|Faith in Politics? - lecture by Gordon Brown
|Sunday, February 20, 2011 11:25 pm.
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|The Archbishop of Canterbury hosted a lecture given by the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP entitled 'Faith and Politics?', asking whether faith should be left at the entrance to the House of Commons Chamber. In his lecture the former Prime Minister looked at the role of faith in politics, rejecting both a theocratic approach to politics as well as the liberal secularism that is put forward as its alternative.
Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP
In place of these, Mr Brown called for a “deliberative democratic politics, one in which the ethical basis of decisions is at its forefront, and in which we debate not only the ‘how’ of policy but also the ‘why’" and a faith politics that is shaped by "a framework which affirms the need for a debate on values but asserts the three responsibilities men and women of faith accept in politics – to seek common ground, to use our God-given right to reason, and to be prepared to accept the outcomes".
The full text of the lecture, given last Wednesday, can be found below:
Let me start by thanking the Archbishop of Canterbury, whose leadership has inspired not just this Lambeth lecture series but much of what I say tonight. And let me thank all of you –distinguished friends from worlds of faith, business, charitable and public life – for the dedicated public service I know you give, and for affording me the chance to share my thoughts with you this evening.
My arguments tonight are the result of several months of reflection since May. Or should I say… enforced reflection…
But my arguments tonight are also the latest chapter in what has been a long conversation between us, because many of you here attended the regular events for faith groups and NGOs that I convened throughout my years at the Treasury and many of us are veterans together of those long-shared endeavours to secure for the poorest of the world debt cancellation and increased aid and fairer trade.
So when we talk about faith in politics let me say first of all that you should be proud that it was Churches and faith groups that created the momentum –and the mass membership, the mass crowds - for the Jubilee Debt Campaign and for Make Poverty History, answering in a modern way the injunction of Isaiah that we should ‘loose the chains of injustice and let the oppressed go free’.
And you should be prouder still that your efforts changed the world – and that because of your voice there are men, women and children whose names you will never know and whose faces you will never see but who are alive today because of what you did.Every day through both your work in the field and the generosity of your congregations you show by both example and inspiration the good that can result when people of moral purpose work together for shared objectives.
And yet let me start with a puzzle: by asking why it seems so uncontroversial, so incontestable, even natural, for members of churches and faith groups as individuals, and indeed for churches and faith groups as institutions, to involve themselves in a great moral movement for political change - which suggests a major role for faith in politics - and why, in spite of that, the conventional orthodoxy today is of a public square, an arena for making political decisions, where religious belief is, at best, at arms-length and which, with some notable exceptions, has become the embodiment of what some people call liberal secularism.
This liberal secularism reflects a century-long change in the way a religious country has come to view faith institutions and politics and how they relate to each other. Some of you will know the story about Stanley Baldwin who, when redrafting his speeches by hand, used to regularly inscribe on the margins of the page the phrase ‘refer to AG’. And so conscientious civil servants duly sought the advice of the Attorney General about the legal propriety of the relevant language – until, after months of the Attorney General replying that he had nothing to add, the same civil servants realised that this was Baldwin leaving a note for himself that, as he gave the speech, he should, with great regularity, invoke as inspiration and support for his argument A.G. … Almighty God.
The ease with which a politician could invoke the divine in pursuit of his policies in the 1930s is a reflection of the uncontested religiosity of the day. But even at that time and before it, plenty of people thought religion should always be kept separate from politics. Just think of Alexander Hamilton’s response when he was taken by surprise on the concluding day of the Philadelphia Independence Convention by Benjamin Franklin’s call for a prayer to God to intervene in support of their historic deliberations. Hamilton opposed the motion – saying – Americans should always resist intervention by any foreign power.
So this argument about the right relationship between faith and politics has been running for a long time – and I knew about it from an early age since my father was a Minister. Because he recognised that there were men and women of different party political convictions in his congregation, he was careful to tell me about the risks of preaching his own political viewpoint and the practical benefits of showing respect for the wisdom of everyone else’s. A colleague of his, he told me, had another way out. The Sunday after an election in which his party won he could not help himself: he would announce the first hymn as ‘Now Thank We All Our God’. If the opposing party won, he would read out the hymn 'Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, Forgive Our Foolish Ways'. If the third party fared well it would be 'God Moves in a Mysterious Way, His Wonders to Perform'.
