December 24, 2015 by James Crossley
At this special time of year it is difficult to contain the excitement generated by politicians’ Christmas messages, including the main one by the Prime Minister. There are familiar themes from previous David Cameron speeches on the Bible, Christianity, Easter, and Christmas, such as persecution of Christians, Britain as a Christian country, and praising the emergency services. Of course, for Cameron, the Christian-ness of Britain does not mean anything illiberal and covers the idea of Britain being for people ‘of all faiths and none’ (a favourite Cameron expression). Indeed, the birth of Jesus represents a set of vague but broadly agreeable values: ‘peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope’. What we again do not find in Cameron’s Christmas, as with the majority of biblical references in English political discourse, is anything that might be deemed too unpalatable: the biblical archives are extremely limited. To repeat from last year (and which I will probably be able to cut and paste next year), we are less likely to read or hear about details such as angels appearing, the details of Mary’s sexual practices and marital status, John the Baptist’s drinking habits, why Elizabeth was a disgrace, leaping in the womb, bringing down the rich and the powerful, Jesus’ circumcision, the offering of a sacrifice of turtle doves and pigeons, etc. and so on.
In English political discourse, the Bible is the higher/highest implicit authority and the grounding for contentious political decisions. Cameron’s Liberal Baby Jesus provides one such grounding. Cameron continues the militaristic meaning of Jesus/Bible with the focus firmly on recent events surrounding Syria. Christmas entails ‘the security’ of home and family in contrast to the ‘millions of families in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East’. That ISIS/L (or, as Cameron now prefers, Daesh) are mentioned as a cause of migration is not surprising but there is now the additional mention of Assad which is more than a hint at one endgame in Syria: regime change. There is also an assumption that, like the birth of Jesus, this military intervention brings security at home. As Cameron’s vengeful Good Samaritan would not have walked by on the other side without a violent intervention, so the Prince of Peace helps us understand why there is a need to bomb Syria and Iraq:
Right now, our brave armed forces are doing their duty, around the world: in the skies of Iraq and Syria, targeting the terrorists that threaten those countries and our security at home; on the seas of the Mediterranean, saving those who attempt the perilous crossing to Europe; and on the ground, helping to bring stability to countries from Afghanistan to South Sudan. It is because they face danger that we have peace. And that is what we mark today as we celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace.
After peace-by-bombing, the next key theme in Cameron’s construction of Christmas is volunteering. This too continues a common theme from both last Christmas and most of Cameron’s references to the Bible. The Big Society Jesus has previously defended the actions of non-state actors in helping with the aftermath of floods, prisons, and foodbanks. Now we can add another: ‘Throughout the United Kingdom, some will spend the festive period ill, homeless or alone.’ The addition of ‘homeless’ is important because of the new enemy: Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn and his allies have made much of increased homelessness under Cameron but Cameron’s response is the same as it was to criticism of his handling of flooding and increased foodbanks. It is not to look for causes of poverty or the like but instead to point to the goodness of people who act outside state welfare provision and it is striking and now typical that Cameron immediately references ‘volunteers’ to medical staff who ‘give up their Christmas to help the vulnerable’. The logic is effectively this: Would not Jesus himself have endorsed such a view?
The spectre of Corbyn is no doubt partly motivating the precise references to Syria and Iraq. At the forefront of the sustained attacks on Corbyn have been issues of defence, security and intervention and the implication is that the infant Jesus supports Cameron rather than Corbyn. Corbyn, however, stands in his own historical tradition of constructing the Bible and which was given a Yuletide spin in a recent article in the Sunday Mirror. Corbyn ended with both ‘Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive”’ and a carefully worded Socialist saying, ‘From each according to their means, to each according to their needs.’ With Corbyn there has been the return of the Socialist Bible which had effectively been removed from the Labour once Tony Benn declined in influence. A number of traditional themes from the Socialist Bible are again present with Corbyn Corbyn suggests that solutions to the sorts of problems outlined by Cameron involve both politicians and non-politicians but, unlike Cameron’s Jesus, there is not the implication of an outsourcing of the state, at least in the inclusion of the provision of welfare. And his concept of ‘solidarity’ and ‘unity’ (some traditional language of the Left) is grounded in Christmas, the Bible and, most unusually for a modern Labour leader, socialism: ‘the Christmas story holds up a mirror to us all. “Do unto others as you would have done to you”—that is the essence of my socialism, summed up in the word—“solidarity”’. The Radical Bible has not only returned to mainstream English politics, it’s now covered in snow and tinsel.
