Russell Brand: 'I agree with the Church, politics is broken'

Self-styled revolutionary Russell Brand has defended himself against criticism from the Church of England that someone had to counter his "sex appeal". 

He spoke after a bishop lamented the "profound effect" of Brand's recent remarks urging people not to vote. The bishop was speaking at the launch of the Church of England's pastoral letter to its members reminding them of their "duty" to vote and engage with politics.

Brand countered the criticism by, in effect, joining forces with the Church.

"Me and the Church are saying the same thing," he said on his YouTube channel Trew News. "Politics is broken. We need to create a new politics, new political alliances that goes way beyond voting and into direct action, helping people where we see that help is required, ignoring and opposing these systems where necessary.

"What we need to do is engage ourselves spiritually, whether that's from an atheistic perspective, a Muslim perspective or a Christian perspective, to challenge these institutions that operate only on behalf of one another and are not interested in truly helping us. The system itself is broken. There's nothing that it can do."

In the pastoral letter, the first of its kind before an election, the Chuch attacked voter apathy and criticised those who attempt to "find scapegoats".

Brand said: "It's an interesting story that's been widely reported as the Church criticising me for encouraging voter apathy. Encouraging apathy is a really weird concept in itself. Come on! Let's be apathetic! Eeeuuugh! Brilliant!"

He went on to criticise the reporting. "It's a really interesting piece of media mangling because that's not the main thing the Church said. The main thing the Church did was criticise Britain's political culture. All politicians of all parties have sterile arguments, said the Church, and they themselves are encouraging voter apathy by making voters cynical in the run-up to the general election.

"What's interesting about this is that it's an unprecedented intervention by the Church and what they're actually criticising is political culture. They've said our democracy is failing, we need a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be. They're actually trying to address the alienation and sadness that a lot of us feel."

He also referred to the pastoral letter's condemnation of Trident, widely picked up and criticised.

Brand expressed surprise that anyone should be disappointed that the Church was against Trident. "There's no way that Jesus in any form would be, 'Yes you're right we do need some form of nuclear deterrent'."

Referring to the bishops' concerns about widening inequality in Britain and an ugly undercurrent of racism, he continued: "So really what the Church is identifying as an enemy is a political culture that's completely detatched from principles of community and interconnectedness, a culture that fates the individual so we are just pocketed and atomised and have no sense of what we are as a country, what we are as a community.

"This story's been reported as 'the Church condemns Russell Brand'. But what the story actually is is the Church condemns the government. Why does the Church condemn the government? Because the government works only for big business and does nothing to create a cohesive society. And the Church on the other hand is very innovative in backing charities and creating food banks and looking after the homeless. It is exactly the kind of community action that's required."

Holding up a teddy bear he got given at a food bank, he said: "It is not only Christian charities. There are Muslim charities like Muslim Aid and Islamic Relief around the UK. Religion and spirituality in fact provide the community love compassion tolerance togetherness. These kinds of values, invisible values, that can't be monetised and don't present us all as a group of individuals competing with one another for limited resources."

His analysis was that the reason the media was focusing on 'Church condemns Russell Brand' as opposed to Church condemns government was because there are a lot of chilling facts that are difficult to deal with. "Poverty in the UK is at a 30-year high, 900,000 people were given emergency food last year by organisations like Christian food banks set up by organisations like the Trussell Trust. The number of food bank users tripled last year. Two new food banks open every week. A coalition of anti-poverty charities claim the UK is breaching international law by violating the human right to food."

He said there was no real opposition or political system that could bring about change. "It's like the Church has already accepted that the government aren't doing anything because they're having to address these problems themselves by setting up food trusts." He said it implied that there was a need, as in Greece and Spain, for a new type of politics and added that politics could not be separated from morality and spirituality. Currently, Christian ideas such as of love and sharing had fallen by the wayside. "You need more spirituality in government, not less."