It was the American writer and public speaker George William Curtis (24 Feb. 1824 – 31 Aug. 1892), an African-American equality and Civil Rights advocate, who – as far as I know – first came up with this idea: “In our time, the hot abjuration to keep politics out of the pulpit is merely the way the 19th Century offers the thirty pieces of silver”. It was a razor-sharp stab right through the heart of politicians for the attempt to muzzle Christian Churches, a service they were most eager to provide to the privileged classes, all in the name of liberal politics, free economics and free exploitation of labour. But Curtis’ remark meant more; for most of the Clergy was only too happy to comply. That was hardly a surprise, it is difficult to get out of a comfort zone to take on a more combative stance.
Regrettably, Curtis’ undeniable truth, has not lost significance right now, in the 21st Century. Indeed, I would say it is all the more relevant in this novel version of Great Britain. So, the question is whether GW Curtis was right and if so, how legitimate is it to the Church of Christ to interrogate political, economic, cultural or societal issues, whatever they might be. Is it a Right of the Church?… Is it a duty?!… Both perhaps?… Or none at all, in which case Curtis’ assertion is nothing more than wishful thinking? Taking on Curtis’ cue regarding the thirty pieces of silver, is there a betrayal? And if so, what was the Church of Christ being treasonous about?
It is perhaps useful at this point to recall the Passion of Jesus, for there is no greater political plot than that which led Christ to the Cross on Golgotha. Reading the entire narrative, from the preparations for the Last Supper, to the horrific and agonising death of Jesus on the Cross, one cannot fail to note the multiple forces plotting against Jesus and perhaps even more than that, how the entire time of Jesus’ Public Ministry was driving events to culminate in that outcome at the Golgotha.
Jesus’ desire to reach all and everyone, from centurions to prostitutes, to socialise and sit at the table with everyone and anyone, to reach out announcing a completely new covenant that would challenge the old order, to establish an entirely new Dialogue between Humanity and the Father in Heaven, His whole Ministry was geared to embrace something new; but precisely because it was so new and fresh, it would place Jesus on collision course with the Old Order, the Jewish Establishment of the day, as it was so often the case so evidently illustrated by the numerous exchanges with the Scribes and the Pharisees. Of course, Jesus the Son of God challenged the established order as much as the Historical Jesus, the Man Jesus. The challenge Jesus’ Ministry posed to the powers of the age was simultaneously scriptural, theological, ethical, moral, cultural, societal. And inevitably for all these reasons, politically charged. Jesus’ answer to Pontius Pilate, whether He (Jesus) was indeed King, is a remarkable high point in the Passion narrative. Whilst Pilate’s question was imminently political, Jesus’s response was imminently everything, because by replying that “My Kingdom is not of this World”, Jesus is not simply saying His Kingdom is from Heaven above, but that his Kingdom will come to shape all worldly kingdoms in such a radical fashion, it might as well be seen by the minds of the day, 2000 years ago, as indeed out of this World.
It should not surprise us therefore, that in many passages of the New Testament, we find allusions to issues, political and societal, matters of justice or indeed lack thereof. St James Epistle is among all epistles, the most explicit and for that reason very successful at bridging moral and ethical values stemming from Jesus’ teachings, with the issues of the day such as matters relevant to Public Governance, equity and social justice, wealth distribution and so forth (see above).
This last decade (2010 – 2020) is a striking case in point. Public Governance in Britain in the last ten years has attracted the attention and unequivocal condemnation from charities, to unions, to domestic institutions and organisations, as well as external bodies such as the UNICEF and the United Nations. Literally all Downing Street tenures, from David Cameron’s first Government, to the latest administration have made changes which resulted in grievous outcomes, all of which invariably affected the most vulnerable in our society. Among the first victims, welfare benefit claimants were one of the most notorious cases of social persecution, victimisation and demonisation, with horror stories coming forward on a daily basis, ATOS assessments declaring very sick people as fit-for-work, including cancer patients, heart disease victims, among many other truly disabling conditions. Cases piled up in the tribunals of arbitration and the Courts, but new fees were quickly introduced and Legal Aid policy changed to stop claimants’ access to Justice. The bedroom Tax, which was another welfare “reform” instigated by the same administration (David Cameron/Iain Duncan Smith and Lord Freud), continued the trend, all of which encouraged by a failing Press and a committed right-wing biased Media, all helping a sustained and systematic demonisation of the vulnerable, the poorest, the disabled, the mentally ill, the homeless, the unemployed, the sick and the terminally ill.
In 2012, speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Freud stated:
“I remind noble Lords of the core argumentation. We do not think that taxpayers should be expected to meet the cost of somewhere approaching 1 million spare bedrooms, a cost of around £0.5 billion every year. Clearly this is unfair, or certainly different, to those in the private rented sector who receive benefits based on their household need.”
