By way of reply to Ourman, Davide Simonetti and others who have questioned my previous post about Nick Clegg, and an earlier one about whether Tony Blair should have discussed his faith, the first thing I want to say is no, I don't believe non-Christians are lesser people, no, I don't believe Christians have a monopoly on morality, and yes, I do agree with Archbishop Rowan that, while I would prefer it if Clegg was a Christian, it is his integrity that matters most.
But I do nevertheless believe that having a personal faith does on the whole make you a better politician, although as I will also make clear, there are always exceptions. So why do I believe this?
There are two main reasons. Firstly, I believe that faith can and usually does give politicians a stronger ethical framework for their actions. I am not saying here that atheists will invariably lack a moral compass, just that having an outside point of reference for one's political beliefs and decisions is helpful.
Canon David Sharp puts it thus: "The Protestant tradition particularly requires a careful examination of the conscience; what will be popular with the public or the party comes far lower down. [His] belief creates another criterion to be passed before he can act. Surely such extra moral tests, over and above strictly political considerations, are likely to make for more responsible decisions."
Secondly, and more fundamentally, I think that because faith in a higher being gives people an awareness of their own limitations and imperfections (the Biblical word "sin" is probably not helpful here) it generally tends to incline them towards humility, and this for me is an essential personal quality for anyone seeking to exercise power over people's lives.
This was why I found Tony Blair's particular brand of Christianity so perplexing. I don't doubt he is a Christian, as indeed is Margaret Thatcher, but his apparent Messiah complex and belief that he could singlehandedly save first the Labour Party, then Britain, then the World, often struck me as evidence of a rather anti-Christian state of mind.
Gordon Brown is a much more genuinely humble man in this regard. His Christianity is much more about applying Jesus's ethical teachings to present-day social problems than rescuing the planet from an axis of evil, and in this sense he seems to me to be a much better example of a Christian politician.
I realise that in the current climate, citing Gordon as a good example of anything is unlikely to convince many to change their point of view, but it is nevertheless as sincere an explanation as I can give of why I believe faith to be important in a political context.