Tuesday, 20 September 2011
I have often wondered whether the Church of England might be the spiritual wing of the Labour Party, but I never thought of the Church Times as the Socialist Worker - until 26 August, when a Trotskyite tirade by one Dr Northcott was juxtaposed with Simon Parke preaching that all property is theft.
Presumably the editor thought Northcott's political musings suitable for publication because of the bit of Christianity tagged on at the end. Yet it would take a cynic indeed to believe, as Northcott opined, that the wicked Tories want to destroy state education, the NHS and the notion of society, or that their economic policy is intended as a clandestine assault on democracy. I think I last heard such conspiracy theories from a Marxist undergraduate in 1997.
Dr Northcott is right that capitalism is partly to blame for the recent riots. But his argument is insufficient because the rioters are also the product of a Labour government which poured unprecedentedly vast (borrowed) funds into welfare, education and the health system.
A more balanced analysis might suggest that we are suffering from the worst elements not just of capitalism, but also of liberalism and socialism. The best of liberalism instils self-criticism, the worst self-justification; the best of capitalism a work ethic, the worst greed; the best of socialism care for the weak, the worst a sense of entitlement. Combine that sense of entitlement with a lust for luxuries and the belief that one's actions are beyond reproach, and you have exactly the 'sheer criminality' that the Prime Minister has diagnosed.
Socialists do not have a monopoly on social justice, and many of Dr Northcott's fellow Christians voted Conservative in the belief that poverty will be lifted only by reducing the dependency of the poor on the State. Measures to this end include boosting economic prosperity, restoring the nuclear family to its position as the base social unit, and returning to the quality of education lost when grammar schools were closed in the name of leftist ideology. It is uncharitable to write these off as crypto-neoconservative moneygrabbing.
As an aside, after Dr Pridmore's drubbing in that week's Letters, where he dismissed most worship songs as the vacuous trash that they are, he may be pleased to know that many ordinands still believe that the Church should be bringing the best of culture to the poor, rather than the worst to the rich; some rebels even dare secretly to long for the day when the Church of England was still the Tory Party at prayer.
Posted by Tom Plant