Today I want to discuss with you three propositions about the role of faith in politics. The first proposition is relevant this week because of events in North Africa and it is that we cannot talk responsibly about faith in politics unless we reject theocratic approaches to politics. The claim by any one religious group that it has a monopoly on wisdom and that its religious authority should supplant the decision making structures of the state is at one end of the spectrum, but there are more subtle forms of theocracy too.
For example in the Britain and western world of today the risk is not that one faith group might mount a coup; more that politicians might claim divine authorisation of their decisions; use politics to win what are essentially intra or inter-faith arguments; imply moral superiority or circumvent rational deliberation as a means of resolving conflict. These versions of theocracy are more nuanced and certainly more peaceful than the versions practiced in the past and elsewhere but they should still, in my view, be strongly resisted – because they interfere with the freedom of conscience that is the basis of our humanity.
My second proposition is that, while it is right to reject a theocratic approach to politics, we should also reject the standard version of liberal secularism - and for exactly the same reason. Because, just as theocracy undermines freedom of conscience, so too does liberal secularism, because it unfairly expects people of faith to leave their conscience at the entrance to the public square. I believe the Archbishop got it right when in a much acclaimed speech in Rome he drew the important distinction between programmatic secularism and procedural secularism. The faithful, he said, should resist the many attempts to exclude us from public debate, but should support procedures which create fair rules for that debate – rules which allow people of all faiths and none to be heard.
But if I may be permitted to do so, Archbishop, I would like to draw on what I have learned as a politician and develop the argument further. And this is my third proposition this evening – that, subject to fair rules of engagement, we should proactively argue for deep and wide involvement of men and women of faith in public life – and not just because we have a right to participate, but because we have a contribution to make to the common good when we do. I believe that the alternative to the intolerant theocracy I have rejected should not be the intolerant secularism I have been describing but is, instead, a faith politics which is recognised as part of a deliberative democratic politics, one in which the ethical basis of decisions is at its forefront, and in which we debate not only the ‘how’ of policy but also the ‘why’.
I believe this country is ready for such a deliberative and democratic politics, but we will not achieve it - and it will not be widely understood - unless we answer the charges laid by both the theocrats and the secularists. I believe we can do that best by advancing a framework for faith politics that gives priority to values but contains the duty to seek common ground, the duty to use our God-given talent for reason and the duty to accept the outcome of the deliberative process.
But I want to begin not with abstract theorising, but with a personal story about an experience which first challenged and then affirmed my faith.
Our first child, our only daughter, was born prematurely three days after Christmas in 2001.Over the next ten days when my wife and I held her tiny hand or held her close to us, the heartbeat monitor registered a quickening heart-beat. She knew that people who loved her were there: that she was surrounded by love.
But in an incubator in intensive care, she did not grow or flourish. Within a few days we had sensed ourselves what we were subsequently told by doctors: that she was too fragile, too frail to survive.
On the last Sunday night, knowing she was likely to die that night or the next day, we asked our Minister if she would come to the hospital after her evening church service to baptize Jennifer. As I held her in my arms - her beautiful face unaffected, untouched by the scale of the tragedy that had befallen her - Sarah and I took our vows as parents to do everything to ‘bring her up in the nurture and the admonition of the Lord’.
The baptism was not, for us, just a comfort and not just a ritual: it was a recognition that every single life, even the shortest life, has a purpose and that every single person is irreplaceable.
I cannot ever expect to fully understand the purpose, but the Jennifer Brown Trust and the Jennifer Brown Research Laboratory has inspired advances in medical research that will prevent avoidable deaths in this country and in poorer countries, reminding me that what matters is not prizes or wealth or status a person accumulates but the contribution - that cannot be measured in the days or months or years - a life can make.
Jennifer’s short life taught me the intrinsic worth, the preciousness, of every single individual, and so my faith is the faith of my father and his father, rooted in the very simple idea that each and every individual is born endowed with their own soul, their own conscience, their own purpose to fulfill. And this belief matters for the points I want to make tonight: that we are each of us unique individuals and that our conscience cannot and must not be trampled upon; that our life’s journey cannot be reduced to purely our material needs or interests; and that if you are endowed with a God-given talent you have not only the right but the obligation to use it.
My first proposition about faith in politics is that all theocratic forms of government should be rejected and are illegitimate because they leave no room for the uniqueness of every single individual or the exercise of their individual conscience and indeed they deny people the chance to be at their most fully human. The world fears a theocratic turn of events in Egypt tomorrow of the kind we see in Iran today and have seen in Afghanistan and Somalia yesterday.
