Let’s face facts – very few of us in Britain actually want George W Bush to be re-elected. This is partly cultural – given a choice between someone who was clever but a bit sly, or someone who proved his honesty by making a fool of himself whenever he opened his mouth in public, the British vote would tend to go against the idiot. Even Britons who still believe in the war in Iraq see George W as something of an embarrassment.
But there’s also a deep philosophical discomfort with senior politicians who appeal to divine guidance to justify their policies. Between Bush, Kerry, Buttiglione and Blair, people like the Sunday Times’s Jasper Gerard are getting seriously worried. In case you haven’t bothered to click the link, Gerard says: “43% of Americans are born-again Christians; fanaticism fans across the Muslim world; a devout Catholic who fears gay rights is set to become the European Unionâ€™s justice commissioner.”
I’m not very happy about all this either – but for different reasons. I’ve been a Christian for 32 years (we used to call this ‘born-again’, but this phrase is now either another label for fanaticism, or can be loosely applied to vaccuum-cleaner salesmen and computer company CEOs). During this time I’ve had a fair share of people who have come up to me and said ‘God has told me to do this’, or, worse, ‘God has told me to tell you to do this.’ This was then followed up with what I would expect that particular person to say anyway. Which is why I never paid any attention to them.
I don’t really see how politicians who appeal to divine authority for what they were going to anyway are that much different.
What I would be interested in was a politician who had the opportunity of getting away with something scot-free and owned up because they were a Christian (or any other religion or philosophy for that matter). Or if they made a policy U-turn to something which was morally superior but less convenient. There are of course some notable examples. But precious few in the lifetime of any American government since Carter, and any British government since – well – before my time.
Integrity speaks for itself. It doesn’t have to be supported by a lapel badge saying ‘I’ve got integrity’.