Tony Blair’s Christian faith is most commonly associated with a comment which was not even made by him. His press secretary, Alastair Campbell famously said ‘We don’t do God’ because of his concerns about how easily faith and religion are misconstrued in public life.
But, in contrast to the banal nonsense that David Cameron wrote in his recent message, Blair wrote openly and substantially about his Christian faith.
The following text is taken from his article ‘Why I am a Christian’ published in The Sunday Telegraph at Easter in April 1996. It is interesting that this was written a year before the General Election and at a time when he might have most to lose from speaking openly about his beliefs:
“Easter, a time of rebirth and renewal, has a special significance for me, and, in a sense, my politics. My vision of a society reflects a faith in the human spirit and its capacity to renew itself. But Easter is not only a celebration of the Resurrection: it is also a time to recall the events that led to Christ’s crucifixion and what they mean.
There are three parts to the Easter message – best described in St Matthew. First, there is Pontius Pilate, taking his decision as Jesus stood before him. One of the things that lends power to the Gospels is that the characters are so real. Pilate is fascinating because he is so obviously human and imperfect, torn between principle and political reality. Were the Gospels simply a didactic tale, his choice would be remembered as an easy one. But it is not described in this way.”
Blair’s analysis of the political dilemma facing Pontius Pilate is fascinating to read in retrospect. Blair’s legacy, despite many positive domestic achievements, is dominated by his decision to invade Iraq in partnership with the US. In many people’s eyes, he has been guilty of the same lack of principle that Pilate showed – and to many will be judged by history in a similar way:
“The intriguing thing about Pilate is the degree to which he tried to do the good thing rather than the bad. He commands our moral attention not because he was a bad man but because he was so nearly a good man. One can imagine him agonising, seeing that Jesus had done nothing wrong, and wishing to release him. Just as easily, however, one can envisage Pilate’s advisors telling him of the risks, warning him not to cause a riot or inflame Jewish opinion.
It is possible to see Pilate as the archetypal politician, caught on the horns of an age-old political dilemma. We know he did wrong, yet his is the struggle between what is right and what is expedient that has occurred throughout history. Should we do what appears principled or what is politically expedient?”