But we also know here in the West that what may begin as a benign attempt by a politician to explain their religious motivation too often ends with the spectacle of them hinting that God has sanctioned or ordained a course of action, whether in foreign affairs- perhaps hinting at a justification for weapons or a war-or in domestic affairs - perhaps justifying intrusive laws in deeply personal matters best resolved in the privacy of conscience and family.
To claim or imply divine sanction for a political cause is wrong not just because it is politically unacceptable: it is wrong to me because it is religiously unacceptable too. Because surely part of our faith is the knowledge that the mind of God is unknowable? I believe Abraham Lincoln got nearest to the right balance between his assertion of faith in God and the need for humility before God in his second inaugural address. In just 703 words Lincoln invoked God on 14 occasions and affirmed his belief that slavery was the greatest of moral wrongs. But speaking at the end of the most vicious of civil wars, he was humble enough to say that ‘both sides read the same bible and pray to the same God and each invokes his aid against the other, so the prayers of both cannot be answered and that of neither has been answered fully, because the almighty has his own purposes’.
In other words: we cannot claim that God is on our side: the most we can do is hope that we are on God’s side. So just as we are, I believe, under an obligation not to claim God’s endorsement for political battles, so too are we also under an obligation not to claim political endorsement in religious battles. The separation of church and state in the US 4constitution arises for exactly that reason: the founding fathers feared a state controlled by a sect. They weren’t seeking freedom from religion, but freedom of religion. They wanted to separate ecclesiastical politics from state politics – not to separate faith from the public square.
I think that while we disagree with the Americans about an established church, we agree that there should be no religious tests applied to political office.But before we become too complacent about Britain’s success in removing anti-Jewish, anti-Catholic and other religious tests and discriminations, let us remember that there is still a denominational test applied to those in line to be King or Queen. In office I saw the case for reforming the Act of Settlement, but recognised that the consent of members of the Commonwealth is required. I know this is a source of respectful and sincere disagreement but I believe the outset of a new monarchy will be the right time to agree any change.
But there is, of course, a third genuine worry that people have about involving faith in politics; the dangers of an attitude of moral superiority, born of a ‘holier than thou’ stance or conviction. There are times most of all in America when politics has become a public bidding war for which candidate is most fervent in their religiosity. This needs not just a political but a theological rebuttal, because the suggestion that somebody is a more moral person simply by virtue of having faith or having a particular faith is, I believe, a perversion of the religious idea itself. Taking Christianity as the example – faith doesn’t mean that you are without sin, it means recognising you are loved in spite of your sin. Moreover this interpretation of faith – as a lived consciousness of your failings – should remind us of that simple biblical injunction, we should judge not, lest we be judged and found wanting.
The fourth and final reason for believing that we should be wary of a theocratic politics is that having faith does not negate the need for reason – in fact I think it places us under even greater obligations to use the deliberative powers which, unique amongst his creation, God gave to humankind. In a society where all citizens have an equal right to have their say, the only route to peaceful compromise is one where arbitration between competing ideas arises from a process of public deliberation and where decisions are made by reference not to the sectional interest at stake but to universal principles. Those who imply there is no valuable argument other than religious revelation to justify their case force people to make an unjustifiable and indeed false choice between religion and reason.So to sum up the risks of a theocratic politics; we are right to insist that politicians do not invoke divine authority for a partisan decision. We are right to insist they do not subvert civic spaces to win religious battles. We are right to reject claims of moral superiority from religious politicians. And we are right to insist that public policy decisions made by public bodies must be justified by public reason. And we are right to do all of these things not simply because it makes for healthy politics, but because they are in line with religious teaching too. Our religion not only allows us to resist theocracy but, more importantly, compels us to do so.
My second proposition is that the alternative to theocracy does not need to be and must not be a sterile version of liberal secularism but a rich faith politics.
The early but post-Christian Rawls put the case for liberal secularism: that in making public decisions we should never draw upon ‘our own comprehensive world view’ and, while conceding the influence of our background culture on our public views, we should accept only those reasons that are part of an overlapping consensus of ‘what reasonable people could be reasonably expected to endorse’. But while Rawls is certainly right about the danger of religious sects seizing control of the state, is Lord Harries, whose eloquent writings are also entitled ‘Faith in Politics’, not also right to say that the neutral public square can quickly become an empty public square stripped of anyone’s values when surely our aim is the fair consideration of everyone’s values?
