And that’s just it. When the Church does politics it does it obliquely. It rarely strays from what anyone could agree with or at least those who are qualified as centre-right or centre-left. In this age of Christian consumerism it would be a determined Church leader who braved the despair and wrath of their congregation and hailed the (second) coming of the first socialist leader of a mainstream political party since Harold Wilson.
So come on you leftie clerics; you’ve got what you’ve prayed for; let’s have some applause and praise and prayer in the congregation.
Ah, but not that’s how it’s done is it? Apart from a few like Giles Fraser and Kenneth Leech who died on the day Corben was elected Christian political involvement is more about nuanced commentary and compassion rather than excited political protest or celebration.
In the early 1970s I was at a minister’s meeting and was approached by one of the senior men.
“What paper do you read?” he asked. I was taken aback and told him it was the Daily Telegraph.
“What on earth for?” he responded, pretending to stagger back feigning a pain in his chest. Rather non-plussed I told him I liked the sports reports.
“Well let me tell you this” he said, putting a rather heavy hand on my shoulder and looking me in the eye, “no Baptist minister is worth his stipend unless he is a Manchester Guardian reader and is a socialist like the prophet Micah”.
I had not been the first to receive that treatment. But in those days the Manchester Guardian was not an uncommon choice of news reading for non-conformist ministers nor the political stance he commended.
He would be still disappointed in me. I now read the Independent. But I hope he would be pleased that I voted Green at the last General Election because they seem to be only political party who are addressing the needs of the world which my two-year old granddaughter when I’m no longer around.
What is more shocking is that I cannot recall another conversation like that with any other minister since. Politics, even as when it is as non-committal as what paper I read, just doesn’t seem to be an issue. And by politics I mean party politics. And that’s the only politics that matters in this country.
I was in my first pastorate in Ely, Cardiff in the 1970s. The local vicar was Bob Morgan. He was a Labour councillor and went on to be the Chair of South Glamorgan County Council. He came to my welcome service and in his speech told me two things. The first was that now I would really start discovering what I believed about God and second, if I did not demonstrate to the people of the estate that God was concerned about the state of their guttering and paths then they would take no interest at all in my God. It raised a few laughs but he was deadly serious.
I notice that the Christian Socialist Movement – which has renamed itself ‘Christians on the Left’ – has not posted any comment on Corbyn’s achievement that I can see. I wonder why.
And maybe that’s it – one person’s socialist is another’s Corbynista – so let’s keep real politics out of Christian political chat – it would be too controversial.