Giles Fraser: The Left is just too patronising

07 April 2010

I HAVE considered myself a Lefty for as long as I can remember. And, although I have wrestled with my pol­itical affiliations over several years, there has always been a part of me that, deep down, has assumed that the Left is the natural political ally for the Church — good news to the poor, and all that.

But that was then. Today things feel altogether different.

It is tricky to pinpoint what has changed, but I suspect that one of the things to which I have reacted vis­cerally (and surely all politics is visceral) is the increasing contempt with which the Left treats religious belief.

Fundamentally, I am sick of be-­ing sneered at by those on the Left who consider religious belief to be intellectually inferior. And I am sick, also, of having to justify my religious presence in the allegedly big tent.

As a Christian, I will always re­main fiercely committed to the cause of social justice and, most especially, to economic justice for the least-well-off. Furthermore, as a Chris­tian, I will never be able to applaud the stunted imaginations of those Little Englanders who cannot raise their sights above national self-interest. My neighbour is not just the person who lives next door.

But, for far too long, the Left has taken it for granted that they alone address this concern for social justice. And this has led to a deep complacency of thought and an arrogant self-righteousness.

For all its faults, the Centre-Right has always wanted to be friends with the Church, generally valuing the Church’s centuries-old contribution to the moral edification of this country and its culture. In contrast, many on the Left now dismiss Christians as superstitious, stupid, and bigoted.

They won’t come out and say that — not at election time. But the political philosophy that was as much fed by Methodism as by Marx has now given way to a thorough­going materialism that sees no value in the Church other than as a re­pository of voters.

Christians do not owe their votes to anybody. Deep down, we do not think in terms of Left and Right. The new fire of the resurrection cannot be owned by any political philo­sophy. But there is still a small matter of the General Election.

And here the political parties ought not to find it very surprising that many Christians like me react to the tone of voice with which we have been addressed over the past few years. The Left may no longer do God, in Alastair Campbell’s telling phrase, but quite a lot of us still do.

The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral.

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