Jesus a Lefty-Liberal, Guardian reader? Not likely

Dizzy thinks, but wrongly, about the political leanings of Jesus. He may have a point through the modern liberal Church of England.

Dizzy’s posting on Jesus being a lefty-liberal is wide of the mark. He says

Seriously, if Jesus was alive today (a man’s who’s existence at least is not I think in dispute) he would be a Guardian reader. Yet, he would of course be pilloried for believing that he was the Son of an unprovable God, no doubt ridiculed for being a bit mad (oh the irony given the average Guardian readers hatred of prejudice towards the mentally ill), and his core beliefs about non-violence, turning the other cheek, forgiveness and the like would be dismissed out of hand.

I realise this is the second post in as many days where the subject of faith has come up, but honestly, I just don’t comprehend the sheer hypocrisy of those on the so-called “Liberal Left” when they display so much hatred for a faith that is essentially in keeping with their values, all, so it seems because of the bit about God.

If a kid is brought up with the liberal moral teachings of Christianity but also believes in God is it really “evil”?

Apologies for labouring the point here, but politically speaking, if you look at the New Testament, the carpenter’s son from Nazareth known as Jesus was essentially preaching a message that today would be seen as incredibly left wing. He was a little man standing up against an Imperial oppressor, he was preaching the evils of capitalism, and extolling the virtues of the weak and meek over the the rich.

Pardon my blasphemy for those that have an issue with it, but: Jesus Christ! Is it not patently absurd that Guardian readers should hate something so in line with their own beliefs just because it’s not secular?

My reply (in three sections) was as follows.

You are correct if you follow the Rowan Williams School of theology. An alternative line is to quote Jesus on the important bits. Take Matthew 23:40. After saying the two greatest commandments are love of God and love of your neighbour as yourself. Jesus says “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments”. Jesus was establishing a principles-based religion. If the law conflicted with this, then it was the law that had to give. So if someone needed healing on the Sabbath, they should be healed, despite the Jewish law saying you should not work. In Matthew’s gospel, the holy men who went around proclaiming they are superior because they uphold the law better than others Jesus calls “hypocrites” and a “brood of vipers”, as they were more concerned with appearances than the substance of faith in God.

Another aspect is forgiveness of sins. Human beings are fallible, despite their best efforts. They can leave the past behind without guilt and get on with being good.

Jesus today would have strong words for New Labour. For them the solution to every problem is more laws, more complexity and wads of cash. Political appearances are more important than substance. Principles are transitory – remember the need to balance the budget over the course of the business cycle? It was first re-defined then ditched. What would he have to say of the science of climate change, with any none-believers labeled deniers (the modern-day equivalent of heretics?). Jesus would probably quote the first commandment of Moses about “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3)

In these respects, Jesus was a Pre-Hayekian, though more dogmatic, and less diplomatic in his language.

 Finally on the subject of Jesus was anything but someone who stood up to the Roman oppressors. For many Jews he was anything but the expected Messiah. They thought he would be like what Muhammad turned out a few hundred years later. A prophet-cum-military conqueror who would drive the Roman’s into the sea. In fact Jesus studiously avoided the direct conflict with the military occupation. About paying taxes he said “give to Caesar what it is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12:17)

 I realise that proper theologians will disagree with my analysis that Jesus was more a classical-liberal in the tradition of Adam Smith and Fredrich Hayek than a Socialist. But what is without doubt in the non-conformist tradition is that Jesus was against putting appearances over form, and that the Love of God and Love of one’s neighbour take precedence over religious traditions and rules. Furthermore, is the doctrine that we all sin, no matter how hard we try, but through the sacrifice of Jesus we are forgiven and can move on. This is hardly the attitudes of those politicians who claim to have all the answers, decry others are being always wrong (with ulterior motives), and never admit to their own falliability.

