On Saturday, the leader of the Independent declaimed that “The Church should keep to matters spiritual.” While commending the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for his concerns about payday lending, the Indy insisted that “spiritual leaders … have no business in mainstream politics.” Ahem, I thought — and rifled the following email to the editor. Needless to say, it didn’t make the cut in today’s Letter section.
Kudos, Independent. In insisting that “The Church should keep to matters spiritual” (Leader, 27 July), you demonstrate an impeccable pedigree. That’s just what the Nazi leaders said to Dietrich Bonhoeffer when he cried Nein! to the inhumanity of Third Reich, and what the white supremacists said to Martin Luther King when he protested against systemic racism: “Your job is souls, our job is bodies.”
Without doubt the church’s interventions in public policy can be not only misguided but also seriously hypocritical and sometimes quite repugnant (the anti-gay lobby being a salient contemporary example). But the privatisation of faith – the perennial default position of the establishment – is an ideology that Christians can never accept without abandoning the God in whom they have faith, a God who is up to his neck in politics, whose prophets have always spoken truth to power – and often suffered for it.
Of course you may not remember the guy from Nazareth who was executed precisely because his solidarity with the poor and marginalised was a threat to the state. Alas, I have learned never to underestimate the biblical and theological illiteracy of even intelligent broadsheet leader-writers. (Oh, by the way, it was moneychangers, not, as you write, “moneylenders” – the difference is crucial – that Jesus chucked out of the temple.)
Revd. Kim Fabricius