Lord Freud’s peculiar views on the subject are at a minimum unfortunate (though I am inclined to think they are not only rather rabid, but fascistic as well), because they share a view – in Lord Freud’s own words, a “core argumentation” – uncomfortably close to the views of the German Nazi Party in the ten years prior to the beginning of World War II, in 1939. What follows is an illustrative example, a poster issued and distributed in Germany by the Office for Racial Policy of the Nazi Party, in 1938:
All in the name of an alleged Austerity under the banner “We are all in it together”, whilst fact-checking elsewhere demonstrated that the wealthiest 1% in Britain managed to grow their combined wealth from £400 Billion or so, to almost double that in just a few years. Sadly, the Media and the Press failed to ask Lord Freud the obvious question: If taxpayers should not be expected to foot a £0.5 Billion a year bill for extra bedroom space, how come is the same taxpayer expected to foot the bill for £25 Billion a year in Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion commited by the rich? Still, those in Power kept everyone distracted with systematic accusations against benefit cheaters and fraudsters, all part of the same demonising process I noted earlier on.
Lord Freud is a classic example of the British Upper Class… Clueless in matters affecting the salaried classes, indifferent to their fate, and determined to prioritise Law-making to ensure the “Rule of Law” is biased against those below.
Fact checking by independent observers and charities stepped in once again, proving that in actual fact, the richest’s systematic tax avoidance, evasion and off-shore accounts were robbing the Public coffers to the tune of some £25 Billion every year, whereas State benefit fraudulent claims amounted to a mere £2 Billion per annum. But this and many other truths were suppressed. Lord Freud, and many others in both houses of Parliament, are wealthy people who could not care less for the living conditions of everyday folk, living on a miserable wage, not to mention those who do not have any means, because they depend on State assistance to survive.
Mainstream mass Media was too busy producing programs focusing on blaming the vulnerable, painting them as scroungers.
Meanwhile, food banks were popping up at an astonishing rate, but then again, at that point of the on-going carnage, it was time to begin a ferocious demonisation of immigrants and especially European Union migrants. The Media and the Press continued the discriminatory and racist trend of calling EU citizens in the UK “immigrants” whilst calling UK citizens in the EU “expats”… State-sponsored hostility piled up and began to cascade down. Soon there was a Portuguese citizen assassinated by racist English thugs in Lewes (not far from Gatwick), a Dutch national left to die from starvation at home, then an Italian stabbed somewhere in London. This provided a much needed additional distraction, with calls for the abolition of the Human Rights Act in the UK, pulling out of the European Convention on Human Rights (an initiative of the Council of Europe, of which Winston Churchill was a founding Father!), initiate proceedings to establish a Hostile Environment Policy (Theresa May was Home Secretary at that point), and finally the ultimate concession to wealthy Tory backbench MP’s, a EU Membership Referendum. Much was promised of an imminent Eldorado, including (but not limited to) £350.000/week for the NHS, promises which had the perfect ground to flourish upon, the ears and hearts of a population that had been systematically impoverished and crushed year on year for the whole six years before (2010-2016). No surprise then that LEAVE THE EU won the argument… Despite the REMAIN IN THE EU campaign’s best efforts to alert for the dangers and consequences of leaving the EU. All PROJECT FEAR, of course, the usual scaremongering as LEAVERS irrationally dismissed the warnings coming in from all quarters, from street folk to experts.
But who cares about experts?!… Nobody in the LEAVE CAMP, led by the patriarch of the “expert-exhausted“, Michael Gove. The Brexit trade agreement would be the easiest ever, and yes we would most certainly be able to have the cake and eat it. All major players in the LEAVE THE EU CAMP swore by it as sacrosanct truth, most notably David Davies and Dr. Liam Fox, both of whom I can’t resist to think of as swivel-eyed loonies, who had absolutely no idea whatsoever what they were promising the British electorate, and now will not take responsibility for the astronomical FIASCO now printed on all the Press, day in day out.
Statistics and all sorts of reports and other data paint a dire picture indeed. Between 2010 and 2020, the levels of child poverty, families in employment forced to resort to food banks, general misery and destitution among the most vulnerable, the disabled, the sick, etc.; and finally a Brexit “Free” Trade Agreement, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson with festivalesque alacrity, which is now translating into a dim and grim reality of humongous amounts of bureaucracy and customs red-tape, lorries full of seafood rotting away at the Dover-Calais border, exporters faced with customs charges and extra fees, meat producers barred from exporting to the EU, car manufacturers unable to get parts imported arriving on time, and much more, an abysmal, Byzantine calamity of cosmic proportions, affecting Britain’s Export Market to the European Union, which at time of writing this piece, accounts for 46% of the UK’s total exports, meaning an overall National transactional account worth almost £240 BILLION in revenues to the British Economy. Literally, Tory administrations since 2010 to date have effectively ran the Country into the ground, by courtesy of a greedy Elite of neo-liberal ideas and occasionally fascistic ticks; astronomically pompous and arrogant, notwithstanding the negligent incompetence of which this ruling Elite stands accused by many in the Media, non-biased and independent Press and large chunks of Public Opinion. As a backdrop to all this – and now COVID-19! – the UK’s National Debt which was in 2010 £800 Billion, is now £2.7 TRILLION.
