This Months Total Politics
One of the themes throughout the book is the importance of your faith, which I think a lot of people would have been slightly surprised by. You recently said that Christians were being marginalised in the UK, what do you really mean by that?
Well so I’m told.
No, I don’t think so. What I learnt when I was in the Young Christian Socialists in my teenage years as a Christian, was that it’s about what you do. The church needs to be there when people need it. It needs to be there among the homeless. It needs to be there among the people who are finding things tough at the moment, and it is. That’s what I believe and I said that if they don’t do that then you become marginalised. I also said that you have to engage with women, particularly at a time now when society is much more about groping towards equality between men and women.
Some say that for 2,000 years you men have had control, so now we’re going to spend 2,000 years controlling you. That’s not what it’s about. It’s actually about men and women with equal respect for each other doing things better together. The church needs to think about that.
I guess what I meant was I think a lot of Christians feel that, I mean bearing in mind that Britain is in effect a Christian country, that other religions are getting priority from government in a way. It’s understandable that government has to engage with Muslims but we are actually a Christian country. Do you agree that there’s that sort of feeling out there?
It’s not something that I am conscious of myself, but I think it’s important that we reach out, not just among Christians themselves but also between religions because I think what people in faith share is much more important than what divides us. I don’t think that means we should agree on everything, because obviously we don’t agree on everything, but it’s actually more important to highlight what we agree on than what we disagree on.
How much of a role should religion play in politics? In America it plays a huge role and here I think it is beginning to play a bigger role, but I’m not sure that that’s a very good thing.
Personally, I am a huge believer in the secular state and I think it’s really important that the state is a place where everyone comes as equals and there is no sort favoured, whether its class, whether its sex or whether its indeed religion. Because of that the common meeting place, which is the state, has to be secular but to pretend that people ‘don’t do God’... When I come into the secular space I come in with all the baggage I bring with me and that includes my beliefs, as it does with everybody else, because if you are a believer then these things matter to you.