Giving the BNP voters a message of hope

Summary

BNP supporters include many hardworking, but unappreciated people. Their lives can be turned around by a confident Christianity that values them.

 

 The Political Establishment reviles the BNP, either describing them as beyond the pale, or denigrating them for views they do not necessarily hold. In so doing they guarantee that the BNP will build a core following that will endure. Instead we should understand the people who voted for the BNP. The recent Channel4-commisssioned Yougov survey of electors highlighted the issues.

 

  1. BNP voter families are poorer than national median, but less than 10% below. Indeed, if you allow for the concentration is the lower income areas (Burnley for instance), they are about average.
  2. They are disproportionately manual workers (36% v 20% in the population), male (61% v 48%), and read the most down-market papers (33% v 20%). There are few professionals (11% v 36%) and few readers of the quality papers (6% v >12%)
  3. They feel left out by society. “Just 19 per cent of BNP voters are “confident that my family will have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead”. This compares with 59 per cent of Labour voters, 47 per cent of Lib Dem and Green voters, and 42 per cent of Conservative voters.”
  4. They feel discriminated against as compared with immigrants, such as the feeling that immigrant families can jump the queue in getting a council house (87% v 56%), and feel that white people suffer unfair discrimination (70% v 40%)

 

There is something else that can be inferred from this data. Despite being of near median family income, they display signs of being below the average educational levels (more Sun & Star readers and lots of manual workers). That means there must be something else that characterises these people. I would suggest that they are hardworking people. The sort of people who two or three generations ago who do any job rather than claim dole; who would be horrified if their children had sex before marriage; who would be proud if they could go through their working lives without a day off sick; who would work long hours to afford the luxuries; who would be proud of their council houses and keep their gardens in a better state than a National Trust property. They are the sort of people who a generation ago would have bought their council house, and immediately change the front door to a mahogany-look one with a brass knocker to show their status. The same generation who would have seen the next door house being allocated to a single mum, who having had three children by different fathers, gets more cash and benefits through a few minutes of drunken sex, than they ever could by working 60 hours per week. They are the people who should be proud of what they have achieved, but looking round now say “should I have bothered?” (or something stronger). They resent those who get things easy, and the hectoring state who taxes their pleasures (smoking and drinking). They have been deserted by their natural political party, who, in being multicultural and inclusive has lost its dogmas and its passion. The final straw is when they support a party who seems to answer their concerns, they are treated as outcasts by the political establishment. That same political establishment, who having for years actively encouraged the politicians to gorge themselves at the public trough, now dither in sacking them.

 

Like the worst gangs, the BNP encourages these people to blame this on other groups – on the muslims, the immigrants, the corrupt politicians or the foreign imports – then provide a strong solution. But the solution is to turn inwards, rejecting outsiders, rejecting foreign imports, rejecting customs. It is also to say that by a strong government that they can believe in, they can get the esteem that they lack. But this will not be the answer. Crushing ones opponents never brings peace; harsher punishment does not reduce crime, nor does protecting jobs make us richer, or even reduce unemployment. Like the communists of yesteryear, they believe with the right plan, ruthlessly implemented they can solve all problems.

 

The answer is not to revile such people, but to see them as achievers, who have been lead astray. One hundred years ago, they would have been the people who packed the churches during the revival, cheered loudly on the terraces on Saturday afternoon, sung lustlily on a Sunday morning and repaired to the club afterwards. The churches again need to accommodate them. To provide them with strong dogmatic statements, not tortuous arguements about gender-inclusiveness and sexual orientation. To provide them with a strong sense of faith, that believes its past achievements and what it can achieve, not a faith that is no better than any other. The BNP followers, I would suggest, are made up of people who have been lead astray, but are not fundamentally evil. They are sinners whose lives can be fundamentally changed by a confident faith.

 

 

Channel 4 commissioned a massive poll of 32,000 electors, of whom nearly 1,000 voted BNP in the Euro election on 4th June. This is the website analysis.