To expect us to leave our religious beliefs at the door of the House of Commons Chamber or of No. 10, and thus bring a diminished version of ourselves to the public square is an ‘ask’ which should be as intolerable to the true liberal as it is to the true believer. If the values that matters most are spoken least and you become what the great philosopher Michael Sandel calls ‘the unencumbered self’, then you bring less than your truest, your fullest, your most human self into the space you share with other human beings.
Until half a Century ago this case against liberal secularism would have been endorsed by a receptive public.
But in just about half a generation, certainly within less than 50 years, Britain, ----as a new survey of religious attitudes reported at Christmas--- has moved from the old certainties of a deep and explicit religious culture which shaped, at least implicitly, our political decisions and the making of our laws.
Now, for the first time, the majority of people report that they do not believe in the Christian faith or in any faith and just 5% attend a place of worship, challenging the inheritance of generations: our underlying religious culture which was explicit –with its influence implicit in our politics and the making of our laws.If this implicit religious underpinning of our politics was to move from being unspoken today to being invisible tomorrow then we would indeed have an empty public square, not just because of the ideology of liberal secularism but because of the indifference of a majority of the British people.
In recent years an uneasy settlement has emerged in our politics which justifies proactive religious views but only in a narrow area: what we have called ‘the conscience issues’ euthanasia, abortion, capital punishment and embryology. On these questions but only on these questions we have arrived at a typically British compromise, where members of parliament’s votes are between them and their maker and not between them and their whip.
But I think that we all know that, while these matters of conscience may be the most emotive of issues, the demarcation is completely artificial. Because how can hanging be deemed a conscience issue but not torture or extraordinary rendition? Or abortion deemed a conscience issue because it is about the beginning of life, but not a cancer guarantee, for early detection, and quick treatment, when it is about preventing the needless loss of life?
Or euthanasia which people argue about to relieve the suffering of the old, but not pensioner poverty neglect and squalor which might cause the suffering of the old. This is what leads my friend Jim Wallis to say that ‘budgets are moral documents’.
Of course all these issues are conscience issues and so in my speeches as Prime Minister I did talk about the morality needed by markets, the virtues required in a good society, the benefits of fellowship in local communities.
How often did I want to go further, draw on my religious teaching and say that instead of the pursuit of instant gratification, individual satisfaction and consumer sovereignty, it is justice, responsibility, and fairness that should be the test of good policy.
When talking of excess rewards for bankers –rewards they paid themselves at the cost of the stability of their banks, how often did I want to talk about the money changers and the temple.
And to say to bankers: your justification for these bonuses is that ‘God helps those who help themselves’.
You won’t admit it but you’re pursuing policy of ‘God helps those whom he has already helped’ when you should be saying ‘my motto is ‘God helps those in need of help –the least of these my brethren’.
And yet every time I sat down to write a speech, whether on markets or the environment, or the idea of a just war, which included a section on the relevance of my faith to my politics, there I was – son of the manse, baptised into the church, raised in the church, married in the church and now raising my own children in the church –but not talking about the church, because no one speech then could deal with all the necessary caveats, about not claiming moral superiority, not claiming God on my side not seeking to circumvent the need for rational deliberation.
If my budgets had said raising Child Benefit and Family Tax Credits was to address the unchristian impoverishment of the children of single parents and, against all God’s teaching, their unfair demonization, the headlines would probably have been – ‘Brown claims that God backs Labour’s budget’.
Or if I had made the caveat that it is wrong for my party to co-opt or claim God for partisan purposes, they’d have had fun with ‘Brown admits God’s probably a Tory’.More likely we’d have seen it go the opposite way ‘PM rams Calvinism down England’s throat’ or - who am I kidding? - more likely it would have been ‘glum Gordon rams scotch Calvinism down England’s throat’.
And of course if it had been said at any time in the last 2 years that politics was for me a moral enterprise born out of faith I would have been laughed out of court.
So I am the first to recognise that, until we spend time and energy clearing away the prejudices that arise given the real risks of a theocratic politics subverting a faith politics, we cannot move to a productive argument about faith in politics.
Let me explain this through one further story. From 1997, I did offer faith groups an open door to the Treasury and we worked very productively on all issues concerning the very poorest in the world. We also had some success too in working together on child poverty and I was pleased that many faith based institutions attended the launch of and applied to the Children’s Fund I launched in 2005. Then when I became PM in 2007, I sought a debate to elicit how much our sense of Britishness arose not from ethnicity, nor simply from the existence of ancient institutions but - as I thought - from values shared across and with their origins in the major faiths of Britain, values of responsibility fairness and the dignity of the individual.
