Flinging Jesus at David Cameron

By Simon Barrow
March 11, 2007

A Scottish Christian group has contrived a novel way of asking whether the new Tory leader is for real.

Unfortunately, it hardly covers them in glory. Small campaigning groups and 'Christian political parties' seem to be springing up all over the place right now. North of the border, the Rev George Hargreaves, who has come to public attention as an anti-gay campaigner, has set up his own 'Scottish Christian Party' to woo voters in the forthcoming elections.

On Saturday they ambushed David Cameron while he was out cultivating that rare creature, a Scottish Tory. Mr Cameron's affection for church-going in the light of his desire to get his child into a church school has attracted much press comment. Like other things he says or does, people want to know how much is spin and how much is substance. So does the SCP, apparently, but for different motives.

Their latest press release, which will no doubt bemuse many of its recipients before heading to the WPB, declares:

David Cameron's response to the question: "Do you believe that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins?" was revealed to delegates at the Scottish Conservative Party conference in Perth earlier today.

Mr Cameron, who earlier this month was reported by the press as regularly attending church and has sent his daughter to St Mary Abbotts church school answered: "Uh, I think, um, you keep asking this sort of odd questions of me as I wander around places. I think we'll, we'll leave it for a while."

Scottish Christian Party leader, Reverend George Hargreaves commented, "The mark of a Christian is that a person believes that Jesus Christ died to save us from our sins. Mr Cameron's regular church attendance makes him no more a Christian as would his regular attendance to MacDonald's make him a hamburger... {I]t is a question of whether he is a Christian or 'a wolf in sheep's clothing' playing to the Christian gallery for the sake of votes."

Hmnnnn... 'playing to the gallery'. The words 'pot', 'kettle' and 'tarnished' come to mind. And there's something, well, not quite right about that curious burger analogy. But that's not the main point. I'm no fan of Cameronism. But I find SCP's tactics more than a little offensive. Normally I stick to the rule of ignoring the more cranky Christian stuff that lands in my inbox. But on this occasion I decided to try to tell them why, though I doubt that it will cut much ice.

I do not think cornering public figures about the specifics of Christian belief is helpful... Jesus reminded his followers not to make a public spectacle of their own faithfulness, and at one point he also pointed out to a group of people certain of their own doctrinal purity that those they despised as unclean and an unsound, in this case prostitutes, were entering the kingdom ahead of them.

SCP has no more right than you, I or anyone to adjudicate on David Cameron's heart. "Judge not, so that you will not be judged."

Regarding the question that was asked, my [own] answer is this: I believe that we are delivered from the reign of sin and death - and invited into the community of God's peace, justice, love and forgiveness - by divine grace alone, embodied decisively in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

To isolate the death of Jesus from the wholeness of the Gospel - though this is a popular thing to do in the culture of some Christians - is no more 'orthodox' than thinking that being a Christian is about going to church or subscribing to soundbite propositions.

Mr Cameron is right to refuse this ploy. It shows a lack of respect for him, for the listener and for the Gospel message. I find it very sad.

'Sin' is not in most people's dictionary these days. It means being trapped in our selfishness, rather than turned outward in generosity towards other people, the world and God - with all the consequences that flow from this. It's ironic that this is how much zealous Christian posturing looks to those it is supposed to impress.

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