 First, who voted BNP? They were mainly men: they voted divided 61 per cent male, 39 per cent female. (Men comprise just 48 per cent in the electorate as a whole.)

 They were also more working-class. In the country at large, professional workers outnumber manual workers by 20 per cent to 18 per cent. Among BNP voters the pattern is very different: 36 per cent manual workers, 11 per cent professionals.

 One third of them read the Sun or Daily Star as against one in five adults generally; just 6 per cent of BNP voters read the upmarket papers (Times, Telegraph, Guardian etc), which is less than half the national average.

 Yet the household income of the typical BNP voter (£27,000 a year) is only slightly below the national median (£29,000) – and not that far below that of a typical Conservative voter (£33,000).

 It is not money that marks BNP voters apart as much as their insecurity. Just 19 per cent of BNP voters are “confident that my family will have the opportunities to prosper in the years ahead”. This compares with 59 per cent of Labour voters, 47 per cent of Lib Dem and Green voters, and 42 per cent of Conservative voters.

 Among UKIP voters the figure is also fairly low, at 28 per cent, which suggests that UKIP also picked up the votes of many who feel the traditional parties let them down – and not just on Europe.

 Not surprisingly, BNP voters regard immigration as the top issue facing Britain. Fully 87 per cent of them told us it was one of their top three or four concerns. (This compares with a still-high 49 per cent among the public as a whole.)

 But when people are shown the same list and asked which three or four issues “are the most important facing you and your family”, the figure falls to 58 per cent. True, this is three times the national average of 20 per cent, yet it means that for almost half of BNP voters, immigration is NOT among the worries of day-to-day life.

 We also find that most BNP voters do NOT subscribe to what might be described as “normal racist views”. Just 44 per cent agreed with the party in rejecting the view that non-white citizens are just as British as white citizens.

 Yet the feeling is widespread that white Britons get a raw deal. Seventy seven per cent of BNP voters think white people suffer unfair discrimination these days. But that is also the views of 40 per cent of the public as a whole.

 The average British voter is more likely to think that discrimination afflicts white people than Muslim or non-white people. And only seven per cent of the public think white people benefit from unfair advantages, while more than one in three think Muslim and non-white people receive unfair help.

 Thus the BNP is tapping into some very widely held views, such as the desire to stop all immigration, and the belief that local councils “normally allow immigrant families to jump the queue in allocating council homes” (87 per cent of BNP voters think this, but so does 56 per cent of the public as a whole).

 Yet, depending on how the term “racist” is precisely defined, our survey suggests that the label applies to only around a half of BNP voters. On their own, these votes would not have been enough to give the BNP either of the seats they won last night.

 There are two telling pieces of evidence that suggest wider causes of disenchantment. Seven out of 10 BNP voters (and almost as many Green and Ukip voters) think that “there is no real difference these between Britain’s three main parties”.

 But perhaps the most startling finding came when we tested anecdotal reports that many BNP voters were old Labour sympathisers who felt that the party no longer speaks up for them. It turns out to be true. As many as 59 per cent of BNP voters think that Labour “used to care about the concerns of people like me but doesn’t nowadays”.

 What is more worrying for Labour is that this sentiment is shared by millions of voters, way beyond the ranks of BNP voters. Overall, 63 per cent of the British public think Labour used to care about their concerns – and only 19 per cent think it does today.

 In contrast, just 29 per cent think the Conservatives used to care about their concerns; this figure has climbed to 37 per cent who think they care in the Cameron era.

 Yes, Labour has a problem with voters deserting the party for the BNP. But its far bigger problem as it heads towards the next general election is to extinguish the overwhelming public view, reinforced by the scandal over MPs’ allowances, that today’s Labour Party is no longer on the side of ordinary voters. And that, more than anything else, is why its vote collapsed to just 16 per cent in the Euro election.

