The event which prompted this comment may have been Tim Farron’s failure to answer the question, obviously set to trap him, of whether homosexuality is a sin. Tim responded with Sunday School level answers in a failure, matched within the Church of England, to address gender and sexuality properly. Our failure should not be protected, and given the Gospels are full of Jesus responding to questions asked to trap him, Tim Farron needs to wise up a bit.
The letter then continues with general religious reflection and worry about “further secularisation in the public realm”. The problem is that talking about religions in general makes this contribution vague. There is a nod at “religiously motivated violence” and addressing it, and the refugee “conversation” is addressed by looking at the costs than some incur, and equally sharing them. But this highlights the mealy-mouthed responses. We are having a “conversation” about refugees while perhaps ten or twenty thousand come, while the German Christian Democrats, led by Angela Merkel, welcome a million, because they are suffering, homeless and obviously need help, and Christianity requires us not to pass by on the other side when people need help. That signals the depth of our actual British Christian failure.
Then occurs a sentence which sums up the failure of this letter. “These deep virtues and practices – love, trust, and hope, cohesion, courage and stability – are not the preserve of any one political party or worldview, but go to the heart of who we are as a country in all its diversity.” It does not matter what your views are, in party terms, or in terms of worldview, we as a country in all its diversity practising these virtues can hang together. There are some problems with this. First, parties and people disagree about these and other virtues. Second, the rosy picture of national unity conveyed by the Conservative Party at this election, ignores the disunities within the UK, over Brexit and among many different groups who for good reasons do not have trust or hope. More deeply, this sentence conveys that national virtues are the basis of British society. This is not true for much of British politics. The UK pursued an illegal war on the basis of a lie in Iraq which has contributed to millions of lives being destabilised. The poor are being impoverished while the rich get richer. Health and care services are threatened. We are arming and selling arms on a large scale, and corruption is appearing in our banking and other sectors. This vague hope in national virtue will not do. More than this Britain’s Brexit exit raises the problem of British Nationalism, or more accurately English nationalism, the idea that we really do have to be separate from our European neighbours. The Archbishops’ letter mentions no other countries and seems to participate in this British fixation.