CSM head says Blair should have heeded churches on Iraq war
The director of the Christian Socialist Movement (CSM), Dr Andrew Bradstock, has said that Prime Minister Tony Blair ñ a member of CSM ñ should have heeded the voices of churches opposed to the Iraq war.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4ís ëSundayí programme on the first day of Mr Blairís last Labour Conference as head of the party, Dr Bradstock particularly highlighted the role of US Christians, who sought to develop non-violent alternatives for undermining the Saddam Hussein dictatorship prior to the US-led invasion in March 2003.
Critics say that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been disastrous both for the civilian populations and for the security of the world as a whole, in spite of removing murderous regimes.
Thousands are dying each month in Iraq today, and a leaked report from the collective intelligence services in the USA says that the invasions have acted as inadvertent recruiting sergeants for terrorists ñ against claims to the contrary by President George W. Bush and his British ally, Tony Blair.
The Christian Socialist Movement, which is affiliated to Labour and seeks to pursue ìChristianity, progressive politics and social justiceî, has been divided about the Iraq war.
A significant number of CSM activists believe that it should be taking a more prophetic stance on public issues. But others are keen to remain loyal to the Labour leadership.
Dr Bradstock defended the record of PM Tony Blair on the ëSundayí programme, which rounds up the weekís religious news. He suggested that the spin and unacceptable compromise of which Mr Blair is accused may owe more to those around the PM, and he said that the Labour leaderís faith had helped secure his moral vision.
But the CSM director added: ìWith Iraq, personally I would differ with [Tony Blair] over that, and I was sorry that he didnít perhaps listen more closely to the church leaders who were putting him under pressure, particularly the American church leaders who had a plan for removing Saddam in a peaceful way.î
Early in 2003, a delegation of senior United States church leaders, led by Sojournersí chief the Rev Jim Wallis and National Council of Churches' general secretary the Rev Dr Bob Edgar, met with Mr Blair and with the Archbishop of Canterbury.
They warned that a war in Iraq would have seriously damaging consequences for all concerned, and urged attention towards non-violent and internal means of toppling the murderous Saddam regime.
The British PM received them politely, unlike President Bush who refused to meet them. But he remained unmoved by their pleas, preferring to rely on intelligence data which turned out to be faulty and distorted on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq.
Tony Blairís Christianity has been the subject of heated debate in the media, across the political spectrum, and among believers and the non-religious alike. Some have accused him of a ëmessianic zealí and of uncritical support for born-again Mr Bushís belligerent policies.
But according to Peter Oban of the Daily Mail, also speaking on ëSundayí: ìYou cannot see any ready link between Christian theology and the way he makes decisionsî.
Meanwhile, CSMís Dr Andrew Bradstock claims that ìa broad view of Christianity and its scripturesî requires attention to ìa just society and the place of the poor and marginalised Ö[Tony] Blair and Labour Party policies have been informed by that kind of perspective.î
Acknowledging the tension between realpolitik and a more principled approach, he added: ìI think there is a distinction to be made between the Prime Ministerís own approach and those around himÖ politics is a messy business.î
Challenged on Labour policies which have excited criticism from some Christians, like civil partnerships, Dr Bradstock said that the Bible said little about such matters while having a massive amount to say on poverty and social justice.
CSM vice-chair Stephen Beer is blogging daily from the Labour Party Conference 2006 in Manchester.
[Also on Ekklesia: British Prime Minister seeks divine solace in Manchester 24/09/06 Bush's church urges pull-out of US troops from Iraq 24/09/06; Thousands march against war at Labour conference in Manchester 23 Sep 2006; Christian Socialists defend NestlÈ sponsorship; [PDF] CSM and NestlÈ UK; Tony Blair's use of the 'G' word - by Jonathan Bartley; The 'which Blair?' project Simon Barrow asks what the PM has faith in anymore; Six point alternative to war ; Senior US church leaders to meet UK Archbishop and Chancellor; US church leaders lament George Bush's 'messianic complex' and praise Blair for listening; Bush and Blair banned from the Church of the Nativity; Christian Socialists want to hold Blair to justice agenda; Blair faces growing criticism over God and Iraq comments; Cameron and Blair offered 'Punch and Judy' workshop; Blair challenged by Christian peacemakers; Blair-Benedict meeting stokes rumours; Campaigners want more from Blair on climate change; Catholics urge Blair to make anti-poverty pledge; Tutu tells Blair and Brown they've been 'mean'; Christian Aid challenges Blair on EU poverty impact; Donít mention the war, says Blair; Text of Blair's speech to Faithworks; Christian concern at Blair comments on deportation; Church leaders tell Blair that nukes are evil and anti-God; Prime Minister faces backlash over speech about moral war with Iraq; Why history cannot forgive us Simon Barrow asks whether the PM's belief in the absolution of history is a leap of faith in the wrong direction]