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October 1, 2004 7:32 PM   Subscribe

A Tale Of Two Believers: Blair hides his church attendance - because he may be a secret Catholic; Bush promotes Faith Based Initiatives, yet doesn't seem to go to church at all. Does your leader have a secret spititual life?
posted by dash_slot- (24 comments total)

 
Like the maharaja and his cabinet ministers in Temple of Doom, secretly worshipping Kali underground!
posted by scarabic at 7:36 PM on October 1, 2004


Faith Without Works
posted by homunculus at 7:47 PM on October 1, 2004


Does your leader have a secret spititual life?

Who? Haughey?
posted by namespan at 8:24 PM on October 1, 2004


Reagan was the same way--barely or never went to church, yet was a big talker when it came to God and the Bible.
posted by amberglow at 8:27 PM on October 1, 2004


Duh. Just now figuring out he uses religion to manipulate people? It was central to his power grab in the first place. Religious folk are groups you can network with and do business with. As president, they're a massive force that is easy to manipulate to your advantage. Send postcards out with lies that Democrats will ban the Bible, and you have these sheep in your back pocket.
posted by fleener at 8:29 PM on October 1, 2004


I think it's remarkable that 450 years after the English began hiding their catholicism and their priests, Blair is still under the impression that he has to do the same today. When he 'comes out', sometime after he leaves office [do we really have to wait 4 or 5 more years? ], we'll have another sign of his duplicity.

Maybe the electorate will take fright & give his majority a real trimming next spring. We can but hope that - if that occurs - the Labour Party gets the message. Gordon, can't he Thatchered?
posted by dash_slot- at 8:40 PM on October 1, 2004


Fascinating articles, thank you for linking them. While no fan of Blair's since he threw in - against the wishes of the majority of Britons - with Bush, I can respect his desire to keep his beliefs to himself. Across the pond, it's something that's caused inordinate bloodshed. I don't think less of a man who keeps his personal beliefs out of political reality. The UK isn't ready for a Kennedy (or Kerry as the case might be), and Blair knows it.

As for Bush, his lack of church attendance is galling. Though infinitesimally close to atheism myself, I've nothing against those of a strong faith, and sometimes wish I shared their convictions.

But to profess faith and live otherwise? That requires a certain . . . ugliness.
posted by aladfar at 8:42 PM on October 1, 2004


The fact that Bush doesn't often attend church is demonstrated in the often close to blasphemous way he mis-quotes the bible.
posted by Jimbob at 9:32 PM on October 1, 2004


Reagan Lincoln was the same way--barely or never went to church, yet was a big talker when it came to God and the Bible.
posted by anastasiav at 9:38 PM on October 1, 2004


BreakTheChain.org says that "Bush does occasionally attend St. John's Episcopal Church, in LaFayette square across from the White House - as did all other former Presidents since James Madison."

BeliefNet.com has an article on his attendance/non-attendance.
posted by weston at 9:55 PM on October 1, 2004


What does Bush need to go to church for? He's got a direct line to the big guy, remember?
posted by AstroGuy at 10:48 PM on October 1, 2004


I mean, what with modern evangelism being what it is, the fact that Bush doesn’t attend church comes as no surprise. "Born Again" Christians long ago decided that their faith was less about the formulaic comings and goings of scripture, church attendance and community and more about new age self-help and personal fortune. (Prayer of Jabez anyone?) This is why one can attend Benny Hinn revivals and never see a bible and why mega churches cum health clubs with “alternative hours” such as the narcissistic World Redemption Outreach have grown in popularity. Indeed, why study the bible in Sunday school when evangelicals can have it regurgitated for them by celebrity self-help gurus on compact disc as they zip along the interstate in their SUVs going from one business meeting to another?
posted by wfrgms at 10:49 PM on October 1, 2004


I am curious though - how would a British PM being openly Catholic hurt Northern Ireland? I know it wouldn't please the Ulster Defense types (sorry, don't know the correct name), but I thought it might ease tensions in general.

Northern Ireland aside, it's just been much too long for this Protestant-Catholic divide (or any religious divide, let alone one so trivial) - it was one thing in the 17th century, when religious tolerance was an alien idea, but there is no good reason why any British PM should be worried about their religion. Frankly, I don't think many of the voters would care - what few hardline Anglicans you would loose, you'd gain in hardline Catholic votes. A Sikh, Hindu or Muslim PM - that would still be controversial (because of the ethnic/race issue as well as religion) - but I can't imagine the majority of British caring about the divide in Christianity anymore, or even if he were an agnostic or aetheist. Blair should feel free to follow his conscience.

Besides - does it make a difference? It's not like the Anglicans are really Protestant - half might be Calvinist, but the other half are all crypto-Catholics. /cheeky

I had to conciously stop myself from writing "Caths" and "Prots" in this post - I've been taking too many notes on the English Reformation recently. They are handy shortforms, but people look at you funny when you find yourself saying them outloud.
posted by jb at 12:18 AM on October 2, 2004


In the UK we're generally suspicious of public figures who publicise their religious beliefs - for example, if a top footballer thanked god for helping them score a goal we'd find it unpleasant or amusing and probably worry about them turning into the next David Icke.

