JESUS was the founder of the Big Society, the Prime Minister, David Cameron, said last week, at a reception in Downing Street.
Speaking to an assembly of about 60 invited guests drawn from Christian organisations, on Wednesday of last week, Mr Cameron remarked: “You’ll all say that our Lord was really dealing with, starting the Big Society two thousand years ago, and you’re absolutely right. I’m not saying we’ve invented some great new idea here.
“What I’m saying is that one of the best things about our country is that people step forward as individuals, as families, as communities, as organisations, as churches, and do extraordinary things in our country in terms of helping others and helping to build a bigger, richer, more prosperous, more generous society; and all I’m saying is wouldn’t it be great if we did even more of that.”
He looked to the Churches, he said, to support the project: “I think Churches, and religious organisations, have a huge amount to bring to the Big Society. I look around the room and I see Churches that are already running schools, I see Christians who want to start free schools, I see organisations deeply involved in civic society and providing great services. . . So I think the Big Society is something that people of all faiths, but particularly of the Christian faith, can get very involved in.”
Mr Cameron, who described himself as “a wishy-washy sort of Christian”, used the occasion to thank the Churches for their contribution to national life. He also thanked those who had provided personal support for his family, including his parish priests in Oxfordshire and London, and Sister Frances Dominica and the staff at Helen House, the children’s hospice that had looked after the Camerons’ son Ivan.
He spoke robustly about the place of Christianity. “Britain is a Christian country. Christianity has given a huge amount to our country, and continues to do so. As one of my colleagues, Said Warsi, put it . . . as a Government, we shouldn’t be frightened of, as she put it, doing God.
“I’ve never really understood this argument about ‘Should the Church get involved in politics? Yes or no?’ To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church, is involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions. . .
“So I don’t think we should be frightened about having these debates, and these discussions, and frankly sometimes these arguments about politics in our country and what it means to be a Christian and what faith brings to our politics.”
His remarks followed the Easter message that his office issued the previous weekend (News, 28 April): “As we share in this festival with our friends and family, we can all be reminded of the enormous contribution Christianity has made to our country.
“Easter reminds us all to follow our conscience and ask not what we are entitled to, but what we can do for others. It teaches us about charity, compassion, responsibility, and forgiveness. No matter what faiths we follow, these are values which speak to us all.”