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Lost opportunity

24 March 2016

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THE Archbishop of Canterbury was asked: what is your favourite moment of Easter? Would it be, I wondered, the first flickering into flame of the Easter fire? Or the moment when, after the six weeks of Lenten famine, the first Alleluia! rings out in glory? Or perhaps the anointing with chrism of the first Easter baptism?

It was, alas, none of the above; but, rather, he averred, the moment when, evensong finished, he was able to leave church, come home, sit down with his family, and enjoy tea and Easter cake. As his interlocutor was the heroine of Mary Berry’s Easter Feast (BBC2, Tuesday of last week), and she had just trudged up to the front door of Lambeth Palace with a cake she had baked especially for him, he may merely have been following the Pauline injunction of being all things to all people, and tailored his response to the occasion.

Nevertheless, I couldn’t help feeling strangely let down; a moment for telling the nation what the heart of Easter is all about was thrown away. He agreed with Berry that it was all about family. No, it jolly well isn’t! Or, at least, not about our own families; surely it’s about forging a completely new family, one that unites the wealthy and destitute, and builds a new world of hope.

He and Berry were united in having suffered the death of a child, and talked movingly about that; but, otherwise, this is anodyne stuff: a shameful example of today’s BBC’s contempt for Christianity, as it apparently thinks that the Church will be grateful for any crumb of attention, with expositions of faith only televisually acceptable if they can be attached to the populist Bake Off bandwagon.

The tragedy is that our Primates (that fine cook Dr Sentamu appears in this week’s programme) appear to endorse this travesty.

Any new incumbent eager to transform his or her church to new ministries of mission and outreach, any new churchwarden keen to seize the moment to upgrade the church fabric, any new treasurer determined that he or she, at least, will turn around the parish’s woeful financial situation — all should watch Inside Obama’s White House (BBC2, Tuesday of last week).

This four-part documentary series offers unprecedented access to his inner circle, and to his opponents. The euphoria of his election was undermined by the catastrophic financial meltdown he inherited from his predecessors — the worst recession since the Wall Street Crash.

He proposed a staggeringly ambitious financial-stimulus Bill — but Democrats were shocked when, while they had swallowed their convictions to aid Bush at times of national crisis, the Republicans were hampered by no such namby-pamby sentimentalities: they fought it every step of the way. “You can’t borrow and spend your way out of financial ruin,” they insisted. In fact, the plan succeeded.

I was sorry that more was not made of this remarkable Keynesian turnaround. But the overall sense of the programme was that events, and the malignity of his opponents, with the financial and media clout that they wielded, ensured that most of his hopes for radical transformation were either thwarted, or watered down beyond all recognition.

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