Labour Party

Corbyn courts the churches, but Labour loathes Christianity


Can you imagine what it must be like to be a Labour MP at the moment? It’s like the scruffy kid at school who doesn’t make friends easily and usually has his head in a George Orwell book being made Head Boy. All the prefects look on in disgust that, despite either their superior intelligence or being the kingpins of the in-crowd, they have been rejected in favour of this.. well, loser.

With all the resignations, their refusal to cooperate and general irritation, many of us are watching from the outside waiting to see just how long it will take for the resentment and ill feeling to reach the point of implosion. The Conservatives have always been the party which commentators expect to fall out with each other when Europe gets too high on the agenda, but Labour factionalism has been rife in recent years with Blairites and Brownites at loggerheads with each other. This simmering tension between moderates and those on the far left, not to mention the unions, is nothing new. We saw it with Ed Miliband’s leadership victory in 2010, and now in 2015 we’re witnessing it in all its bitterness.

Part of the frustration for Labour MPs (and amusement for journalists) is that Jeremy Corbyn is such an unknown quantity. We know that he wants to nationalise anything he can get his hands on, and that he isn’t exactly a big fan of the Queen. But nobody – most likely including Corbyn himself – has much idea what sort of a leader he will be. There’s too much about him that leaves us guessing. Take his views on religion, for example. It’s well known that he’s not a religious believer and has voted ‘strongly against‘ faith schools, but after that, little has been reported.

In fact, Jeremy Corbyn is no stranger to religion. His uncle was a vicar, his father a Christian, and his mother a “Bible-reading atheist”. Speaking to the Christian magazine Third Way in June, he said:

I’m not anti-religious at all. Not at all. And I probably go to more religious services than most people who are very strong believers. I go to churches, I go to mosques, I go to temples, I go to synagogues. I find religion very interesting. I find the power of faith very interesting. I have friends who are very strongly atheist and wouldn’t have anything to do with any faith; but I take a much more relaxed view of it. I think the faith community offers and does a great deal for people. There doesn’t have to be wars about religion, there has to be honesty about religion. We have much more in common than separates us.

Writing for the ‘Christians on the Left’ website this month, he also stated his belief that the churches are essentially on his side (and he theirs):

I know that up and down the country there are people of all faiths and none, on the front line of welfare reform, bearing witness to the pain this government is inflicting on the some of our poorest communities. I want to see more faith leaders publicly challenge this injustice. In speaking out last year against the impact of welfare cuts, the twenty-six Church of England Bishops were standing up for those abandoned by the politicians who should be protecting them. We need unity to stop the damage this government is wrecking and I will stand shoulder to shoulder with all faith leaders to that end.

..Christians on the Left call on us all to ‘love the poor, defend the widow, the refugee and the orphan and stand against injustice – large or small’.  These values are at the heart of the Labour party and ones I share a deep commitment to.  I want to help create a society that strives to leave no one behind, society more socially conscious and responsible, not one in thrall to rampant materialism and selfish individualism. I look forward to working with Christians on the Left, and other faith communities, towards that end.

It wouldn’t be at all surprising if we found Jeremy Corbyn speaking at the Greenbelt festival next summer. His message would go down very well with a section of the Christian community that sees social activism as a core component of their faith. If asked, he’d most likely tell you that Jesus, with his manifest compassion and concern for the poor, was basically a socialist. And this is where Corbyn’s appreciation of Christianity falls down. Many Christians will see the injustices caused by the system and find themselves marching alongside Corbyn, calling for the Government to remember the poor and vulnerable. But that does not make them left-wing, or even his political bedfellows. The desire to care for those who are less fortunate is driven far more by faith and the teachings of the Bible than by any political ideology.

