David Cameron has a curious relationship to organized religion. At least, I'm curious about it. For example, if Garibaldi is his political hero, then is Cameron sympathetic to anti-clericalism, and, if so, how would that affect his premiership?
Yesterday, it was reported that Cameron has caused great offence to the Cardinal Archbishop of St Andrews and Edinburgh.
David Cameron has been accused of insulting the head of the Catholic Church in Scotland during a courtesy visit to London.
Cardinal Keith O'Brien, whose staff began to organise his itinerary four months ago, returned to Scotland yesterday fuming at the Tory leader's refusal to meet him.
Sources close to the cardinal made no secret of their anger at what they described as a "real discourtesy" to one of the two most senior figures in the Catholic Church in the UK...
Need I stress that Cardinal O'Brien is quite an important man. Snubbing him is not far removed from insulting the Pope; it's all very Garibaldiesque but questionable behaviour from a possible future prime minister.
There's not much information about Cameron's religious views that I can find, presumably because the question isn't often posed. But last November he was asked about God on BBC's Newsnight.
Paxman: And one final question. Do you take guidance from God?
Cameron: Well, I believe in God, um, and I try to go to church, um, more than Christmas and Easter but perhaps not as much as I should. But I, I don't feel any 'direct line'.
So, he's a typical Anglican, attending church as infrequently as a Tory MP in Oxon can get away with. Trust me, he's saying, I don't take it as seriously as Bush and Blair.
We know his views on Islam because he gave a speech last August to the Foreign Policy Centre. He dun like it. On Torah Judaism his thoughts are not known, but he's a friend of the Zionists, as he recently spoke at the Board of Deputies of British Jews. As Tory leader, I can't find a reference to him visiting any mosques or temples, although he probably has(?). But he did visit, in February this year, a Christianity-linked organization in Witney, his constituency. It could be that constituency business made the trip unavoidable. Or perhaps it was a deliberate PR move. He took John Lloyd, of the FT, with him, which suggests the latter. (I don't have an FT subscription, but Tory Diary reported on aspects of Lloyd's subsequent article.)
The organization Cameron visited was Open Doors with Brother Andrew (UK), the British section of the worldwide body set up to support the evangelical mission of a Dutch pastor, Brother Andrew [wikipedia], aka 'God's Smuggler'. Some mystery and controversy surround this man and his work. Bro. Andrew helped undermine the Soviet empire, he's been working on China, and now he's focused on Islamic states - so his political agenda fits well with Bro. Dave's speech on Islam last year, in which he compared Islamists to Nazis and Communists.
A profile of Bro. Andrew, titled 'Secret Agent Man', appeared in Charisma magazine.
Today, Brother Andrew is eyeing the more formidable giant of Islam, which he considers more dangerous because of its 1,400-year history.
"As far back as 1978 I was telling people that Islam will soon be a much greater threat than communism ever was," he says. "Russia never had more than 6 percent of its population following communism. Meanwhile Islam has its own book and far more dedicated followers."
That does not mean he is cowering in the face of the Islamic Goliath. Indeed, Brother Andrew has given the rest of his life to challenge it. While Open Doors works in many parts of the world, Brother Andrew conducts almost all his efforts in Islamic nations...
And I was struck by this bit:
Just one week before Charisma's interview, three of his friends were murdered in Afghanistan. Dealing with such tragedy is the most difficult part of his job. Says Brother Andrew:
"Liberal Christians tell me I should just leave [Muslims] alone, but I know we must go to them. People say to me, 'Isn't it cruel to win converts, and then see them killed?' I tell the liberals that it is better that these [converts from Islam] are now with Jesus in heaven than for them to be in hell."
Better to be a dead Christian than to live as a Muslim in a Muslim society, worshipping the One God. A Christian could reasonably oppose what Bro. Andrew is doing, without being a 'liberal'. One could even question how authentic is the Christianity Bro. Andrew cloaks himself in. His mission appears more to be to liberalize and westernize illiberal and non-western societies, using religion as a weapon and converts as ammunition. Brother Andrew's agenda has always suited US foreign policy, and I've little doubt he is linked to the CIA or some such agency (as this site alleges). Bro. Andrew has his 150-page KGB file, of which he is proud. I'd bet there are many intelligence files worldwide, from many agencies, on this man and his mission.
So Cameron's record on Christianity is patchy. He claims to be an untheologically committed Anglican; he's just spectacularly insulted the leader of Scotland's Roman Catholics; and he's identified himself with a political missionary whose approach to Islam is distinctly un-Christian. Curious.