From the Revd Jonathan Clatworthy
Sir, - Since the Prime Minister is so misinformed as to think
that Christian values consist of "responsibility, hard work,
charity, compassion, humility, and love" (Comment, 17 April),
isn't it the duty of church leaders to put him right?
The last four are apple pie: nobody would disagree with them.
Treating hard work as a value is his ideology, based on the
capitalist theory that nature is mean with resources, and so hard
work needs to make up for it. On this basis, his Government pushes
the unemployed into ever more desperate poverty.
Christianity, like all the great world faiths, teaches that
nature provides abundantly, and the statistics support it. There is
a proper but limited place for work. Our wealth is created not by
the economy but by God, who gives generously. Rather than talk
ourselves up as hard workers who deserve our incomes, and then
scapegoat the unemployed, we should receive God's gifts with humble
thanks and express our gratitude by using themin the manner
intended: that is, by making sure everybody's needs are met.
Our Prime Minister needs to be reminded that, like everybody
else, he has been a benefits recipient since the day he was
Editor, Modern Believing
9 Westward View
Liverpool L17 7EE
From the Revd Paul Nicolson
Sir, - The Prime Minister's good experience of the pastoral
ministry of a parish priest in a time of grief is as it should be,
and this is available to every resident of UK parishes. The
difficult part of Christianity, which he confesses to being a bit
vague about, applies when he is in his office at 10 Downing Street.
It is summed up in the sentence: "Christ made real in his own life,
and inhis crucifixion by the State, God's solidarity with the cause
of poor people." Most of the rulers of his time also found that
difficult to stomach. In these days, it is the unrestrained
"invisible" hand of market capitalism which holds the hammer.
People become hungry in the UK because governments since 1979
have either allowed it to happen, or accelerated the process, by
deregulating lending, abolishing rent controls, and allowing the
free flow of capital in and out of the UK. The consequence is that
more and more overseas capital pours into a UK housing market in
short supply, so increasing rents and prices for citizens who need
Since April 2013, an increasing number of poor tenants cannot
pay increasing rents or council tax out of their benefits and at
the same time buy food, clothes for growing children, cook the
food, and warm their homes, let alone pay the court and bailiff
enforcement costs of inevitable rent and council-tax arrears.
No British government has cared enough to curb the injustice of
escalating inequalities of income and wealth to allow us to enforce
in the courts Article 25 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human
Rights. "Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate
for the health and well-being of himself and of his family,
including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary
social services, and the right to security in the event of
unemployment. . ."
When some Christians lobby Parliament, we are working in
solidarity and partnership with the poorest citizens of the UK and
their supporters of all faiths and of none, but not for any
politicians or political party. Your headline "Mr Cameron reaffirms
partnership with the Church" (News, 17 April) compromises that
Taxpayers Against Poverty
93 Campbell Road
London N17 0BF
From Mr Stephen Sampford
Sir, - What does Mr David Cameron understand by the word "faith"
(Comment, 17 April) in the context of being a follower of Jesus
Christ's example, I wonder. Heuses the word 15 times in his own
"classic Christian" context.
During last year's Christmas celebrations and one of the sermons
that I listened to then, the Vicar said: "Tonight, in Wycombe, one
in three children will go to bed hungry tonight. . ." She
continued: "I find that shocking." So did I. In fact, I may even
have been shocked to discover the news that just one child was
going to his or her bed hungry.
Mr Cameron spent much of his article defining his vision of just
where the Church of England's responsibilities might fit into his
Big Society, the implication being that the Church of England
should more closely align itself with his Government's policies and
perhaps refrain from some of its more uncomfortable criticisms of
them. He brought gifts, too, of £28 million - from a cash-strapped
economy - to update our property portfolio and approved good
I pray wisdom for the leaders of my Church in responding to this
challenge by the Prime Minister. He has thrown down a very
significant gauntlet: that of open debate with him on his
Government's performance in our society to date.