Harold Wilson famously said and that the Labour movement owed more to Methodism than to Marx. Former Shadow Health Minister Jamie Reed referenced this quote in his resignation letter, which he chose to release during Jeremy Corbyn’s victory speech. For Reed, Labour’s new leader is far more Marx than Methodist. He also leads a party which seems to be increasingly indifferent, if not hostile, to Christianity. When ‘Christians on the Left’ invited the leadership contenders to provide something about their beliefs and values, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall said nothing much of any value, and Andy Burnham failed to respond at all. Labour’s record on ‘pro-life’ issues is indicative of the party’s moral descent: more of their MPs supported last week’s Assisted Dying (No.2) Bill than Conservative MPs, and, according to their voting records, they tend to be far more pro-abortion. When Alastair Campbell uttered those famous words, “We don’t do God”, he was probably talking as much about his party as his prime minister. Ironically, any positive noises the new leader makes toward religious groups is likely to cause further doubt and division about his party’s core values.

Jeremy Corbyn may be bringing a range of radical policies and a new leadership style to the despatch box, but his main problem is not so much that he’s more Marx than Methodist: as Theo Hobson argues in the Spectator, it is because the Labour Party as a whole has strayed so far from its Christian roots that it now finds itself without a vision and beset by infighting and acrimony. Jesus said: ‘Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand‘ (Mt 12:25). Unless the party returns to the values and beliefs by which it came into being, Labour’s credibility as a political force , if not its very existence, lies in a very precarious balance.

  • David

    My grandfather was a devout Methodist and a staunch member of the Labour Party. His type are rare today. Most of the strong Labour supporters I know are indifferent to hostile towards Christianity. Yes, as the article says, until the Labour Party return to, or at least honour, their Christian roots they will continue to waste energies in dispute and division.
    But Labour are not the only party to turn its back on Christianity. Once The C of E was described as “The Conservative Party at prayer”, but nowadays the Conservative Party is a very cold place for a devout Christian of any kind. Cameron’s redefinition of marriage, which gave all Churches, including the C of E, a huge problem, illustrates just how far his party has moved away from its Anglican roots. Nowadays most clerics are left leaning, although the pew perchers still tend to be conservative to centre in the majority, I’d say.
    Only Ukip’s leader openly states that our origins and foundations, as a society, are Judaeo-Christian, arguing for a return to the values that spring form that base. His insistence on that truth may help explain why large sections of the establishment and media do all they can to marginalise his messages. Christian faith is deeply unfashionable throughout the west, at least in the halls of power.
    The fact is that a gulf has opened up between all the Christian denominations and the major groupings and institutions of the country. Both the Conservative and Labour Parties reflect this fact. Until Christianity is once again solidly at the centre of national life, well supported by a sincere large minority, or even a majority, the country itself will be divided and will not stand.
    I have always believed that either the West returns to the broad framework of the faith that created it, or it slowly divides and fails. Corbyn is but a small part of that huge slowly unfolding process.

    • Irene’s Daughter

      It seems to me that until a belief system is tested it is not really faith. The Almighty is testing His people in these days – shaking out the nominal believers and striving with the faithful in such a way that they will be brought forth as Gold. Britain is being inundated with wave after wave of false gods and false ideologies. And only the truly faithful will be able to stand for Jesus against them. I am reminded of Habakkuk who asked God why He did not deal with the sinfulness in the land and was told that God was about to bring the wicked Chaldeans to overrun them. We have sown the wind and are beginning to reap the whirlwind!

      And see Isaiah 26:9b. ‘ …when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.’

      It is not what the political members, of whatever colour, do – it is what God is doing. And He is judging this nation so that we will learn righteousness.

      • David

        You may well be right.
        It seems to me that the strength of the Eastern Orthodox Church is in that it has endured much. Firstly, Islam and then Atheistic Godless Communism. But now it resurges as Russia and the eastern, communist occupied countries, inside and outside the EU, loudly proclaim that they are Christian countries. They know from bitter experience that other systems for living, do not have the strength and value of Christ’s Gospel.
        I never make definite predictions, prophecies about particular, specific situations, because we cannot be sure. But I am open to how God’s previous activities may indeed, again be active as you suggest, and indeed probably are right !
        Our job is to “stick to the knitting”, to use a 80’s management phrase. We must keep on striving to learn from his Word and past faithful Christians, to grow in understudying, to try to reflect God’s wishes, as best as we can understand them, in our daily lives, and to continue pointing to the truth of The Holy Gospel.
        God’s Universal Church will survive in these islands and elsewhere. Indeed it is flourishing, and will continue to flourish, in some places, at different times, but not in all places at the same time.
        As ever,
        The light shines in the darkness and the darkness does not overcome it.

