I was going to link to a bunch of background stuff that’s been popping up all week, but, meh, I don’t think I will.
He is also doing what bishops can and should do, and what politicians don’t and won’t do. He’s pointing to what David Cameron calls our “broken society” but, in contrast to political postures, is saying precisely what is broken and why it is broken. According to his analysis, British culture is founded on the values of Judaeo-Christianity, values that have been undermined by the Marxist-inspired social revolution of the Sixties and are now in danger of yielding to the successive alien credo of Islam. Make no mistake: the enemies of the state here are Marx and Mohammed.
We may take issue with his contemporary historical analysis, but for those of us who have been frustrated by hand-wringing Church leaders – for whom there is eternally one hand and then the other – who say little or nothing at all about the effects of our degenerating social morality, at least he’s saying something.
It’s as if the apparent decline in the Christian church has been accompanied by its evacuation of the public sphere, to the extent that the deterioration in British standards of life goes not only unchecked, but unnoted. For goodness sake, a suicide bomber has been dropped on Exeter.
Anyway, how are these values supposed to be inculcated? Bishop Nazir-Ali has yet to tell us, other than noting social fluctuations, such as that before the dreaded Sixties, when women had a greater duty to familial piety.
If the bishop is simply offering a version of John Major’s matrons cycling to evensong, then we should move on. Similarly, if he is simply bent on getting people back into church, to sing 19th-century hymns or sentimental little hand-waving songs, then he is the irrelevant churchman of caricature.
But this is not to suggest that Bishop Nazir-Ali’s intervention is unwelcome or unworthy. In the fine traditions of the social gospel, he has spoken out on politically unspeakable issues – and that ticks an important box in the episcopal job description. If he’s speaking uncomfortable truths to power, then he is also doing his job properly.
It’s just that if he doesn’t tell us more clearly what we have to do to mend our broken society, in the world we actually live in rather than one which the bishop wished we did, then his interventions will have little impact.
Hmmm… So, good question. What should they do?