Politicians should leave the Easter messages to religious leaders

ONE of the difficulties that modern politics has brought with its 24/7 soundbite culture is its capacity to devour everything in its path. And in the run-up to a fiercely contested general-election campaign nothing, it seems, is spared.

Yesterday, Conservative leader David Cameron released an Easter message widely seen as using the religious significance of Easter and Christ's resurrection to suggest it was time for a fresh start. We should, he declared, "all draw strength from Christ's message of hope, of a new beginning and a promise of a new dawn". Leaving aside its vacuity, many will regard this as trading on religious symbolism to score political points. Politicians – and party leaders in particular – need to be sensitive as to how their remarks may be heard and interpreted.

Easter is, indeed, a time of hope and renewal. That is why the Christian message has endured. But its significance is not politically partisan. And politicians need to take care not to invoke deeply held beliefs and respected symbols on the side of a party political cause. The relevance of the message of Easter for Christians lies, ultimately, in its address to the spiritual nature of the human condition and its appeal, for that reason, is profoundly personal.

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Easter is seen as a time for individual renewal and the refreshment of spirit against the onslaught of the immediate concerns of daily life, concerns that can blind us to our inner resources and the need to nurture a view of life that transcends the relentlessly material.

This is not a message that should be hijacked for party political programmes, however much these may be well intended and addressed to inequality or social justice or the relief of suffering or supporting "change", whatever that may mean. Indeed, this is one period of the Christian calendar when the concerns of politics are secondary to the greater universalism of individual renewal.

The point is one that, for the most part, has long been understood and respected in Britain. It would certainly be well understood and upheld by traditional conservatives who baulk at the politicisation of so many aspects of modern life and who feel that far too much has fallen under the sway of government and the modern state.

We are more than subjects of the state, and we have other loyalties and obligations. For most of the past week, Mr Cameron has not, in fact, been setting out a "new dawn", much as he may conceive it as such, but a reduction in a planned increase in National Insurance contributions. What has this really to do with Easter, or indeed renewal?

John Deighan, the parliamentary officer for the Catholic Bishops Conference in Scotland, fairly and correctly points out that, while Christians can be encouraged by the fact that politicians at least recognise Easter, "the church transcends politics and no particular politicians can say they are the fulfilment of the Christian message".

This is surely a time when "Easter messages" are best left to religious leaders, and when politicians of all persuasions can give us a rest from the point scoring that now marks almost every newscast.