David Cameron's delightful but confused Easter message
Three cheers for David Cameron! Or should that maybe just be two? Actually, on reflection, would one be enough – okay?
The Prime Minister has issued an Easter statement which has won plaudits from some observers – and in some ways deservedly so.
Mr Cameron says that "Easter is not just a time for Christians across our country to reflect, but a time for our whole country to reflect on what Christianity brings to Britain". He reflects on the "countless acts of kindness" carried out every day across the UK by "those who believe in and follow Christ".
Moreover, he even praises the Alpha courses being run in prisons across the UK and the "spirit" shown by churches and Christian volunteers who endeavoured to rescue residents and provide shelter during recent stormy weather in the south of England.
At roughly the same time, in his annual Easter Reception at Downing Street – something he himself has instituted – he also declared: "I hope we can do more to raise the profile of the persecution of Christians around the world. It is the case today that our religion is now the most persecuted religion around the world. I think Britain can play a leading role in this."
It is great that Mr Cameron has said all of these things. It is also good news that in the same speech he highlighted the fact that the UK has met the target of giving 0.7 per cent of its GNP to other nations as aid – whereas, as he points out, "other countries have either dropped that target or failed to meet that target".
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He also comes across to me as a very likeable, competent man – although part of that is the natural inbred sense of assurance that tends to accompany those who have had relentless self-confidence instilled into them from an early age by schools such as Eton!
Why, then, do I have reservations? Why only one or two cheers perhaps, rather than three? Perhaps it is partly his statement that what both church and government (apparently) need more of "is evangelism" – or, as he continues, "more belief that we can get out there and actually change people's lives and make a difference and improve both the spiritual, physical and moral state of our country". Fine sentiments, perhaps, but the cynic within me finds it hard to see evangelism as a natural word to spring from Mr Cameron's lips!
But perhaps the saddest thing about his comments is the simple misunderstanding he has of the central basis of the Christian faith. He declares: "The heart of Christianity is to 'love thy neighbour' and millions do really live that out." But in fact, of course, the heart of Christianity is "Jesus is Lord" – and the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind."
As for his claim that "Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago, [and] I just want to see more of it and encourage as much of it as possible" – well, apart from letting that sentence speak for itself, one might just observe that Jesus did not intend to found some giant version of the Rotary Club but something far more radical and subversive called the "Kingdom of God".
However, let's be fair: credit where credit is due. Mr Cameron does deserve some plaudits and seems a genuinely nice chap. But he's still a sinner, as are you and I. And the Prime Minister, also like us, needs not some kind of inspirational first century Rotarian but a Saviour – and a Lord.