Ad Fontes

Politics, Theology and Christian Humanism


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The New Labour project is indefensible

I remember the feeling when Tony Blair became prime minister, Labour came to power and the long, ugly Tory rule that had existed for most of my life was ended. It was May 1997; the weather was good, the cricket was good, the politicians were good. I wasn’t a member of the Labour Party then, but I voted Labour, and was desperate to see the change that Tony Blair promised. Of course, I was naive, but back then we were willing to give Tony a lot of rope as long as he got us in.

There have been many brave and positive achievements by Labour in government since then. Scotland has its Parliament, Wales its Assembly and Northern Ireland has an almost functioning political system that looks unable to return to the violence of the past. Devolution was a bold move that has revived civil society in the smaller members countries of our Union and reconnected them with politics. Continue reading


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Serving Mammon

Today, the Chancellor, Alistair Darling, stood up at the Labour Party conference in Brighton and had a go at the bankers and their bonuses. So far, so populist. Pointing at naughty bankers, who do deserve to be brought down a peg or two, is simple legerdemain, making sure we don’t see that it is the neoliberalism incarnate in Thatcherism and Blairism that has been the driving force behind this chaos in the UK. We got our MPs expenses scandal (no progress is being made by the flimsy legislation that has come in to deal with the issue), but we haven’t been allowed to analyse the Government economic mismanagement scandal.

A long time ago, I read that money is the second most talked about issue in the gospels (after the kingdom of heaven). Christian moralising is so often hung up on sex, it has no energy left to deal with what seems to me to be Jesus’ bigger issue, Mammon. He is the personification of pelf and lucre. Stock markets have become his temples, bankers his priests, economists are his theologians. Their doctrines are ineffable and inscrutable, keeping us in the pews unaware of what they were up to. The more we ask the question ‘what is money?’, the more we realise that it is an abstract social agreement we no longer comprehend. Money actually isn’t any one thing, but a whole set of related ideas; it doesn’t exist in a coin or banknote, but they are just symbols of money. Doesn’t the whole thing sound not a little theological? Continue reading


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We all prefer socialism when camping

We have been sold a lie. We have become convinced that capitalism and free markets are the necessary trappings of post-modern liberty and democracy. Even with the serious failings on show in this recession, we are told that it is the naughty bankers and poor US people who should not have been allowed the homes for which they defaulted their loans. Communism is described as failed ideology, while capitalism is depicted as realised truth, and its evils, if mentioned at all, are all necessary. These things are lies.

In this last week, I have seen yet more pictures of US right-wingers comparing their new president to Hitler for his perceived ‘socialism’ or ‘communism’ — Obamunism! I have watched Michael Winterbottom’s flawed documentary representation of Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, which has compelled me to read the book. Then I read an excerpt from Jerry Cohen’s Why Not Socialism? in the New Statesman.

The extreme reaction of the US right to a mildly progressive president (who happens to be black, which is clearly an issue for many)  is a demonstration to me that Klein is on the right track: we have been brainwashed into believing that neoliberalism is the default position for right-thinking nations, and all alternatives are crazy ideologies that would never work in the real world. Jerry Cohen died just over a month ago, but his rambling, discursive style refreshes the mind and takes us back to first principles.

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