David Cameron, Conservative Party leader and for all intents and purposes our next prime minister, gave an interview about his faith, which was picked up by Christian Today. In the article he is quoted as saying:
I think that it’s perfectly possible to live a good life without having faith, by which I mean a positive and altruistic life, but I think the teachings of Jesus, just as the teachings of other religions are, a good guide to help us through.
I don’t want to make light of the faith Mr. Cameron has, nor doubt his sincerity. He mentions the death of his eldest son and the pain that caused, so the fact that he can talk about his faith positively at all I find encouraging. I hope it delves deeper.
The faith he describes, though, is the self-help variety, and is not found exclusively in the Church of England. Listening to many evangelicals, I hear similar messages, if perhaps laced with more bible verses. God and the teachings of Jesus help us to be better people and hence have a good life. I guess it depends on what kind of life you mean.
The problem is that Jesus’ teachings don’t promise the kind of life I think most of us look for when we seek out a guide. Most of the books in the self-help section that promise a guide to life show us how to make more money, how to move up in a job, or how to have a better family life. Even on the family life, Jesus sounds different than what most parenting books say. If you are looking to have a comfortable, easy life with plenty in your retirement savings and a life where you can have upward mobility, I doubt Jesus is who your looking for.
Jesus is looking for much more than being a self-help guru, but calls us to follow him. Following him means something very different to living simply a ‘good life’ (positive and altruistic, in Mr. Cameron’s definition). Jesus was looking to overturn the world and bring a new creation. The Old Testament lesson for this week (Hannah’s Song from 1 Samuel) gives us us the ‘party policy’ Jesus wants. And it’s not easy. It makes me squirm and want to turn to a self-help Jesus.
So here are a couple of Jesus’ statements from the ‘guide to life’ that I would like to see Mr. Cameron use as he enters office next summer:
- Love your enemies. How do you create a foreign policy based on that?
- Sell all that you own and distribute the money to the poor. Will this be considered sound economic policy?
What are some teachings of Jesus (or the ‘good guide’) you would like to see the Conservative Party use as the basis of their policies?