Why the BNP is the Wrong Choice

Many who are considering voting for the BNP try to justify themselves in various ways. This is why they should think again.

1. It believes in punishing the troughing Pigs (the MPs).

The BNP are not explicit on this. If it is prosecuting those who are guilty of fraud, then a small minority will be prosecuted. Most MPs acted within the rules and on advice from the Fees Office. If the BNP obtained power do they impy they would restrospectively change the law to prosecute these opposition politicians, or just use this as an excuse to imprison the opponents.

2. A vote against the Muslims

The public face of the BNP is

“The British National Party is opposed to the Islamification of Britain in the same way that Muslim countries would be opposed to the Christianisation of their lands, and bears no animosity to any individual Muslim.”

So the leadership is at odds with their supporters?

3. A vote against Immigration

The BNP says

We call for an immediate halt to all further immigration, the immediate deportation of criminal and illegal immigrants, and the introduction of a system of voluntary resettlement whereby those immigrants who are legally here will be afforded the opportunity to return to their lands of ethnic origin assisted by a generous financial incentives both for individuals and for the countries in question.

Problem is that many of the most disliked immigrants – such as Asian muslims – are British born and British citizens. You will not turn Bradford or Burnley white by this policy. Also “voluntary resettlement” will not only include lots of taxpayer’s money, but also plenty of sticks.

4. Clamping down on Crime

Getting tough on crime does little to reduce it. With all the political prisoners, the BNP would have to build special prison camps.

5. Going after the Greedy Bankers

Like for the MPs, would this mean restrospectively changing the law, or just rounding them up?

6. Curing the Economic Crisis

Any prospect of BNP in government would cause a massive capital flight, and no foreign investment. That is unless the BNP so changes that it alienates it’s core voters. Beyond Nick Griffin, the leadership are generally clueless.

7. Backing a Christian Country.

Jesus’s core message was a very positive one. It is about loving the Lord your God first and your neighbour second – with all the rest following from that. (Matt 22: 37-40). It is about recognising our own faults, forgiving past wrongs done to us and helping others. In British culture it comes through in the ideas of playing fair, assuming people innocent until proven guilty, integrity in public life, giving sanctuary to oppressed minorities and voluntary work.

Further, if the BNP is so keen on emphasising that this is a Christian culture, why no greater promotion of Christianity in our schools?

Christianity is ingrained into British culture. By forgetting the positive role of the national religion, they are showing themselves to be an anti-British party.

On June 4th, Vote For Positive Change, Not Against the BNP

Stumbled across this blog, by a Baptist Minister in South Manchester concerning Pentecost and the BNP. I found it rather confusing. Robert Parkinson summarises Pentecost as

Most churches will have heard again the reading of Acts chapter 2. It tells how, during the celebration of the Jewish Festival of Shavuot, the followers of the risen and ascended Christ were overwhelmed by the presence of the Holy Spirit experienced as wind and fire. Empowered and transformed, they began to proclaim the good news of Jesus to a multinational gathering.

Quite rightly, Revd Parkinson does not see how anyone hearing this message can vote for the BNP. He then says

Leaders of the mainstream Christian Churches of Greater Manchester, including the Baptists, have joined together to issue a statement in support of the Hope not hate campaign and to “urge all followers of Christ to use their vote wisely, and not to vote for any political party or candidate promoting division, exclusion, and blame, or in any other way seeking to stir up racial and ethnic hatred”.

At the moment, I am every bit as disillusioned with politics as the next person. I have never been more tempted not to vote but on Thursday I’ll be walking down to Ivy Cottage to cast my vote against the BNP.

But this is not what the message of Pentecost, or what Jesus is about. It is about people receiving forgiveness, being transformed, and in that knowledge moving to much greater things. The current situation with the Daily Telegraph’s trawling through the MPs claims is one where MPs are being hunted down, at one end of the scale, the downright dishonest, or verging on the fraudulent, whilst at the other end of the scale the minor, but ridiculous, such as teddy bears and bags of manure. It is not about forgiveness, but more about dragging people down. Most politicians, from all political parties, are generally interested in serving their constituents and their country.

