I wonder how many soldiers have gone to their deaths over the centuries in which each side in the bloody conflict believed God was on their side? Religion should have no place in war and many would argue it has no place in politics either. Yet for many their Christianity is what drives their political convictions.
The Church of England is traditionally described as the Tory Party at prayer. However if you took the average congregation today it probably has little in common with the Conservative Party profile.
In the 19 th and 20 th centuries there was a mass migration from Ireland to Britain and the Irish, being Catholics, reinforced that church. As they were immigrants socialism was their natural political home and it is no coincidence that many leading Labour politicians over the years have had Irish surnames and are Catholics.
However Labour also drew much of its support from the Welsh valleys and industrial heartlands where chapel and non-conformist brands of Christianity held sway. F D Maurice, Ellen Wilkinson, George Lansbury, and Donald Soper all came from this rich tradition of Christian Socialists.
In May for the first time I visited Karl Marx’s tomb in Highgate Cemetery. To be honest I was drawn by a simple plaque nearby bearing the name of Ralph Miliband, the father of David and Ed. The distance from this section of the cemetery to the Catholic grammar school I attended in the 1960s was 20 minutes max. On Friday July 14 1961 Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, visited Karl Marx’s tomb as part of his visit to London and Manchester. As he was Russian, a Communist and an atheist - for weren’t all Russians Communists and atheists – the school totally ignored this historic event on our doorstep.
Yet with the fall of the iron curtain we find that the Orthodox Church in Russia never went away and today holds major influence in the country of Stalin. The Catholic Church in Poland even gave us one of the most popular modern Popes and its economic migrants to the UK are reinforcing the church there as the Irish did one hundred years ago. So Russian or Eastern Block they may have been, communist as well but atheist certainly not.
Two politicians, Tony Blair and Peter Caruana, demonstrate perfectly the tug of war between church and State. Blair, once a protestant, is married to Cherie Blair, a devout Catholic and it was no secret that Blair wanted to become a Catholic being received in to the Church shortly after he left office. Yet as Prime Minister he presided over a secular government introducing in to law a number of measures which incurred the anger and opposition of both the Church of England and the Catholic Church. As Alastair Campbell famously said: “We don’t do God”
In Gibraltar the Minister for Justice, Daniel Feetham, brought before parliament a private members bill over the age of consent for homosexuals. It was a private bill because Peter Caruana as a devout Catholic said he couldn’t support it. Hence we had the bizarre spectacle of the chief minister voting against a measure introduced by his own minister of justice. In addition we had other GSD ministers also opposing the measure although whether they were following their Lord spiritual or temporal is a moot point.
I raise this issue today because before me I have a number of leaflets one of which reads: “If this is how you want Gibraltar to suffer like the rest of Europe! Vote for Godless Socialism! GSLP/Lib. If you want to continue with the best Godly government Gbraltar (sic) has even had and enjoy 3 per cent unemployment! Vote GSD!”
Well the writer may want to warp Peter Caruana in the Shroud of Turin but I would argue the message is an insult to all religious people in Gibraltar. As far as I am aware we are all equal in the sight of our God, we all worship together and there are no GSD, GSLP, Liberal, PDP or political agnostic segregated pews in the Rock’s churches, chapels, temples, mosques or synagogues.
To pretend that all members of the GSLP are atheists is as false as believing in 1961 that all Russians were Godless. I don’t doubt the chief minister’s religious conviction but to suggest that all members of the GSD share his faith is ridiculous.
Many Christians are drawn to socialism because they believe passionately in social justice. Many Christian Socialists believe all people are created in the image of God, have equal worth, deserve equal opportunities to fulfil their God-given potential.
There are many Christian Socialists in the GSLP as there are many good Christians in the GSD. To suggest that God is on the side of one party over the other is simply unchristian.