Monday, March 06, 2006

By all means "do God" Tony - but leave Iraq out of it

As a Christian, I have extremely mixed feelings about Tony Blair's latest assertion that God will be his judge over the Iraq war, with the implication that he believed he was acting on God's guidance in launching the invasion.

In what is becoming an increasingly post-Christian society, it is good to see God's existence being openly acknowledged by our Head of Government, and ultimately I would rather have a believer as Prime Minister than an avowed atheist such as Neil Kinnock.

But it is one thing to talk about your faith, and quite another to start discussing how it impacts on your decisions - especially those that involve sending other people to their deaths.

And much as I detest everything that Alastair Campbell stands for, I think he was right in advising the Prime Minister that, where the war in Iraq is concerned, he shouldn't "do God."

Perhaps Blair fails to realise that, on the question of pacifism, Christians divide fairly evenly between those, like John Stott, who do not believe war is ever justified in any circumstances, and those, like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who believe it is sometimes a necessary evil.

And even within the latter camp, you would find no agreement that the Iraq conflict actually satisfied the conditions of a "just war," as for instance the war against the Nazis did in Bonhoeffer's case.

In his Parkinson interview, Blair sought to claim that he had tried to act in accordance with his conscience in all the events surrounding the war, which will no doubt have been heart-warming news for the family of Dr David Kelly.

Did Mr Blair's Government expose Dr Kelly because they were seeking to "obey God" - or was it because, in the words of the late Hugo Young, the Prime Minister's sainted integrity had become the core value his country had to defend?

Blair would not be the first politician to claim divine authority for his actions - Margaret Thatcher notoriously did so over her economic policies - but as Martin Turner argues, no single political programme has a monopoly on Christian teaching.

And in any case, Blair should have more sense than to employ what is essentially the same defence as the one used by Peter Sutcliffe.

Then again, may be he doesn't care any more - there was a definite valedictory air to his Parky interview, and I lost count of the number of times he referred to himself in the past tense.

Maybe the Prime Minister's willingness to talk about God in this way, in defiance of his old spin doctor's advice, is a sign that, at long last, he really has come to terms with his own political mortality.

March 8 Update: Stephen Pollard has an alternative view of this in the course of which he describes this blog as "rather good." I was pleasantly surprised to receive this compliment as Pollard once turned me down for a job. I suppose I should now let bygones be bygones and give him a link on this site!


Anonymous said...

So Blair rules by Divine Right, which means it's presumably sinful to question him about anything?

In the words of Humpty Dumpty, "There's glory for you!"

Bob Piper said...

Interesting post. Unfortunately, it doesn't bear much resemblance to the broadcast, and instead relies on the tripe trailed by journos eager for a story. Blair didn't have 'willingness to talk about God in this way'. In fact he appeared to be extremely reluctant. It was Parkinson, desperate to turn his fading ITV show into a news item, who pushed Blair towards the God issue. Blair simply said we all have to account to others for our actions (and let's face it, he's got a fair old bit to account for). Parkinson then backed him down the alley of introducing religion, which Blair indicated was private and he didn't want to discuss it, but yes, ultimately, all Christians had to account to their god.

What did you expect him to say? That he didn't believe in God... or that because he was Prime Minister he was different to other Christians?

Like the hacks, you've just bought Parky's dummy.

Paul Linford said...

Fair point Bob but I must beg to disagree. I've interviewed Blair five times and he doesn't get "pushed" into saying things he doesn't want to say. What Blair didn't want to discuss was the issue of whether he prayed about the war beforehand.

dirty dingus said...

Paul that is a load of cobblers. There is no way that Blair's umming and erring where he says "In the end, there is a judgement that, I think if you have faith about these things, you realise that judgement is made by other people... and if you believe in God, it's made by God as well" is saying "god made me do it" unless you are a hack desperate for a story.

What Blair said essentially was that the onyl way to know wether it was the rght decision is to wait until the future and that would also include being judged by god if such a person exists in the christian sene of a judgement day.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

I just get worried that a Prime Minister may try to justify his actions by saying at the end of the day he is answerable to god. At the end of your life perhaps - but the electorate may have a say before then

Toque said...

As a non-Christian, as an agnostic, I have no mixed feelings about it at all.

It's just plain scary.

Bob Piper said...

jonothan, the whole point was he was not trying to justify his actions. Blair's arrogance usually means he doesn't think he has to justify them to anyone, certainly not an old clapped-out bore like Parkinson. I repeat, he said, at the end of the day it is other 'people' who have to maske these judgements. It was then that Parkinson brought the god bit in, and Blair, probably remembering the Paxman praying together bit, tried to avoid it. For heavens sake, there is enough to criticise Blair on without having to fabricate Daiuly Mail stories.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Perhaps he should justify his actions.

Anonymous said...

Oh come on now! What baloney of a post; a complete and utter fabrication of what TB said. I guess it comes from your years in Whitehall. I know TB is a spinner, but there's no reason for you to follow the spin.