parliamentary defector affirms christian social vision - news from ekklesia

By staff writers
February 10, 2005

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Parliamentary defector affirms Christian social vision

-10/02/05

Robert Jackson, the Member of Parliament for Wantage, England, and the third Conservative MP to defect to the Labour Party since Tony Blairís 1997 election victory, says that he has a particular commitment to "the Christian social tradition".

Jackson, a UK higher education minister between 1987 and 1990, has written in the Guardian newspaper to explain his political philosophy and "why I jumped ship" in January 2005 to join a political party he sees (following Ramsay MacDonald) as "a broad-based movement on behalf of the bottom dog."

"It was well said that 'the Labour movement owes more to Methodism than to Marx'", says Jackson in a thoughtful article. "Another important Christian factor alongside Methodism has been Catholic ñ Anglican and Roman ñ social thinking. Secular rationalists, scientific socialists, trade unionists and statist managerialists have also all broken bread together at Labour's common table."

Continues Jackson: "Although I am a new boy at the New Labour Academy, I can identify with important elements in this rich ideological heritage - especially the Christian social tradition, with its emphasis on public service and on the building of institutional and community life."

However, he goes on to say that "the anti-market thrust of this tradition must be balanced by the thought that, in a fallen world, economic incentives also have their part to play in building the New Jerusalem. Certainly, there are public values and a public realm ñ but if the market had no place in them, there would never be arguments about public-sector pay."

The Wantage MPís approach to economics would appear similar to the position argued in a major new report from Britainís churches on ethical wealth creation. ëProsperity with a Purposeí, which will be published on 28 February by the official ecumenical body, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, asks tough questions about how a rich society can responsibly develop and use its wealth-creating abilities for the common good in a divided world.

Jackson also claims that although "[s]tern, unbending thinkers on the left and the right affect to despise the marshy centre", nevertheless "the middle way is England's greatest contribution to Britishness - see the preface to the Church of England's 1662 Book of Common Prayer, where the phrase was first deployed."

"Similarly, One Nation is a worthy tradition in the middle, and the heart, of British politics", says Jackson, whose thought appears to mirror key aspects of the European tradition of Christian Democracy, a philosophy that combines lower 'c' conservatism, a functionalist view of religion in relation to the state, and a moderately liberal social agenda.

More radical Christians are likely to question the Establishment assumptions behind Jacksonís vision, while welcoming his apparent commitment to the idea that the ethical litmus test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable and needy members.

It is not yet known whether Robert Jackson will join the Christian Socialist Movement, which recently chose theologian and United Reformed Church policy adviser Andrew Bradstock as its new director.

Find books now:

Parliamentary defector affirms Christian social vision

-10/02/05

Robert Jackson, the Member of Parliament for Wantage, England, and the third Conservative MP to defect to the Labour Party since Tony Blairís 1997 election victory, says that he has a particular commitment to "the Christian social tradition".

Jackson, a UK higher education minister between 1987 and 1990, has written in the Guardian newspaper to explain his political philosophy and "why I jumped ship" in January 2005 to join a political party he sees (following Ramsay MacDonald) as "a broad-based movement on behalf of the bottom dog."

"It was well said that 'the Labour movement owes more to Methodism than to Marx'", says Jackson in a thoughtful article. "Another important Christian factor alongside Methodism has been Catholic ñ Anglican and Roman ñ social thinking. Secular rationalists, scientific socialists, trade unionists and statist managerialists have also all broken bread together at Labour's common table."

Continues Jackson: "Although I am a new boy at the New Labour Academy, I can identify with important elements in this rich ideological heritage - especially the Christian social tradition, with its emphasis on public service and on the building of institutional and community life."

However, he goes on to say that "the anti-market thrust of this tradition must be balanced by the thought that, in a fallen world, economic incentives also have their part to play in building the New Jerusalem. Certainly, there are public values and a public realm ñ but if the market had no place in them, there would never be arguments about public-sector pay."

The Wantage MPís approach to economics would appear similar to the position argued in a major new report from Britainís churches on ethical wealth creation. ëProsperity with a Purposeí, which will be published on 28 February by the official ecumenical body, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, asks tough questions about how a rich society can responsibly develop and use its wealth-creating abilities for the common good in a divided world.

Jackson also claims that although "[s]tern, unbending thinkers on the left and the right affect to despise the marshy centre", nevertheless "the middle way is England's greatest contribution to Britishness - see the preface to the Church of England's 1662 Book of Common Prayer, where the phrase was first deployed."

"Similarly, One Nation is a worthy tradition in the middle, and the heart, of British politics", says Jackson, whose thought appears to mirror key aspects of the European tradition of Christian Democracy, a philosophy that combines lower 'c' conservatism, a functionalist view of religion in relation to the state, and a moderately liberal social agenda.

More radical Christians are likely to question the Establishment assumptions behind Jacksonís vision, while welcoming his apparent commitment to the idea that the ethical litmus test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable and needy members.

It is not yet known whether Robert Jackson will join the Christian Socialist Movement, which recently chose theologian and United Reformed Church policy adviser Andrew Bradstock as its new director.

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