All these experiences convinced me that we needed to have a forum where the voices of faith could be heard. So I began private talks with faith leaders and proposed something akin to a council of the faiths which would not include politicians but which I wanted to listen to and learn from, and which would bring together representatives from all the faith groups to discuss great ethical questions facing the country. In private discussions we got so far as considering the great ecumenical city of Liverpool as the ideal venue for the inaugural conversation.
And then when the financial crisis came, I believed that the issues it raised about the morality underpinning markets, were exactly the sort of questions such a forum should be addressing. And so I took the eloquent, wise advice of the Chief Rabbi, and used a speech at St Paul’s Cathedral on the eve of the G20 in April 2009 to talk about the ethics that should underpin our national economy, about the purposes of wealth, about the legitimacy of rewards, and to invite faith leaders to join in a national debate on new approaches.
This public overture as well as private conversations ended in failure. They failed – and I blame no one for this – for exactly the same reason: that no one speech, no one initiative no one forum could itself remove the undergrowth of prejudice and misunderstanding about a slide into theocracy.
But I still believe that if we are patient and robust - and this is my third argument - we can develop a strong faith politics which is part of an open and teeming public square, part of a deliberative politics that allows each citizen to bring the richest account of themselves to the public square and thus breaking the hold of those sterile versions of secular liberalism.
And the special contribution that faith makes to politics is that it offers a way – by no means the only way, but one way – for people to come together to deliberate as neither producer nor consumer, neither leader nor led, but simply as humans, in fellowship with one another, gazing upon the eternal with awe.
Indeed it is that special potential in faith – the ability it has to move people to think about how they contribute and belong as well as how they earn and own – that has caused great philosophers like Habermas to conclude, after a lifetime putting forward the most rational and eloquent of arguments for secular liberalism, that politics stripped of faith is quite unable to inspire people to bridge the gap between the world we have and the world we can build. Talking of the ‘motivational weakness of liberal states’ he argues that they are ‘unable to inspire virtuous acts’ and suggests that ‘among the modern societies only those that are able to introduce into the secular domain the essential contents of their religious traditions which point beyond the merely human realms will be able to rescue the substance of the human’.
In his book ‘The Secular Age’ Charles Taylor reaches equally forward looking conclusions that ‘the sphere of public and political negotiation flourishes only in the context of larger commitments and visions, and that if this is forgotten or repressed by a supposedly neutral ideology of the public sphere, immense damage is done to the moral energy of a liberal society.’
I would put this even more positively: that a society, in which a plurality of religious and ethical voices offer counsel when we are at risk of losing our way, creates a politics of moral energy, it transcends an old politics defined just by managerial or technocratic competence or public relations gimmickry: a politics that is more than just about the art of the possible but about making the desirable possible.
But just as liberal secularists came up with a framework to protect society from theocracy, so we too have to develop a framework that clearly distinguishes faith politics from both the theocracy and liberal secularism I have described – a framework which affirms the need for a debate on values but asserts the three responsibilities men and women of faith accept in politics – to seek common ground, to use our God-given right to reason, and to be prepared to accept the outcomes.
So, first, we should never apologise for putting ethics, the fundamental issues of how we behave to other people, at the centre of the public square, but we cannot enter the public square free of a duty to seek common ground.
Indeed when Christians say: ‘do to others what you would have them do to you’; when Muslims say: ‘no one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself’; when Jews say ‘what is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man’; when Hindus say ‘this is the sum of duty do naught unto other which would cause pain if done to you’; when Sikhs say ‘treat others as you would be treated yourself’; when Buddhists say ‘hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful’; there is a common ground of religious belief that that we not only cooperate out of need but that there is a human need to cooperate. So I suspect that, if the faiths came together to write a new ethical code for our shared global society, we would come down in favour of underpinning our society and politics by a version of the golden rule that set standards and rules for what we should do both as responsible individuals and as members of a community.
But the public square is a shared space; populated by those of other faiths, and millions of people of no faith. So civil law is not the place to pursue doctrinal debates between faiths or inside them. I admire Deitrich Bonheoffer not least for calling for ‘a non-religious language for the gospel not because the distinctive claims of the gospel must be muted and ultimately lost in the face of public secularism, but because the gospel makes so large a claim that it cannot be reduced to a 'tribal' speech, understood only by an inner circle.’
