David Cameron has written an Easter message to Christians. It has been published by Premier Christianity as ‘an exclusive’ which they summarise as ‘Prime Minister David Cameron speaks up on the significance of the Christian faith.’
Danny Webster, a moderate and sensible commentator on faith in public life, is savage in his critique:
David Cameron’s Easter message is dreadful. I’m used to the charm-offensive-say-something-nice-to-Christians-at-Christmas-and-Easter type of message, but this is in a league of its own.
Cameron’s message reminds me of Tim Vine’s gag about crime in multi-storey carparks: it is wrong on so many levels.
1) It fails to even mention the central aspects of Easter
Even though this is a message to Christians, it does not even once mention Jesus, the cross or the resurrection. Instead, Cameron gives this incredible summary of what Easter ‘is all about':
Easter is all about remembering the importance of change, responsibility, and doing the right thing for the good of our children. And today, that message matters more than ever.
Cameron, or whoever wrote this for him, is certainly not stupid. You don’t get through an Eton and Oxford education without knowing the basics of Christian doctrine. But this shows how politically cynical a message this is – trying to remove the core of the Easter story and replacing it with feel-good fudge.
2) It substitutes faith with ‘moral claptrap’
As he has done before, Cameron makes a big play of how appreciative he is of what the Christian faith can do, that he is “an unapologetic supporter of the role of faith in this country”. But this clearly reads like a belief in faith itself, a belief in cultural Christianity – which essentially boils down to a sort of home counties, middle-class decency.
This is exactly the kind of twisting of authentic faith that Christians should reject. It is a great example of what the Archbishop Justin Welby described as ‘moral claptrap’ which can so easily and insidiously replace the gospel of grace at the heart of the Christian message.
3) It shows his fondness for charity more than social justice
Cameron makes himself out to be a great defender of Christian voluntary activism:
Across the country, we have tens of thousands of fantastic faith-based charities…As Prime Minister, I’ve worked hard to stand up for these charities and give them more power and support. If my party continues in government, it’s our ambition to do even more.
But does this ring true to how dismissive and aggressive the Tories have been towards the Trussell Trust who coordinate the Food Banks?
In any case, we should always be suspicious of the rich and powerful’s fondness for charitable activity. The Church’s acts of compassion should never be separated from our demands for justice.
The true power of the Easter story
This is the most important few days of the year for committed Christians. It is not a celebration which is about chocolate, rabbits or daffodils.
It is about a man who lived, died and was resurrected. It’s story which we believe to be true – in both the sense that ‘it happened’ and because it contains truth which speaks to people across cultures and generations. It’s a story of friendship, betrayal, political reality, sacrifice, cowardice and forgiveness. It is the most powerful story of renewal and hope that has ever been told.
This the revolutionary faith that turned the ancient world upside down and which is making a difference today. This the faith that people are still dying for in many countries. This is the faith which is inspiring 6 people where I live to be baptised at our church on Easter Sunday.
This is a long way from the banalities and superficiality of Cameron’s Easter message. This is the celebration of the resurrection of the Son of God. He is Risen – and a vast explosion of love, joy and hope have been released into the world. Nothing can ever be the same again.