        • Little Black Censored

          Eastern Orthodox, when they have the upper hand, can be as unpleasant as Moslems.

          • jsampson45

            So does anyone who gets the upper hand.

          • David

            Eastern Orthodox. Unpleasant ? Where, when ?
            I wouldn’t call Moslems “unpleasant” – more just plain murderous !
            There’s more than a slight difference !
            No doubt the Orthodox Church has learnt to be tough and resilient, as they’ve lived in a tough neighbourhood. Being an island, free from invasions, we’ve become naive, soft and silly.

  • Johnny Rottenborough

    It is no surprise that Labour has abandoned its Christian roots: the party has seen the future, and the future is Muslim. The number of Christian voters is falling, the number of Muslim voters is increasing, and even an ocean’s worth of sentimentality for the Christian foundations of the Labour movement counts for nothing against demographic reality. Dr Gillan’s prescription—a return to Labour’s founding ‘values and beliefs’—would kill, not cure; click here and scroll down to the picture of Simon Danczuk, the Labour MP for Rochdale, celebrating with his supporters in May this year.

  • The author of this article clearly has little understanding of the Labour Party to which I am an active member. There are large numbers of Christians who are Labour activists as indeed there are in other parties. The idea that “Labour loathes Christianity” is frankly offensive and completely untrue. I would certainly never say that “Conservatives loathe Christianity” or other parties even though I would profoundly disagree with many policy positions. Even your own words suggest “indifference” to Christians which is very different to “loathing” and on reflection, I hope you recognise that this wording was ill-judged. Politicians in all parties had a free vote on assisted dying and MPs in all parties both opposed and supported the bill. Labour like the Conservatives have no policy position or indeed to my knowledge on abortion.

    • Inspector General

      Unfortunately Mr Bates, when it comes to Labour embracing Christianity and Labour chasing the immigrant vote, it is one or the other. Having gone to great lengths to swamp this England of ours with non Christian immigrants (to replace the former white supporters who no longer have time for a political party that wants to hold them down in their place and for them to be damn grateful for their council house) they are hardly going to lessen their grip now. That means Christianity can never enjoy anything other than loose affiliation. An unwanted one at that, depending on who happens to be in the Labour committee rooms at the time. And if you don’t realise that, then you, sir, are a fool!

      If you are yourself a Christian, then you should be thoroughly embarrassed in admitting you actively support a party that elects a crypto Marxist as leader. Absolutely disgraceful! If you are not a Christian, then really we couldn’t expect anything better from you. Off you go and plan the downfall of the indigenous people here with your Islamic friends.

      • Your view and tone about both immigrants and to me does not seem appropriate for a blog of this nature. By all means, debate our differences but we can do this with the Christian context on respecting one another recognising that we are all sinners and can therefore get things wrong whilst looking upwards to God for answers. I am a practicing Christian and member of Christians on the Left who did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn but nor do I see the need to throw personal insults around. Like all politicians, some of his views are areas where I would be agree or are interesting and thoughtful whereas some others are not. Either way, the claim that Labour loathes Christianity is completely false and I trust the original author of the article recognises that.

        • Inspector General

          Oh come now! You’re not afraid of robust replies are you? It is in ones nature to bluster through. Those who go quietly into the night are ignored, as so they should be!

          As for views and tones, there is nothing sacrosanct in this world. Concerns need to be aired, and addressed, otherwise nothing will be changed. Some of us feel that the present unrestricted immigration by just about anyone who wants to come and live in our crowded island is so very wrong and destabilising. Perhaps Jesus felt the same way about Roman immigration into Judea…

          Anyway, the current polls that show that we are likely to vote to leave the EU were not as that before this migration madness into Europe. To see those wretches abuse nations police forces is frankly sickening. The EU is piling up demographic problems and the sooner we are out of the rotten setup, the better! If the continent does not wish to keep Islam and it’s mentally unstable peoples out, they’re on their own…

  • Merchantman

    With Corbyn’s Christian background and age it is amazing he still seems to be making it up as he goes along.
    One keeps forgetting he has never been more than ‘stirrer-in-chief’ of one of the multi ethnic and loony left councils of London. His belief is probably to keep his head above water and survive.