I am reminded of Thessalonians 2.4-6: "But just as we have been
approved by God to be trusted with the message of the gospel, even
so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God, who tests
STEPHEN J. SAMPFORD
324b Micklefield Road
High Wycombe HP13 7HX
From Mr Neal Terry
Sir, - I trust that Messrs Milliband, Clegg, and Farage will in
fairnessbe permitted use of your pages for party-political
4 Sandpiper Place, Longbenton
Newcastle upon Tyne NE12 8PE
From Mr Benedict Atkins
Sir, - If I may be granted the grace to take myself perhaps too
seriously for a moment, I find Mr Cameron's statement deeply
troubling: "I am a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect,
a rather classic one: not that regular in attendance, anda bit
vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith."
If he is correct, and this is a "classic" picture of a member of
the Church of England, then I consider the need to ask myself - and
my brothers and sisters within this family - some urgent
Has the Church of England stopped following Jesus and the narrow
road of holiness which only his grace can give us entry to?
Committing ourselves to a church family and submitting our lives
within the body of Christ is an inseparable part of being
Christian. There is no gospel without it; for through these means
the Lord has determined that we be identified as his children and
ministers of his grace to the world without.
Second, Jesus is the founder and the finisher of our faith. Many
of his teachings were difficult, and yet my struggle is not
primarily in misunderstanding them, but in disobeying them.
Some of his teachings are more palatable, easily corresponding
with the agenda of most governments. To this extent, a government
will call on Jesus's name to rally his people. Much of his
teaching, however, was far less palatable, and at odds with the
agenda of the Government. To this extent, the Government will not
endorse, condone, or praise the Church. Show me a government that
submits to Christ's agenda, and I will show you a government that
can use his name in its own.
And as for us, the Bride, let us remember who our husband
248C Devons Road
London E3 3PN
From the Revd Dr Nigel Scotland
Sir, - Whether or not we agree with Professor Jim Al-Khalili,
Philip Pullman, Sir Terry Pratchett, and others who wrote (in
response to Mr Cameron's comments) to The Daily Telegraph
this week that Britain is a plural society in terms of its beliefs,
the facts are that the fabric of British society is undoubtedly
We have a Christian flag that consists of three Christian
crosses superimposed on one another. The Union flag flies on our
public buildings and shipping, and the Union emblem appears in
countless places from aircraft and national exports to tourist
guides. We still honour the great Christian holy days of Christmas,
Good Friday, and Easter Day with national public holidays. We are
ruled over by a Protestant Christian King or Queen. Our rulers are
crowned in a Christian ceremony in Westminster Abbey.
We have a state Church over which our Christian monarch presides
as Supreme Governor. We have a Christian National Anthem that is
sung vigorously at international matches, sports meetings, and many
other public occasions. C of E bishops sit unelected in the House
of Lords. Parliamentary business and local-government meetings
begin with Christian prayers. Great state occasions are marked by
public Christian ceremonies.
Our hospital, prisons, and armed forces all have Christian
chaplaincies, many of them funded by the State. A very large number
of our primary schools are church controlled or aided, and maintain
a Christian ethos with Christian assemblies. A significant number
of our historic grammar schools, and some of our academies, have a
strong Christian ethos. Our great public schools maintain their
Christian foundations and practise the Christian faith overtly.
Many of our great universities, among them Oxford, Cambridge,
and Durham, have Christian foundations that they still honour
through their chaplaincies and regular worship. The majority of
this nation's statute laws are still rooted in the Christian
tradition. In our law courts, the oath is still sworn on the
The great majority of UK citizens still believe in the Christian
ideal of marriage, and they still hold to the Ten Commandments, and
believe that the teachings of Jesus are the best that have yet been
offered to the human race. The values held by most UK citizens are
distilled from the Christian tradition.
It is well-known that people who cease to attend public worship
do not necessarily surrender their Christian beliefs. Indeed,
surveys have shown that many people who do not belong to a
recognised denominational Christian Church nevertheless hold
Christian values and still pray Christian prayers. Most British
people still choose to have some form of Christian burial.
British architecture is still manifestly dominated by Christian
buildings, including more than 60 great cathedrals and many
thousands of churches, chapels, and Christian meeting places. Many
Muslims and people of other faiths and none still believe the
fabric of this nation to be substantially Christian, and have
settled here for that reason. So David Cameron is surely right to
claim that Britain is a Christian nation.
Hon. Research Fellow, University of Gloucestershire, and Tutor,
Trinity College, Bristol
8 The Rowans, Woodmancote
Cheltenham, Glos GL52 9RL