So Blair's caution may be as much to do with avoiding bringing religion out as an issue as it is related to Catholicism.
posted by malevolent at 3:19 AM on October 2, 2004


"I think it's remarkable that 450 years after the English began hiding their catholicism and their priests, Blair is still under the impression that he has to do the same today"

I don't think it's catholicism he's hiding. It's that wacky seperation of church and state thing. The British parliament is old enough to remember when the church had real political power.

Personally I don't care what personal religious beliefs Teflon has, as long as they stay personal. If you want to know what openly religious leaders can do to a country then just read the fucking headlines.

To give you some idea of how touchy us Brits can be, Blair is regarded as the first openly religious leader for a couple of centuries, if he ever prayed up on stage or kept referencing The Big Guy in his speeches, there would be an outcry (well a strong mumurring anyway, we are british after all)
posted by fullerine at 3:37 AM on October 2, 2004


Personally I don't care what personal religious beliefs Teflon has, as long as they stay personal.

amen.
posted by sciurus at 6:45 AM on October 2, 2004


Remember what a thorn it is in the side of the national right-wing movement when conservative Christians actually try to bring WWJD into policy...
posted by Zurishaddai at 8:08 AM on October 2, 2004


I don't think it's catholicism he's hiding. It's that wacky seperation of church and state thing.

That is what I was expecting given how the link was contextualized, and that is not at all the impression I got from the article. I was really surprised to feel as if rather than being ahead of us on religious freedom, as I imagined them to be, the brits seem behind us - concerned over an issue that was addressed 40 years ago in the US. Blair responds to the question with "being christian is what's important"; the archbishop notes that "people are worried you're going to convert" - it's about whether or not he's properly anglican (as if the diff between anglican and catholic is anything an outsider could perceive...)
posted by mdn at 8:27 AM on October 2, 2004


It isn't a national UK thing, as far as I can tell. Most of us have no idea of the affiliation of our poiticians in the UK. With the continuing rise of different ethnicities in the UK, I'd guess that may not be so true 10 years from now.

Not that I mind that - any religious group which protects civil rights as we have them today is ok by me: as we say over here, just don't shove it down my throat.

In a way, Blair is being sensitive to the protestants in the North of Ireland, and at the same time, bridging the communities, by appearing both anglican & catholic at the same time. Sadly, this is achieved by deception - which he would no doubt defend, given the importance to peace & stability in our country that communal strife in the 6 Counties remains subdued.
posted by dash_slot- at 10:04 AM on October 2, 2004


The bishop may just be biased - after all, as an Anglican leave the CofE for the competition.
posted by jb at 11:38 AM on October 2, 2004


Sorry - part of my comment was accidentally erased before posting - it should read:

The bishop may just be biased - after all, as an Anglican bishop, maybe he worried that Blair might leave the CofE - for the competition.
posted by jb at 11:40 AM on October 2, 2004


Tony Blair has never made any secret of his Catholicism, and it is ridiculous to suggest, as this Guardian article does, that he "chooses to hide it". Indeed, the title of the article says it all: "regular at Mass, communion from Pope". Nothing "hidden" about that.

Nor do I find it particularly strange that he should choose to attend Catholic services without being formally received into the Catholic church. His explanation, as quoted here -- "surely being a Christian is what is important?" -- sounds thoroughly in character; he is, after all, a "big tent" man, who likes building big alliances. He is also, famously, an admirer of the dissident Catholic theologian Hans Kung, which suggests to me that he may be attracted by Catholic moral values but repelled by Catholic structures of authority.

This Guardian article, though written four years ago, seems to me to provide a much more accurate and informed picture of Blair's religion. (Interesting to note that, back in 2000, even a commentator as shrewd as Hugo Young couldn't understand why Blair should want to spend his summer holiday reading the Koran: "there was no public reason to do that .. Britain no longer has much to do in the Middle East".)

If Blair were to convert to Rome tomorrow, I don't suppose many people in England would be particularly bothered -- though the Guardian writers who are criticising him for being "evasive" about his rellgion would no doubt turn round and start criticising him for parading his religion in public.

Northern Ireland -- now that's a different matter. Blair's Catholic sympathies have already prompted Ian Paisley to compare him with Hitler. Paisley's brand of militant anti-Catholicism may seem quaintly old-fashioned, but one has to remember that his DUP has now overtaken Trimble's UUP as the leading Unionist party in Northern Ireland. Paisley himself may be on the way out (he is 78 and rumoured to be terminally ill) but he still has to be taken seriously.

Personally I am glad to have a leader who wrestles with religious questions and takes a copy of the Koran to read on holiday. Sorry to disagree with you, dash_slot, but I think Blair deserves better than to be accused of "deception" and "duplicity". Whatever one may think of his politics, I don't think there is much doubt that his religion is sincere.
posted by verstegan at 4:05 PM on October 2, 2004


well, if it is, he hasn't been reading the Gospels a lot
posted by matteo at 5:29 PM on October 2, 2004


Blair has actually read the Koran? My opinion of him has just been substantially elevated.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:47 PM on October 2, 2004


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