  • My condolences to the Laborites…ah, and I see by the party logo that someone already brought flowers.

    Seems like a Heavens-sent wave of misfortune has swept the liberal parties in the Anglo-sphere, Your Grace; in the US with the Clinton Woman and Commissar Saunders and in our Canada with our own clowns, Young Trudeau and Shifty Mulcair. And somehow, perhaps as gestures of egalitarianism and gallantry, conservatives everywhere seem to be screwing up these rare opportunities by driving their standards even lower! With all this going on, I wouldn’t assume anything any more.

  • Dreadnaught

    I couldn’t vote for anyone who’s shagged Diane Abbott.

    • Inspector General

      What an unpleasant thought – for both parties…

    • David

      Please, spare us such unpleasant dreams.

      • Dreadnaught

        Yes it is a rather repulsive concept I admit – no offense intended, Sleep tight.

  • Inspector General

    Obviously Corbyn doesn’t do religion. He’s viewing churches and other faith congregations as mere friendly societies. And friendly societies led ultimately to the Labour party. So they can’t be bad.

    No doubt it would be possible to have a ‘religious’ conversation with the man, without him mentioning Jesus Christ or even God at all.

    How very socialist. But make the most of it while you can. The next Labour party leader might be another Stalin. Plenty of those types in there. He says so himself – they are his friends…

    • David

      I suggest Inspector, it’s worse than you fear. He is “viewing churches and other faith congregations” as places where he can harvest votes. I believe that it is that basic, not that the so-called “Conservatives” are any better.

      • Inspector General

        One wonders if speculation about Corbyn is even worth it, David. The interregnum the Labour party finds itself in isn’t going to continue much longer. This small time MP who has an unenviable record as a malcontent in party ranks just isn’t up to the task. The fellow is clearly a thick with no depth whatsoever. Just be grateful Tony Benn is dead…

        • Dreadnaught

          Yup – he has a depth of political acumen and dress sense surpassed by Worzel Gummage

          • Inspector General

            Worzel Gummage! There’s a thing. That was Michael Foot’s nickname. Must be a Labour speciality, to elevate the nearest available confused old dreadful to leadership…

          • Dreadnaught

            Discussing this with a pal down at The Jolly Cripple the other night and we decided it was more than likely that Corbs and Gummo were twins separated at birth

          • James M

            That would be a conclave of cardinals. There are many “confused old dreadfuls” among them.

          • David

            Worzel Gummage – squeals of delight ! (accentuated by two pints of Old Speckled Hen – confession ends)

        • David

          You may well be right.
          The fascinating bit, is what happens after the interregnum ?

          • Inspector General

            The beauty of it

  • chiefofsinners

    No surprise that Corbyn, like Gordon Brown, Tony Benn and many others has a Christian background. These men have been raised to know the truth but broken the hearts of their fathers who were better men than they. Satan has offered them the kingdoms of the world and they have sold their birthright for a mess of potage.

    • sarky

      A nation that has thrown off the superstitious shackles of its past.

      • chiefofsinners

        The greatest sense of freedom I’ve ever known was becoming a Christian. The freedom to follow my own understanding an wallow in a cesspit of my own making turned out not to be freedom at all.

        • sarky

          Thats your call. But I am far from wallowing in a cesspit and I take offence at your insinuation that those of no faith somehow live a lesser life.

          • chiefofsinners

            Just replying to your insinuation that those who have faith are shackled and superstitious. Try not to dish it out if you can’t take it.

    • len

      ‘It would have been better for them not to have known the way of
      righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the
      sacred command that was passed on to them.'(2 Peter 2;21)

      These men are without excuse.