Sunday, November 25, 2007

Mr Blair - An odd way to separate faith and politics

I have, as I have intimated previously, some limited admiration for Mr Cromwell, who was responsible for otherthrowing tyranny in this country but went on to become another kind of tyrant. Mr Cromwell was known as a man of faith and, within the church, remains well-known for his particular prayer, if indeed it was him who uttered it: "Lord, thou knowest how busy I must be today. If I forget thee, do not thou forget me."

I have a disagreement with this prayer and reading the thoughts of the former Prime Minister Mr Blair today I am reminded of that disagreement. Apparently rather than speaking directly to the people, Mr Blair, following the custom of monarchs and monarchists, was wont to have others speak on his behalf. And on occasion, this speaker stated, with considerable dishonesty, "We don't do God."

Now, today, Mr Blair asserts that this Christian faith was indeed important in his life as Prime Minister. The immediate inference is that he followed the path of his American counterpart Mr Bush, who, it is said, is influenced by zealots seeking to bring about the Apocalypse; but, I would suggest, it would be a wrong inference.

I will quote Mr Blair in full:
"To do the prime minister's job properly you need to be able to separate yourself from the magnitude of the consequences of the decisions you are taking the whole time. Which doesn't mean to say … that you're insensitive to the magnitude of those consequences or that you don't feel them deeply.

"If you don't have that strength it's difficult to do the job, which is why the job is as much about character and temperament as it is about anything else. But for me having faith was an important part of being able to do that… Ultimately I think you've got to do what you think is right."

From this, it seems, that Mr Blair's faith is about "character and temperament". Ultimately, he says, you have to do what you think is right. He states you have to separate yourself from the "magnitude" of your decisions. Mr Blair, therefore, made decisions on the basis of his righteous character and his solid temperament. There is an arrogance in this belief that one's character is so righteous that decisions of high moral consequence can be made without reference to a source of morality and for a Christian there is a clear source of that morality. There is also an inference that the statesman has recourse to prayer and Bible study to purge his conscience of decisions that may have awful consequences. There were many such in my time - one can name generals who prayed - and they were so often wrong.

That is where I take issue with Cromwell and fear it may have been the source also of his weakness. For the prayer suggests it is allowed for a Christian statesman to forget his God, provided he has beseeched his God to guide him with an unseen hand through his forgetfulness, rather than to beseech his God not to allow him to forget the compassion and mercy of his Son .

It seems that Mr Blair will be remembered for one decision - to take his nation into a war that unleashed terrible slaughter and had doubtful moral basis and legal status. In my time I judged all my actions and decisions against the words of the Prince of Peace and it led me to impose restraint on a nation that wielded far more power over the world than did Mr Blair - although perhaps not so much as the American. Nevertheless, would he not have benefitted from some contemplation of the Gospels before letting slip the dogs of war?


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