel message without any hidden agendas. I’d suggest actually going and talking to some gay people – if you can put down your stones long enough.

    • Totally well said, dude! Ah, the stones… I’m not sure that anyone here is holding them at the ready, at least I hope not; but for any who may be:
      Notes from a Gay Christian Woman

    • As a gay woman, I absolutely LOVE this bit:

      On the subject of gay marriage – how many of you, at the same time as getting angry about a change in the law, are actually going into the gay communities where you live and telling them how much God loves them? I’m guessing not many. It’s time the gay community stopped being the acceptable target of hatred and disdain for the church, and actually heard the gospel message without any hidden agendas. I’d suggest actually going and talking to some gay people – if you can put down your stones long enough.

  8. The fact that we have a Prime Minister who is prepared to attach his name to such comments is a starting point. I believe there is something in David Cameron that half knows, somewhere inside himself, that there might be much more, deep to his own admittedly shallow understanding. He describes himself as “a vaguely practising Church of England Christian”, which perhaps explains his liberalism on gay marriage. This is a spiritual battle of consequence, requiring a prayerful and vocal Christian response. Beyond that, we need to be praying that Cameron’s eyes may be opened for the really big issues that lie ahead. These are the Euro and the EU, a self declared godless administration that would spell the end of our rich heritage as a Christian nation, that we so need to see revived and restored. I believe Cameron has the courage to defend what we stand for. What he needs is the inner conviction.
    But be encouraged! God really can work miracles in kings and rulers (see Ezra and Nehemiah) and fervent prayer gives Him that mandate for Britain.

    • Not sure where you’re coming from with the

      He describes himself as “a vaguely practising Church of England Christian”, which perhaps explains his liberalism on gay marriage

      bit, Richard: being open to the possibility of gay marriage has nothing to do with either being “vaguely practising” or “Church of England” — within the CofE there are many on both sides of the marriage equality debate, with equal levels of Christian commitment and activity on both sides. If we’re going to have this conversation, please let’s not undermine it by claiming that one side is somehow more committed, sincere or more deeply practising than the other 🙂

  9. Thank you Phil. David Cameron’s quote about himself comes from his King James Bible speech of 16th December. The fact that the CofE is divided on the issue, instead of standing by what the Bible says about homosexuality, gives the Prime Minister the precedent to support the view he does, without alienating himself from our divided established church.

    • Thanks Richard, though I can’t help thinking you’re doing it again, suggesting that those of us who support marriage equality are not “standing by” scripture: “what the Bible says about homosexuality” is a tricky one; it really is not as cut and dried as those opposed to marriage equality want it to be. Does the Bible even address the question of homosexuality as we know it today, in the form of committed, lifelong relationships?

      The very reason the C of E is divided over the issue is precisely because “what the Bible says about homosexuality” is not clear, and we need to wrestle with it — not dismiss those with whom we disagree as not standing by it…

      • Phil,

        I believe that the problem of the C of E being divided over the issue is a result of not giving the Bible preeminent place in matters of doctrine. This leads to people’s opinions and rational arguments taking precedent over what God says is and isn’t right. Homosexuality has never been and can never be right because God unequivocally says throuhgout scripture that that is the case.

        Very close friendship’s between a man and another man or a woman and another woman are perfectly natural; indeed scripture gives several examples of such: David and Jonathan / Jesus and John immediately spring to mind,so no problem there; it’s the sexual element which will never be right in the eyes of God, simply because the bible teaches that sex is the exlusive domain of a man with a woman within the holy covenant context of marriage.

        If the Church unapologetically adheres to long established and widly held ortodox biblical teaching it provides a moral compass for the society for people to follow and as Christians know, doing thing’s the Lord’s way ‘works’.

      • If only it were that simple, John … but to you I say much the same as I said to Richard: the issue really is not as cut and dried as you would have it. It’s a tough one to grapple with if you’ve been taught or brought up to believe that the Bible is, point blank, the ‘Word of God’ … “the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” approach which, if we’re prepared to be honest with one another, actually settles nothing, because the Bible is as much the product of sin-stained human reason as it is of God’s own Spirit.

        What the Bible says is simply not the same thing as what God says, and to equate the two is to mistake the very nature of scripture and, indeed, the way God communicates with us; and to claim that “Homosexuality has never been and can never be right because God unequivocally says throuhgout [sic] scripture that that is the case” is to make those very mistakes, reading back your own presuppositions about scripture into scripture, then extrapolating them forward.

        And the C of E has always recognised this, with its emphasis upon scripture, reason and tradition: scripture must be interpreted by reason, whatever beliefs emerge must be read in the light of tradition, and our practices must follow on from that — and from there, back to scripture again, full circle, as we wrestle with our understanding of what God is saying; or, as Archbishop of York John Sentamu puts it, “In our theology and lived Christian experience revelation and reason are set side by side.”

        But all that said, if you haven’t already done so, it’s well worth taking a look at the Church’s statement on Same-sex Marriage, where you’ll find them coming down very much along traditionalist lines:

        The Church of England is committed to the traditional understanding of the institution of marriage as being between one man and one woman…

        … The Church of England will continue to argue against changing the definition of marriage, which has supported society for so long.

        … which leaves those such as myself very much out of the fold…

  10. Could anyone give me a bit of context for this? Like, how does it compare to say, what Gordon Brown had to say for one of his Easter messages when he was PM? Or Tony Blair?


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