If first we seek the common ground, then the second duty of faith politics is to use the very God-given ability that marks us out from other species: the ability to reflect, reason, and reassess. Too often those who argue from public reason are pitted against those who argue from revelation. In fact religion and reason should both welcome a politics of robust democratic contestation between and among different worldviews.The free will we have been given suggests debate and deliberation are not simply an act of politics, but an act of worship.
Deliberation and democratic contestation of arguments - the pluralism of politics - does not require each of us to abandon our values, only that we be prepared to subject them to scrutiny, and debate not just conclusions but assumptions.
And the third duty is to recognise that a world where everyone has free will needs each of us to cooperate, compromise and choose. So even if it is our faith that the moral laws of the kingdom of God are eternal, we have to recognise that the civil laws of the kingdom of man must be made, imperfectly, in the here and now. We can call the outcome, as one writer did, ‘a political equilibrium that is always for the time being’ - not for all time. So if liberal secularists are wrong to want to keep religious values out of politics they are right to say that if we enter the public square we have to be prepared to live with the results. If we have a right to have our voices heard in public decision-making, we do not have a corresponding right to act outside the democratic consensus once the argument is over.
It is only in this way, and by accepting these three duties, that I believe we can build a faith politics which is both true to our religious impulses and compatible with the world in which we live.You will rightly ask ‘what does all this mean in practice? What would a faith politics, part of a deliberative politics, really look like?’And so let me end with a few examples can we have a discussion about the many and complex consequences for human fertility of all the advances that have been made in embryology – one that recognises the complexities involved and goes far deeper than the circumstances – debate between two deeply entrenched and diametrically opposed points of view. Could we not, by a process of deliberation, do more to recognise the different religious traditions that have different views of the moral status of the embryo and its stages of development and recognise too that scientists want and need – in order to support and guide them in their work for our broader society – a much more broadly based public debate about acceptable ethical standards?
And at the other end of life, in considering another conscience issue, that of euthanasia or assisted dying, can we in the public square transcend two encamped and embattled positions: that a God-given life must not be taken away and that a good life means the avoidance of unnecessary pain even if that means what is emotively called ‘death on demand’: once again a predominantly religious view fighting a predominantly humanist view. Can we, through debate, find whether the dignity we value, in this case the avoidance of undignified suffering, can be upheld in a natural death by the quality of end of life care, and debate whether that dignity is indeed undermined if, when the state sanctions one citizen’s power to end the life of another, sick people are at risk of being put under unacceptable pressure.
In other words, each of us with an assumption of good motives in each of the other, and a genuine curiosity about their perspective: and could not our politicians who have to make the final decision on the laws of the land thus benefit from a deeper conversation about the purpose of policy and not simply the management of it?
And what about issues that are not traditionally put in the conscience basket but are, to my mind, great tests of conscience? Can we really have a discussion about the economy today without, as a starting point, affirming that each person has a talent and it is their right and duty to work – a moral imperative that is at the centre of the parable of the talents, the sermon on the mount, prominent sections of the Torah and the Koran and other religious teachings - but is strangely absent from our discussion of economic objectives even as the world now faces an epidemic, a long divisive decade, of unacceptably high youth unemployment?
And are we seriously now being asked to reach new policy conclusions about the future of banks and finance by abandoning any discussion of the ethical dimension - and without the benefit of different religious perspectives as part of a public debate about the purpose of wealth, the responsibilities of business, and the justifications for rewards?
Both religious belief and rational argument tell me that it’s not anti-wealth to say wealth must do more than enrich the wealthy, not anti-business to say that prosperity must have a purpose beyond the business of business, and not anti-aspiration to say that when the strong help the weak it makes us all stronger.
And so let me end as I began: if we can elevate religious values to the heart of the debate about global development and our global society, can we continue to consign religious values to only the fringes of the debate about the future of our national economies and societies?
My religion and reason tell me that we cannot for long be truly happy in any place when we see opportunities denied in every place; we cannot feel fully secure at any time when we know millions are feeling insecure just about all the time; and we cannot be wholly comfortable anywhere when the left out millions are found everywhere.
So I conclude; yes, for people of faith there is the risk of the sin of commission. So we must be humble enough to guard against theocratic error when faith enters the public square. But yes too, there is a greater risk, the sin of omission and we must never again allow the voices of faith to feel excluded from their rightful role. So let the trumpet sound. The voices of faith must and will be heard.
Source: Archbishop of Canterbury