Apparently David was just tucking into a late night kebab with his chums in Toxteth, or wherever he lives, and an American friend said “The British are a nation of hysterics masquerading as stoics.” I wish I had said that, Oscar. A major aphorism is born, and I salute it.
Whatever David’s postcode, I think his point is very helpful and worth pondering. To what extent is this report about middle class entitlement? Lots of members of the Church of England are middle class and some of them feel undervalued. Bears-in-the-wood fans will notice that the word “middle class” is still enough, in itself, to curl the lip of Hampstead Man with scorn and contempt.
Most public comments on David’s column say sensible things, especially when you ignore the 85% that are obviously generated by machine for every newspaper comment box about religion (“God is (or is not) a nasty imaginary sky fairy” etc. etc). Yes, we are all middle class now; even David. But his middle class whining is OK, of course. It’s his column, after all, so he’s entitled. Yes, lots of religious people are, in fact, anything but middle class. Yes, middle class people pay the taxes that fund this lot. I buy all that. I think, however, David’s isolated a small but helpful element in this matter, about which it’s worth trying to be self aware. The key critical question is always “for whose benefit?” It’s good to be reminded of that and bear it in mind.
That said, when you actually read this report, it is not in fact trying to secure extra seats in the house of Lords, or even funding. Its point applies to all mainline religious bodies equally, indeed everybody, although its particular evidence base was about the Church of England. It calls for two simple things:
- Government to have more rigorous and comprehensive information about what goes on at street level to inform its oversight of social care.
- Church to be more strategically and tactically aware and self-aware about its work for the common good.