Hugh Baker considers some recent political scandals and offers some advice to politicians and the Church

We had plenty of scandals to keep the commentators busy last month. Both tabloid and broadsheet have found dozens of ex-prisoners whom Charles Clarke’s Home Office has not thrown out of the country, and clothed them in ‘human interest’ stories to show the consequences of his department’s perceived incompetence. The glacial Patricia Hewitt got the bird from the normally primly behaved Royal College of Nursing. And of course, there was John Prescott.

Prezzer’s just a sideshow, isn’t he? Redundant nurses and closing hospital wards, and one of WPC Beshenivsky’s alleged killers not having been deported, must have weighed more heavily on the voters’ minds in the local elections than an ageing, overweight serial groper, surely? The government would have it so. ‘Personal matter’ was their terse dismissal of it as a topic for public concern or comment. It was not so in the dying days of John Major’s government, when a concerted attack on the morals and mores of that administration were pugnaciously led by…John Prescott.

Keeping mum

The Great Unspoken Truth in our multi-cultural, multi-functional, knit-your-own-morality society is that, actually, far more people than will publicly admit to it want to follow, and would respect, leaders who display Christian personal morals. No longer upheld by the old tribal class loyalties, local and national politicians are aware of their falling status. If they want to know how to regain the nation’s interest and respect, I would point them to a lady who has recently celebrated her eightieth birthday. She, despite the myriad problems within her family, has risen to a position of unparalleled esteem, even among Australian republican leaders, by… embodying traditional Christian faith and virtue.

The final ingredient in Galatians 5.22’s Fruit of the Spirit is self-control. Scripture here tells us that the life of God within us will enable us to live ‘lives among the pagans that…they may see your good works and glorify God’ [1 Pet. 2.12]. Faced with an indifferent, scornful and sometimes downright hostile non-Christian public, Peter urges his flock to live out goodness by the power of the Spirit. The world he describes as ‘living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing’ [1 Pet. 4.3] is becoming more recognizable on Saturday nights in our cities’ streets: as long as we benefited from the legacy of Christendom, there was a common goodness to be found in the land which exercised some control over the worst of human nature – or, at least, vocally disapproved of it. The vocal disapproval is still there; it is to be found in the very tabloids which promote the behaviour of their victims – but Christian influence on behaviour and morals has, to a significant degree, gone.

The value of self-control

If it be true that self-control is the ultimate fruit of having the Holy Spirit working within you, then we can expect, when a nation tries to live without him, that even those who would want to control themselves find they are unable to. The public knows there is Something Rotten in the State of Britain but, not linking their financial and political prosperities with their Christian inheritance, do not know what.

Our present troubles present the Church with a golden sales opportunity. Our conduct, and the manner in which we are enabled by God’s power to control our lives and achieve healthy, moral objectives, could be a powerful witness to a nation which is growing so desperate for moral leadership that (apparently) a quarter of us are/were contemplating voting BNP.

I would now like to write: ‘Our church is monolithically united in its belief that the Risen Christ is able to help us all live lives which will make our non-Christian neighbours stop and think. Statistics will soon demonstrate that committed Christians are better able to hold their marriages together, more likely to help their children grow into constructive, happy adults, and have a self-evident ability to live up to the impossibly high moral standards they set themselves.’ Hello?