I thank TC Robinson for a link to this article in the British website Christian Today (not the US magazine Christianity Today, TC): Gordon Brown: Christians should not have to hide faith – based on an interview (17 minutes) our Prime Minister gave to Premier Christian Media, a British Christian radio and TV company.
TC’s reaction to this is that Political Endorsement of the Christian Faith is not A Good Idea. I agree with TC’s sentiment when politicians promote Christianity, and all the more any one particular variety of it, above other religions. I accept his point about:
Emperor Constantine the Great and his embrace of Christianity—an embrace which hurt instead of helped Christianity.
But I don’t think that is at all what Gordon Brown is doing here, from listening to the interview. He was very careful to talk about “faith” in general terms. The words in parentheses in the longest quote in Christian Today, “(for Christians to be expected to detach themselves from their faith as they work)”, are taken from a question he was asked. So he is in no way favouring Christianity above other faiths, and would probably say much the same to interviewers from other religions.
The interview was deliberately different from many others, as seen in this article about it. The interviewer writes:
I was given 15 minutes to interview Mr Brown, and I was also told what questions he wouldn’t answer. I wasn’t allowed to ask him about his own faith, his family, what he prays about or if he prays before making policy decisions.
Scrap first set of questions then….
However, there are still many issues Christians in the UK are concerned about that I could ask him: the fact many feel anti-Christian sentiment is increasing in Parliament, why talking about God is seen as dodgy territory for a British politician, and why many feel the government has become unbalanced in its approach to faith groups.
I also added a few questions to the mix in an attempt to find out what Gordon Brown really cares about.
I was very pleased by this part of the interview, as summarised by Christian Today:
In the interview the Prime Minister also confirmed that the Government would still prioritise foreign aid for those in poverty despite the current worldwide recession. Mr Brown said, “We have responsibilities to those in need and in difficulty and we cannot walk by on the other side.”
He added, “Our responsibilities to the poor are even more acute and obvious at a time when people are facing difficulty.”
I also liked this quote, which can surely be applied to the church as it should be:
Community … is not the buildings but thousands of acts of friendship and generosity and support for people.
The important point here is that the Prime Minister is publicly taking a stand against the kind of position which seems all too common in more liberal circles here in Britain, and in some arms of his government: that religious belief must be kept a private matter and faith-based groups should not be involved in public life or receive public funds for their work. Mr Brown counters this by saying that people of faith cannot be expected to keep quiet
because when we talk about faith we are talking about what people believe in. We are talking about the values that underpin what they do. We are talking about the convictions that they have about how you can make for a better society.
It is when people put convictions like this into practice that a better society results. On that basis Gordon Brown offers his support for faith-based initiatives. As Christians, while being cautious about any restrictive conditions, we should accept public funding when it does actually help to promote our vision of a society built around God’s love.