I do not think that a political party should be visionary, and I do feel that some of the at the most dishonest end of the scale should step down. But for most MPs, there must be the opportunity to say sorry, to pay back  money claimed that now embarrasses them and move on. Then they can get back to their vocations. The party leader who has taken this course most unequivocally is David Cameron, so I will be voting Conservative on Thursday. It is not because the Conservatives are blameless, but because the errant are forgiven, new standards are set and they will move on.

Vote BNP is you want to call names, breed hatred of politicians that oppose yours views and permenantly undermine the political system. May you come to know Christ’s forgiveness.

Vote Labour, if you don’t believe in recognising error and saying sorry, but think tougher and more complex rules is the solution.

Vote Lib-Dem if you want to take the middle ground between being unequivocal and passing the buck.

Gordon Brown a ManicBeancounter?

The Prime Minister spoke today in St. Pauls Catherdral of the need for common values to underpin the world economy. I thought at first that Gordon Brown was coming round to my approach – of having a principles-based approach. However, I was disappointed. The following is the relevant text, from the Number10 website

 

And today he and I want to discuss with you not the details of specific or technical financial programmes or policies, but instead enduring values – indeed the enduring virtues – that we have inherited from the past which must infuse our ideals and hopes for the future.

And I want to suggest to you today that this most modern of crises, the first financial crisis of the global age, has confirmed the enduring importance of the most timeless of truths – that our financial system must be founded on the very same values that are at the heart of our family lives, neighbourhoods and communities.

Instead of a globalisation that threatens to become values-free and rules-free, we need a world of shared global rules founded on shared global values. I know it’s hard to talk about the future when you’re having a tough time in the present. You don’t redesign a boat in the midst of a storm.

I am disappointed. The disappointment is due to this being ambiguous (to appeal to a large audience), whilst at the same time going against the very things that we need for future stability and prosperity. The ambiguity comes in exactly what are the family values? The laissez-faire attitudes of same-sex parents or the authoritarian attitudes of the militant Islam?

I wrote a posting on John Redwood’s blog that is relevant to approach we should be taking, especially when speaking a house of God.

 

1.     In Matthew 22, after Jesus says that the Greatest commandment is love of God and the second is love of neighbour as oneself, he then says “In these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.  For the financial system, what is most important is the general objectives of regulation, with the detail following from that.

2.     In Jesus’s conflict with authority was because he put love of neighbour before upholding the laws and cultures of the time (such as healing. In other words, where the detailed rules conflict with the major objectives, it is the regulations that must be amended. When it is a choice between maintaining a boom with low interest rates, or suffering a mild recession to avoid a bubble, then it is the mild recession that must be endured.

3.     Jesus had strong words for the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 23), the religious leaders of the time, who dogmatically upheld the complex laws and customs. Like the modern day financial regulators, they made sure that everyone ticked all the boxes, but lost sight of the purpose of the exercise. The spin doctors ensured that in was only others perceptions that were important and not substance.

4.     In the Old Testament, the importance is stressed of avoiding risk and stewardship of ones property. The authorities lost sight of this – whether Government’s going on a spending spree or Central Banks in keeping interest rates too low.

 

 

That is what is needed is a principles-based approach to the world economic order. To have clear, and unambiguous, general rules globally, to allow markets to develop in unexpected ways, whilst being able to change the general direction when required. It is a value-based approach based on love of one’s neighbour and good stewardship of our resources. Our reliance in detailed rules has failed, as the general direction (particularly in Britain) has been determined by political expediency and spin.

