The Christian MP is happy for the Church to preach on some matters, but not on those that could implicate her party
The Church of England has today published a ‘pastoral letter’ providing guidance for Christians ahead of the General Election. At 52 pages long, the letter is the first of its kind to be issued by the Church. It does not promote one particular party, instead asking Christians to consider how they might build a good society:
“It is the duty of every Christian adult to vote, even though it may have to be a vote for something less than a vision that inspires us”.
This morning, Tory MP and outspoken Christian Nadine Dorries appeared on Radio 4 criticising the letter, telling the Today show that:
“I would much rather the church stuck to becoming involved in issues where people are really seeking the church’s voice, such as gender abortion, late term abortion, issues to do with the human tissue and embryology bill.”
In a strong field, this is one of the silliest things Dorries has ever said. What a messed up state of affairs it is if the Church is allowed to tell women what to do with their own bodies, is allowed to invade and preach in the private rooms of couples, but is not allowed to encourage people to take part in society.
To me, the only defence that can be made of the presence of religion in peoples’ lives is that it can sometimes encourage people to think beyond themselves, that it may make people think more carefully about the ethics of the choices they make. Otherwise, what is it for?
Well, for Dorries, it seems to be there to intervene on sexual matters. In 2012 she said that gay marriage transforms gay people ‘into political agitators who have set themselves against the church and community’.
Why is the church allowed to tell people in what way they may love another person, but not allowed to encourage them to vote?
Perhaps Dorries found herself stuck between her Tory credentials and her Christian ones. After all, the letter is critical of inequality:
“Where the state or the market, or any other powers, claim too much and stifle human flourishing, people are divided from one another and God’s sovereignty is mocked.”
“It has been widely observed that the greatest burdens of austerity have not been born by those with the broadest shoulders – that is, those who enjoy a wide buffer zone before they fall into real need. Those whose margin of material security was always narrow have not been adequately protected from the impact of recession”
“When those who rely on social security payments are all described in terms that imply they are undeserving, dependent, and ought to be self-sufficient, it deters others from offering the informal, neighbourly support which could ease some of the burden of welfare on the state.”
And in-work poverty:
“We have seen the burgeoning of in-work poverty – people who, despite working hard, cannot earn enough to live decently.”
Religious belief surely either functions as a personal, spiritual support which brings peace and guidance in a purely private way, or as a social driver which tells people how to live.
Dorries, someone who tries to promote the idea that the Church is a good thing, is encouraging it to behave as its worst possible self: socially apathetic, remote and pompous, but with a prurient interest in people’s sex lives.
Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.