Under Welfare “Reform” Policy
Enacted by Iain Duncan-Smith, Work & Pensions Secretary in David Cameron’s Government.
COVID-19 seems to be following in the good old Tory boys’ tradition, and despite the good efforts in rolling out the vaccines (we seem to be doing well in this regard… at last!), the atrociously undeniable fact is that with a current total of over 100.000 DEAD, the UK holds currently the highest COVID-19 Death Ratio in the World. But as columnist Owen Jones pointed out today in the Guardian, poverty and class segregation (a favourite of the British Upper Classes) are the perfect ground where to grow disease, misery and death. I think Owen Jones is absolutely right about that. I would only like to add that perpetuating the Higher Education fees system is designed to and will segregate the worse-off in our Society into keeping them on just enough education, without the risk of knowing too much, which will ensure a large enough population is kept as reserve for canon fodder, whilst those who have been for generations the better off, will continue to be the better off and therefore close enough to or indeed integral part of a ruling class.
The Deafening Wails of Silence – Our 30 Pieces of Silver
Clearly everything that has been going on in Britain since 2010 has little or indeed nothing to do with Christian values. The Ruling Classes are not Christian, at least not by the standards as stated by St James in his Epistle:
“What good is it if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?… Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food… If one does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it to claim to have faith? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead!”
James, 2: 14 – 17
To be clear, I reject the idea of keeping “politics” out of the Pulpit, in its entirety. Indeed, the option to remain silent whilst the salaried classes and all other vulnerable groups are crushed to smithereens, is in itself political; for there is an implicit political choice in silence, as it benefits the powerful, the better-to-do, the elites, the ruling, the rich.
But the political choice to say nothing from the Pulpit is never targeted as “Pulpit politics”. The Political choice to expose the on-going carnage is the only option worth targeting as “Pulpit politics”… Some Clergy – I like to think of this sort as “Champagne Clergy” – often says that the appropriate response is to take action through charitable work… Well… That may be true, but it is in fact only true in part. It is the equivalent of treating a nasty knee wound infection in a child’s leg with a plaster, without proper consideration for the root causes of the infection itself. The child will eventually fall into sepsis. Likewise, our Society is in calamitous state bordering on comatose, because charitable work does not plug the hole at the same pace the classes at the top crush the ones below. As always, the silent consent!!!
Plenty of Bishops, Priests and Deacons of all churches, including my own Old Catholic Apostolic Church, will argue that their first duty is to evangelise, to be apostles like the Apostles, an option which invariably excludes taking a position, giving a voice straight out of the Pulpit, to those who are voiceless and cannot defend themselves. But what are they saying?… Are they implying then, that St. James was wrong when he exhorted his audiences and exposed the abusers?!…
What is exactly “evangelisation” in the hearts and minds of these “champagne” Bishops, Priests and Deacons in all churches, up and down this Country? A weekly cacophony of homiletic platitudes, spurted out to satisfy the requisites of “something must be said relating to the readings of the day”? It does not ring true to me, when I see St James delivering, blow after blow after blow, hammering the heads of his audiences, telling them “you have dishonoured the poor”, or asking them “Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into Court?”.
As G.W. Curtis suggested, by keeping Politics out of the Pulpit, Clergy is doing the same as treasonous Judas Iscariotes, betraying Jesus’ teachings for the infamous 30 pieces of silver. But the currency is now different and takes many forms, from sitting on the fence, to staying quiet, keep it simple and trouble-free. Comfortable. Inconsequential. Cowardly.
At the end of the day, helping to feed the poor, assisting single mothers, bringing help to the disabled, the hungry, and all other means of assisting all those who are vulnerable and fall prey to a greedy elite of monstrous bloodsuckers, may be helpful, and it is helpful.
But it will never bring about change by failing scandalously to call to account the culprits for the misery of the People, every week, at every Pulpit, in every Parish Church, in every Church and Denomination, in every corner of Great Britain. Consistently!… And relentlessly!
The abuse, exploitation, “lawful” criminalisation, muzzling and overall outrageous mistreatment of the poorest, the hungry, the homeless, the working families reliant on food banks, the disabled, the sick, the terminally ill, ethnical minorities, the asylum seekers, the immigrated, the State benefit claimants and State Assistance-dependent and all others in vulnerable situations is a NATIONAL SCANDAL! It is a Sin crying out to Heaven for the wrath of God! And Clergy, by falling short on exposing this sordid state of affairs, becomes an accessory to sinful wrongdoing.
May God have Mercy on those governing Britain on on those of us Clergy, who fall silent in the face of such terrible and criminal deeds, for on the day of reckoning, when finally arrived in one’s deathbed, one can be certain of only THREE things… God! Oneself! And a Life Balance Sheet deeply in the Red!
God help us all. Good night and God Bless! +