But it is worth noting that Cameron’s Christmas address (24 December) came a few days after Corbyn’s article (19 December) because, as has been happening in recent media presentations, there appears to be direct exegetical dialogue/disagreement between Corbyn and Cameron (and even Thatcher). Corbyn references the more recent floods in Cumbria but explicitly references a more traditional Labour audience. Rather than those actors outside state provision we get mention of ‘The firefighters on call’. Indeed, in his praise of the emergency services and the armed forces, the first non-public sector workers are not volunteers but ‘many workers in low-paid industries who simply cannot afford to take leave over Christmas.’ This is not the sort of thing that we now find in the established Neoliberal Bible.
Cameron’s discussion of the refugee problem is also paralleled in Corbyn’s speech (and, recall, Corbyn’s first post-victory event was a rally supporting refugees). Corbyn’s ‘reflection’ on Christmas includes considering the poignancy of the Nativity story’ which is ‘about offering shelter to a family in need and to those who find themselves—refugees fleeing evil…Globally there are more refugees today fleeing horror than at any time since the Second World War.’ But he immediately adds homelessness in Britain to this reflection which ‘is rising, more children are in poverty and tens of thousands will spend this Christmas in temporary accommodation—a home that is not their own.’ Cameron’s seasonal answer is effectively that it is a good, Christian or biblical thing that volunteers beyond the state provision of welfare are involved. But this is only in passing in Cameron’s speech (answering questions of rising numbers of homeless people is less easy to justify in terms of Big Society and most front bench Tories will know the political risks of talking about the poor always being among you, a sometimes favoured explanation). Instead, Cameron shifts the focus to refugees and thus his militaristic solution and so, in turn, to home security as part of his justification. This is, of course, an implied contrast to Corbyn and implicitly continues the Conservative attacks on Corbyn as a ‘threat to national security’.
Corbyn has been explicit in his use of the Bible and Christianity to support his Socialism. There is some logic to this for a non-believer: it is a credible, established tradition in political thinking, in that the Bible and Christianity are, in such discourses, typically deemed English/British and are unlikely to come under sustained attack from politicians or much of the media. Indeed, certain more independently-minded figures on the Right have praised Corbyn for this. What is also striking is that most of the media obviously do not want a Socialist Prime Minister and so have been relentlessly attacking Corbyn. This has included attacks on him for not being sufficiently respectful of Christianity. We have seen this with Russell Brand who openly and positively uses the Bible and Christianity to support his particular take on Socialism but the dominant ridiculing was that he is into what is perceived to be funny foreign or politically correct, liberal ‘religion’ (Hare Krishna, yoga, cosmic forces etc.), downplaying or ignoring his self-identification in Christian and biblical traditions, or simply identifying him as a childish antichrist.
With Corbyn, this cannot be done, it might be thought. He is not that comparable to Russell Brand, it might be thought. Well, it can be thought if you are, say, the Telegraph. Despite being published after the Corbyn Christmas message in the Mirror, one article from the Telegraph (23 December) reports that Corbyn has been ‘accused’ of cancelling Christmas, which, if true, will be a disappointment to millions on future Decembers 25s should Corbyn become Prime Minister. But this seemingly impossible future feat was, presumably, prevented by the little Christmas miracle of an MP willing to do the accusing and, presumably, saving our future Christmases. While the article eventually went on to print denials of Corbyn being anti-Christmas, the following is worth quoting more fully the main part of the article:
Jeremy Corbyn has been accused of “cancelling Christmas” by refusing to issue a Christmas message.