The Credit Crunch and the Bible

John Redwood MP wrote yesterday in reply to comments made by various Christians on the current crisis. The simple tale about greedy bankers lending too much is very much one-sided. There is also immorality in the borrowers as well. Whilst agreeing that some of the church leaders have rather shallow and misguided opinions of the current crisis, I believe there are much stronger analogies that can be drawn between the Bible and the current situation.

  1. In Matthew 22, after Jesus says that the Greatest commandment is love of God and the second is love of neighbour as oneself, he then says “In these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets”.  For the financial system, what is most important is the general objectives of regulation, with the detail following from that.
  2. In Jesus’s conflict with authority was because he put love of neighbour before upholding the laws and cultures of the time (such as healing. In other words, where the detailed rules conflict with the major objectives, it is the regulations that must be amended. When it is a choice between maintaining a boom with low interest rates, or suffering a mild recession to avoid a bubble, then it is the mild recession that must be endured.
  3. Jesus had strong words for the Scribes and the Pharisees (Matthew 23), the religious leaders of the time, who dogmatically upheld the complex laws and customs. Like the modern day financial regulators, they made sure that everyone ticked all the boxes, but lost sight of the purpose of the exercise. The spin doctors ensured that in was only others perceptions that were important and not substance.
  4. In the Old Testament, the importance is stressed of avoiding risk and stewardship of ones property. The authorities lost sight of this –  whether Government’s going on a spending spree or Central Banks in keeping interest rates too low.

The New Campaign against Booze

A Home Affairs Select Committee has urged an end to happy hours and a minimum price for alcohol, according to the BBC.

 

The BBC’s Mark Easton, on his blog. tried to establish the link between price levels and consumption for various European countries. He then went to show a graph of the UK’s average alcohol consumption taken from a 2004 Cabinet Office Report. This is my posting

 

The figures for costs of alcohol should be measured against the per capita income. Norway may have the highest alcohol prices in Europe, but it is also has per capita income nearly double that of the UK. Relative to income alcohol is no more expensive than in the UK.

When considering putting the price of alcohol up, please also remember that it is inelastic with respect to price. That is a very large increase in price is needed to get a small drop in demand. It is thus a great way to increase tax , but a poor way to reduce consumption.

 

The graph of the last century of alcohol consumption is very revealing. In the early part of the twentieth century, the sharp fall in alcohol coincided with a religious revival and the temperance movement. It was started in the nineteenth century by organisations such as the Salvation Army and the Methodists. In other words, it was a massive cultural change, where it became socially unacceptable to even touch alcohol. The steep decline in religion in the post war period was accompanied by the rise in alcohol consumption.

 

Is this a fiscal solution being proposed to a cultural problem. The outcome of a minimum price will be monopoly profits for the supermarkets and the booze companies.

It is true that a lot of crime is committed by those intoxicated, but the solution is not to increase the price of alcohol. The solution is to change people. The Revival of the early twentieth century, (begun before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914) saw both a fall in alcohol consumption and a fall in crime levels, that continued through the Great Depression. But it was not lack of alcohol that reduced crime, but a common root in the Christian Faith.

 

 

Follow up Tuesday 11th November

 

The posting of yesterday failed to get through the BBC filters. Don’t know if was the positive message about religion, or the powerlessness of government. Let us see if this one gets through.

 

Mark Easton fails to pick up the most important point of alcohol consumption over the last century. It fell from 1900 to 1932, stabilised until around 1960, then shot up to around 1980. The government influences (licensing laws and tax rates) cannot account for these dramatic changes.

For this reason alone, changing licensing laws and imposing a minimum price will not have much impact.

 

Here is the graph mentioned in the above report.

 

 

 

 

 

Please tell me if I have missed anything. I remember (not personally, you understand) that the licensing laws were made more draconian during the Great War, which can account for some of the steeping of the reduction. Also, as men used to drink far more than women, and younger men more than older men the loss of nearly a million men, (5% of the adult male population) would account for some of the slide as well. But take the 1900 to 1914 trend through to 1930 and you still have a fall of over 50%.