Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
ARCHBISHOP DESMOND TUTU once remarked that anyone who argued for keepinreligion out of politics must be using a different Bible from his. The Bibldidn't feature much when the subject "Should religion be an integral part oBritish politics?" was discussed in the first of a new series oBeyond Belief (Radio 4, Mondays).
The participants were all committed politicians with religious commitment Tony Benn (articulate agnostic), Iain Duncan Smith (Roman Catholic), and LorSteel (Presbyterian). In the chair was the Revd Ernie Rea, a Presbyteriaminister.
The tone was polite, even cautious; so it was Tony Benn who provided thprogramme's sparkle. He sees Jesus as a prophet, and religion as little morthan a control mechanism. Iain Duncan Smith argued that much Evangelicalismidentified by Mr Benn as dangerously manipulative, actually challenged "safereligion, especially in Britain. Where the mainline Churches were concerned, hand Lord Steel felt that they were no longer mechanisms of control.
In the end it was Mr Benn who posed the key question: were our politicianand religious leaders signposts or weathercocks? Did they boldly point the waahead, even if the path looked unpopular, or did they simply adapt constantlto the prevailing wind? Their interesting discussion dealt almost entirely witpolitical or religious theory.
On the eve of the first anniversary of the London bombings, we had programme that dealt with the hard practicalities of life. IComing out of the Tunnel (Radio 4, Thursday of last week) thresurvivors of the underground explosions talked to Kirsten Lass about theiexperiences. Having interviewed them soon after the event, and then followethem through the year, she presented, in effect, an audio diary of painfulterrifying, and ultimately hopeful testimony.
Identified only by their Christian names, John, a school teacher, Jill, a Pin a London office, and Ben, a sales executive, told their stories withouself-pity, though at times with anger. All three had seen and heard things thaare the stuff of nightmares - stifling heat, darkness, screams, and blood - anall around them desperate and dying people. John, especially, felt guilty thahe had not been able to do more for a dying man who was trapped half-wathrough the floor of the tube carriage. He watched him die.
Jill suffered serious leg and eye injuries, but, after two months in SThomas's Hospital, determined to run the London Marathon for the third timeAnd, yes, she made it -we heard her words of triumph as she crossed the linehaving passed St Thomas's on the way. Ben is now at Reading University, at lasready to start a new career in teaching. John's anger is being channelled intcampaigning for a public inquiry into the way London Underground dealt with themergency.
Through our common humanity their stories are now ours, too, according tthe brave and eloquent the Revd Julie Nicholson, the priest who lost a daughtein the bombings. This, she told us on last Friday morning's Today