A reader sends this link to a new UK poll finding that Christians there are more likely to be on the political left than the right. I dunno, Niall, what do you think? If true, that is certainly the opposite of the American experience.
If it’s really true, that helps me to understand the strange politics, ecclesial and cultural, behind the campaign, such as it is, of Archbishop John Sentamu of York to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury. From the Guardian:
He has ambition, courage, and a gift for theatre. He works hard. He says unpopular things often, and popular things as often as he can. But it is absurd to pretend that his status as an outsider, who came here as an asylum seeker, is not central to his presentation of himself.
Imagine if David Cameron were to write in the Sun:
“Last year I stood in York city centre with over a hundred other people singing patriotic songs like Land of Hope and Glory, I Vow To Thee My Country and Rule Britannia, while York Minster’s carillon bells played along. It was absolutely fantastic, and we also raised a bit of money for Help for Heroes.
“We shouldn’t be shy about saying how great our country is. We should be proud. England is known the world over for her universal language, her sense of fair play and decency, the virtue of hope and her sense of hospitality.”When Sentamu does so (and this was a quote from his latest column) the resonances are entirely different. No other bishop could possibly say those things. If any other bishop did, he would not be considered for Canterbury. For some conservatives this is a clinching argument for Sentamu’s candidacy. An anti-racist national pride may be exactly what the Church of England, indeed the country of England, needs to learn to express.
In some ways, he’s God’s gift to the Daily Mail: a black asylum seeker who doesn’t find English patriotism shameful or vulgar and who regards gay marriage as akin to something imposed by dictatorships. At the same time, his consistent support for Guardian-ish causes such as the humane treatment of asylum seekers, the spread of fair trade products, and action to end youth unemployment means that he can’t be written off as a creature of power. He has been poor. He has worked among poor people. He really cares about injustice.
Again, the cultural politics of this are fascinating. Sentamu apparently doesn’t fit easily into either the right or the left of England’s secular political spectrum. It is quite something to me, as an American, to find that ordinary patriotism (as distinct from nationalism) is considered disqualifyingly vulgar. (Indeed, I once spoke to a British Tory party activist who fretted that the Tories needed to find a way to speak confidently and sincerely about British patriotism, else they were going to lose more votes to the far-right BNP. Anyway, it is dismaying to read, however, that Sentamu supporters are already planting the meme that if he is not elected to Canterbury, this will have been a racist act. That is ugly. The truth more likely is that if Sentamu fails to win Canterbury, it will not be because he is black, but because he is too forthrightly Christian — and, it would seem, he loves his adopted country too much for its establishment elites. Like I said, fascinating.