The Labour leader has decided to break with recent tradition and not issue a message tomorrow on Christmas Eve.
Instead he will make his thoughts known ahead of New Year’s Day.
Mr Corbyn’s predecessor Ed Miliband issued messages to the nation on Christmas Eve both in 2014 and 2013.
Mr Corbyn’s decision to not to send a Christmas message to Britain’s Christians is in stark contrast to when he sent a message to British Muslims to mark the Muslim festival of Eid in September and a Tweet to mark the Hindi festival of Diwali last month.
David Cameron, the Prime Minister, is expected to follow tradition and issue a Christmas message tomorrow.
Andrew Bridgen, a Conservative MP, said: “This is the new politics—Corbyn cancels Christmas.
“It is just a hint of what the British people would have to look forward to under a Corbyn-led Government.”
Instead, then, it has to be stressed that Corbyn is anti-Christmas and the kind of person (irrespective of, for instance, evidence) who would say ‘Happy Holidays’ or the like, pander to Muslims, and do something only Oliver Cromwell would dare do. The leading professional trolling organisation, the Daily Mail, have continued their counterfactual histories of Corbyn by interpreting his Christmas card as a secret code which ‘could also reveal insight into Corbyn’s character’ (while managing to judge its own article–which cannot decide if it is tongue-in-cheek or serious commentary–as ‘mischievously witty’). Here is the Christmas card:
Irrespective of evidence, and indeed evidence to the contrary, here is what the card might mean according to the clickbait article written by Leo McKinstry who is not, among other things, a leading expert in global warming:
In the China of Communist dictator Chairman Mao, bicycles were a symbol of the egalitarian socialist system and the country became known as ‘the kingdom of bicycles’.
Perhaps Corbyn is suggesting that he wants to replicate the Chinese leader’s bicycle kingdom in Britain — after all, Mao is a hero among Corbyn’s inner circle, judging by the extraordinary decision by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell to quote at length from Mao’s Little Red Book in the Commons in response to George Osborne’s Budget.
While Corbyn’s own bike is a man’s Raleigh 300, the one prominent in the picture appears to be a unisex bicycle with a lowered central bar — all very appropriate for the modern, right-on political Left, which regards gender as nothing more than a ‘social construct’ and harps on about sexist oppression… Tellingly, the central message of ‘Merry Christmas’ is entirely in lower case, without any capitals — an anti-capitalist statement if ever there was one. Similarly, the last part of the letter ‘m’ links up with the ‘h’ in the word ‘christmas’.
It is the same font as that used by the Corbynista pressure group Momentum, which — like the Marxist Militant Tendency in the Eighties — is said to be plotting a far-Left takeover of the party.
The red telephone box is a typical piece of nostalgia, harking back to the golden age when the phone network was still under public control and mobiles did not exist.
The entire Labour Party, including Corbyn, was ferociously opposed to Mrs Thatcher’s privatisation of British Telecom in 1984.
Corbyn’s emphasis on snow may well be part of his green propaganda, which holds that white winters will soon disappear because of global warming.
Not that there is, despite all the current hysteria over climate change, much concrete evidence that the Earth’s temperatures have been rising over the past decade.
he disregards the country’s actual borders because of his ideological enthusiasm for unfettered immigration and multiculturalism.
AND OF COURSE, THERE’S NO JESUS
As a long-time advocate of a multi-faith society, Corbyn is clearly reluctant to show any bias towards Christianity — though the same impulse has never inhibited his support of Islamic terror groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
In the same vein, there is something unnatural about the use of the term ‘merry’ by Corbyn, a humourless ideologue and vegetarian who declares that he drinks ‘very, very little’.
I think I will leave it there other than just point out that on the sidebar next to the online Mail article there are photos and links to various stories about semi-naked women.