UPDATE: In a follow up to the speech outlined below Cameron issued an Easter message that covered some of the same points and included a mention of the Alpha Course! You can watch the video before the original post:
In a remarkable speech at a Number 10 gathering of Christian leaders PM David Cameron made a few bold statements in his speech.
Cameron began by admitting it was a hard day for him and asking for a few volunteers to help bear his burdens. I believe this took place the day a minister was forced to resign.
He then said that he was pleased to host receptions for various faiths in the country, but that he was “proud to be a Christian myself” and that during church services “I find a little bit of peace and hopefully a little bit of guidance.”
He spoke about the reality of suffering that he himself experienced, “I remember 5 years ago when we had to mourn the loss and bury my son Ivan, I can’t think of anyone who was more loving or thoughtful or kind than Mark [his local parish minister]. And of course, Ivan would have been 12 yesterday, which has had me pause to think about that.”
He then said something that even evangelical christians don’t dare to about our nation, “I am proud of the fact we’re a Christian country and we shouldn’t be ashamed to say so.”
He made a commitment that he would,
“expand the role of faith and faith organisations in our country. This has been a consistent theme of this government; I’m sure there’s more we could do to help make it easier for faith organisations . . . Whether its providing services for children at risk of exclusion, whether it’s teaching prisoners to read, whether it’s dealing with breakdown, whether it’s provision of food banks, there are some extraordinary organisations run by faith groups and Christians in our country and I want to see the possibilities for that to expand . . .
And if there are blockages, if there are things that are stopping you doing more, think of me if you like as a sort of giant Dyno-Rod in Whitehall: I want to make it easier, I want to unblock the things that help you do what you do.”
This is massive, and no doubt has something to do with the fact that religious charities often deliver services more efficiently, and yet more compassionately than bureaucracies. The bottom line is, faith groups can make it easier for governments to cut public spending.
Perhaps the most interesting claim he made was that he had not invented the Big Society, a concept that has been much mocked in the secular press here:
“People sometimes say, you know, “You talk about the Big Society; don’t you realise this is what the Church has been doing for decades?” And I say yes, absolutely. Jesus invented the Big Society 2000 years ago, I just want to see more of it and encourage as much of it as possible.”
It is almost as if this political has had a religious awakening, as he then turned the spotlight on a subject far too many people are shy to speak of:
“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 . . . We should stand up against persecution of Christians and other religious groups wherever and whenever we can, and should be unashamed in doing so.”
All I can say to that is “Wow!” and to wonder whether this sentiment will be supported by clear action.
Then, he began to sound like my friend the evangelist Rice Broocks when he said,
“What we both need more of is evangelism. 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, and we should be unashamed and clear about wanting to do that.”
In another policy commitment that will please Christians he said,
“This year we are going to pass through Parliament a bill to outlaw modern slavery,” which could finally complete the task that renowned evangelical politician Wilberforce began.
What do YOU make of all that then?