23 February 2010

Catechism of Cliché: Faith Edition

Leaf through a deck. If you can, spot the ‘religion card’. Is it the winning Ace of Hearts? Or perhaps the funereal Ace of Spades. It may be that it occupies a more median position – the inconspicuous five of diamonds perhaps – in dull echo of the Five Holy Wounds of Christ. The joker in the pack, a laughing God? Alternatively, it occurred to me that Murphy may be drawing his playing cards from a tarot deck. Prefigurations of the Hanged Man, or the smoky incantation of a political Magician in mind? Alas, it is none of these. Rather it is an entry for the much-neglected Catechism of Cliché, prompted (presumably) by the Scotland Office trailing in the Scotsman anticipatory sections of a speech to be delivered by Jim Murphy on the subject of ‘faith’ aimed at that happy, homogeneous category styled Scotland's ‘values voters’. Even more sociologically curiously, the Herald talks of ‘faith-based voters’. Presumably, the category doesn’t include Luciferian fellow citizens, or all those Jedis who made an appearance in the 2001 Census. These definitional anxieties aside, claim the Scotsman, Murphy is 'playing the religion card' - presumably earnestly hoping that it will be party political trump. Given his lean, abstemious look, I’d never have taken Murphy for a louche gambling type. Being a pervasive amoralist and recidivistic heretic myself, I’m sure Murphy isn’t singing sweetly for me. Here are the vaulting choral high notes, as quoted in the Hootsmon:

“In the US, faith has long played a central part in politics – not surprising for a country where 60 per cent of people say that God plays an important part in their lives. But it's wrong to think that it plays no role in British politics ...

That the Bible gave “the Labour movement the intellectual legitimacy to challenge the old orders”

He will say: “As David said in Psalm 9, ‘the Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble’.”

Murphy will quote – shock horror – Keir Hardie to the effect that…

“I have said both in writing and on the platform many times that the impetus which drove me first into the Labour movement, and the inspiration which has carried me on it, has been derived more from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth than from all other sources combined.”

In a maximally banal discourse on the nature of family in contemporary Britain, Jim muses that...

“Family is the most important thing in our country… We love our family more than anything else. I am convinced that, like faith, family is another force for good. I celebrate marriage and family life, and while it's wrong for government to financially incentivise one family type over another, I am convinced family is the glue which hold our communities and society together.”

Because we all know nothing is more rousing or rhetorically affecting than the word ‘incentivise’ properly deployed… Finally, argue the Hootsmon, in an “apparent broadside against the Nationalists, Mr Murphy will link patriotism and support for the UK with faith” … which sounds pretty grim. However, the quote presented seems unclear to me:

“I am also convinced that people, and values voters in particular, are sick of others talking down our country … Yes, they know we have problems, but we love our country.”

On this last point, context is all and context we don’t have. Blind-baked, the remark seems to relate and refute David Cameron’s ‘broken society’ refrain. This interpretation would chime with Murphy’s declared intention to neglect the SNP during the General Election and focus on the Tories. Then again, perhaps I’m overestimating the conscientious pangs which Labour hypocrites might feel in accusing the SNP of ‘talking down Scotland’ – which is, after all, official Labour policy supported by the stratagems of misinformation and secrecy.

The Scotsman interpretation does raise – or at least suggest – one interesting point about Christians, Scottish Nationalism and the duty to submit to civil authorities. I’m not soaked in the nuanced, underwriting theology. The complexities escape me. I suspect, that we can probably distinguish (as a conscientious, theological Christian) between obeying the civil authorities as constituted while agitating for a change in the composition of those authorities. It seems a stretch of the Biblical imagination to suggest that Murphy is implying that the creed for a new, divine Unionism is inspired by Matthew’s transcription of the Christly admonition to “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” (Matthew 22:21) . Then again, there are other echoes elsewhere in the scriptures. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution”, commands 1 Peter 2:13. Or my favourite Damascene fruitcake, Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans wrote “Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.” (Romans 13:1-2) Perhaps this is a little abstruse and abstracted from the earthy politics of the thing to give pious Christians pause about Scottish Nationalism or wed them in perpetuity to British structures of civil authority. It would be an interesting dynamic to explore.


  1. What would Mr Bun the Baker say if Happy Families were to be hi-jacked by Mr Smug the Shyster and his Ilk.

  2. Is that the plot for a David Cameron inspired 'Broken Society' children's tale, Clarinda? Mr Smug the Shyster uses his larcenous wiles to dupe the gormless but small-minded Mr Bun the Baker into awarding Mr Smug his flour contract. But alas, poor trusting Bun is undone - for the Shysterly villain was hiking his profits by cutting his supply of flour with an adulterating mash of sawdust - all on a word of mouth basis, a baker's handshake and a gentleman's bond. Alas, when the regulatory body - the Bread Enforcement Agency - test Bun's flour ratio, woe is him! 3% too much tree in his loaf, the pitiful Bun will be prosecuted while the profit-pocketting Shyster has quite disappeared. Having used his winnings to complete his gender reassignment surgery in Switzerland, Mr Smug carves out a whole new, dishonest commercial life for herself as Mrs Swag the Resetter. Bun the Baker, by contrast, slips into a doughless bankruptcy, an independent businessman succumbing to the predations of a carnivorous state.

    A melancholy tale from the desk of D. Cameron, esquire, additional fiscal deficiencies beings supplied by G. Osborne esq.

  3. Crumbs - a grim tale indeed. Let us hope that Mr Whippetofski the Swiss Surgeon's scalpel is well honed.

  4. I'm sure it will work out. I gather that he sources only the best blades from a Señor Sharpa, a scalpel-grinder based in Toledo.