Britain under the Coalition is a country in which the poor are being “left behind” and entire cities “cast aside” because politicians are obsessed with Middle England, the Church of England says today in a damning assessment of the state of the nation.
In a direct and unapologetically “political” intervention timed for the beginning of the General Election campaign, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, warn party leaders are selling a “lie” that economic growth is the answer to Britain’s social problems.
Questioning David Cameron’s slogan “we’re all in this together” they condemn inequality as “evil” and dismiss the assumption that the value of communities is in their economic output as a “sin”.
Britain, they argue has been “dominated” by “rampant consumerism and individualism” since the Thatcher era, while the Christian values of solidarity and selflessness have been supplanted by a new secular creed of “every person for themselves”.
And while London and the South East forge ahead, much of the rest of the country is still “trapped in apparently inevitable decline”.
The challenge to politicians and voters alike is contained in a new volume of essays to be published next week, edited by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, and including lengthy contributions from the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, the former Labour Cabinet minister Lord Adonis and others.
It sets out an excoriating critique of a country “ill at ease with itself” amid a widening “gulf” between rich and poor, between the capital and the rest of the country and between politicians and voters.
The book, entitled “On Rock or Sand?”, explicitly invites comparisons with Faith in the City, the Church of England report published 30 years ago which was attacked by Conservatives as “pure Marxist theology”.
In his conclusion, Dr Sentamu hails the 1985 report as a “courageous witness” to Christian values, and laments how the Church “lost its nerve” in the face of “savage attack” from the Thatcher government.
The book characterises the welfare state as the embodiment of the Christian command to “love thy neighbour” and warns that people should not rely on what the founding father of free-market capitalism Adam Smith called the “invisible hand” of the market to create a fair society.
It advocates a new redistribution of wealth, quoting the slogan popularised by Karl Marx: “From each, according to his resources, to each, according to his need.”
In an interview with The Telegraph, Dr Sentamu acknowledged: “That sounds extremely left wing doesn’t it?
“The truth is it is the theology of where I am coming from.
“If God has created us unique, [and] all of us have got his image and likeness, is it ever right that I should have more when somebody else has nothing?”
In his essay, he insists that far from shying away from politics, the Church is “impelled” to intervene on issues such as poverty.
“Like the Old Testament prophets, I suggest, it is essential for religion to speak truth to power,” he writes.
Let’s remind ourselves that the cutting edge / spearhead of the English Revolutionary forces of the 1630’s.40’s and 50’s were the Anabaptist Levellers. Time now surely to complete the unfinished work they had so heroically and magnificently begun ?