Monday, November 26, 2007

Blair and faith

Haven't got round to seeing the full video of last nights 'The Blair Years' - interesting that the BBC themselves chose to lead on the 'any public figure with a faith is seen as a nutter' comment.

Blairs words have led to a round of comment from pretty much anyone with an opinion. So here's mine.

1. Fair play to him for admitting, whilst still a public figure (though not PM) to how important his faith is to him. For Blair to make the effort he did to read the Bible daily and go to church wherever he was in the world, takes quite a bit of organisation and commitment.

2. I can't help making the comparison with depression, and other forms of mental illness. Several people I know with mental illness have found it very hard to go public, because they fear being stigmatised and thought of as 'nutters'. But it is only ignorance which leads to this stigma. If we all knew someone with depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder etc., then we'd not label them as 'nutters', because we'd understand. Similarly, religious people only get labelled as 'nutters' because people are ignorant. To some extent this ignorance is deliberate - many are quite happy to let the Daily Mail shape their understanding of religion and what it does to people, rather than trying to get to know people with Christian (or other) faiths to find out how it makes them tick, and how they relate to God.

3. Though how much of this fear is genuine, and how much imagined by Christians? Ok, for Blair, he knew the media would sieze on it. But in real life, people often find faith quite intriguing. When I quit my job at Clarks Shoes to train as a vicar, several of my meetings with the marketing folks turned away from shoes to more interesting stuff like whether I supported women vicars (it was 1991), people were clearly fascinated to have a real live Christian specimen, of their own age and background, who was willing to answer questions.

4. It's interesting that most of our political leaders are happy to be slightly religious - Thatcher was a Methodist, Brown played on his Presbyterian upbringing (but note - upbringing is the past, not the present!) David Cameron is a bit more measured - he supports church schools and is a member of the 'relevant faith' - though he'll probably have to put it a bit stronger than that when God asks him where he stands. But overt faith, US-style, is beyond the pale for us Brits. Bizarrely though, we're quite happy to get carried away with other things - shopping, football, Deal or No Deal. The less serious it is, the more seriously we take it.

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