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On "doing God"

There was a fascinating response from former Labour minister Stephen Timms MP at the weekend to a speech made by Baroness Warsi last week criticising Labour in Government for undermining “the positive power of faith” and suggesting that the Coalition government would "do God"
Jonathan Bartley
21 September 2010

There was a fascinating response from former Labour minister Stephen Timms MP at the weekend to a speech made by Baroness Warsi last week. Speaking to Anglican bishops in Oxford, she criticised Labour in Government for undermining “the positive power of faith” and suggested the Coalition government would "do God".

She clearly touched a nerve. Stephen, who is Labour’s Vice Chair for Faith Groups, said in a statement entitled 'We did do God': “Baroness Warsi is simply wrong. Faith groups are natural allies for Labour in working for a fairer and more just world." In a statement he cited:

• It was the moral imagination and energy of the churches — in the Jubilee 2000 and Make Poverty History campaigns — which supported Labour’s successful renewal of Britain’s international aid commitments;

• Labour supported faith schools and established new ones;

•The church report “Unemployment and the Future of Work” inspired Labour’s welfare to work New Deal, and faith-based organisations contributed to it;

•Labour provided funding for faith-based youth organisations;

•Labour set up the Faiths in Action Fund;

•Labour published 'Face to Face and Side by Side', encouraging joint working with faith communities and government;

•Labour encouraged local Councils to contract with faith-based groups to provide local services;

•Labour’s Churches Update has been published regularly since 2007.”

What this does underline, is how some in the churches, and indeed the Pope, are on another planet when they complain about the banishment of religion from public life in the UK.

It is far more accurate to say that religion in relocating. It is finding a new place and position. What is also evident however, is that some groups and individuals (on many sides of the debates) don't always like the new place that religion is occupying. Many for example, hate that it is losing its unfair privileges and consider that to be 'secular' (whilst others would say it is more 'Christian'). And when it doesn't suit their particular political agenda, they often resort to sweeping generalisations about "all religion" when what they are actually referring to is their particular strand of it.

And that strand is often within a denomination. A recent survey revealed for example that many Catholics don't hold to the Church's social teachings. Those examples cited by some as evidence of religion being removed from public life, are for other religious people, precisely examples of religion playing a positive role. Take for example the legal changes for gay and bisexual equality over the last 15 years, which many Christians actively campaigned for.

When anyone makes a claim to be doing (or not doing) God, they really mean that they aren't 'doing God' in the way they think God should 'be done'. (The theological nonsense of someone 'doing God' at all, will have to wait for another time!)

Cross-posted from Ekklesia.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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