I am not a Christian, which might go some way to explaining why I was cruelly passed over in recent contests both for the Papacy and for the position of Archbishop of Canterbury. Both the current post-holders however are in the sights of Simon Heffer, writing for the Daily Mail, who is perturbed that Anglicans and Catholics alike are failing to condemn the welfare state as good Christians should. Heffer complains:
what Archbishop Nichols and the 27 prelates and their friends do not seem to understand is that there is nothing remotely Christian about living off the efforts of others when you could perfectly well live off your own.
Speaking as an outsider, I am generally reluctant to suggest I understand anything at all about other people’s religion. I had been under the impression, however, that there was indeed something vaguely Christian about sharing property.
And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. (Acts 4:32)
Chapter 25 of Matthew seems to suggests that there is some merit in feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked and visiting prisoners. Perhaps I misread it, and Matthew left out the moral conditionality and consideration of the public purse that every modern Christian needs to consider.
Heffer also condemns the assembled clerics for taking a “disturbingly Marxist line.” I don’t know what there is in Marxism that supports the position of the poorest. Marx held that property should belong to the people who produce it, dismissed the lowest class as the ‘social scum’ and the Soviet Union had laws to prosecute ‘parasites, tramps and beggars’. It strikes me then that Heffer’s position may have more in common with Marxism than the bishops do.