Letter: Christian and ethical socialism are not the same thing

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Sir: As A. H. Halsey points out, politics is a moral endeavour and ethical socialism and Christian socialism will always be close allies ('Where is the spirit of our age?', 8 July). They are not, however, simply interchangeable.

For the cutting edge of Christian socialism lies in the specific nature of its historical tradition and beliefs. It is not just that we believe in equality because it is 'self-evident and true', but because we are all created in the image of God. It is not just that we believe in community because it is a 'warm word', but because, in the words of William Temple, we are 'incurably social' and are our brother's and our sister's keeper.

But Christian socialists are not in the business of rebuilding Christendom, nor do we wish to legislate for our faith. Indeed most of us would wish to see a far clearer split between church and state and none of us would want to launch a 'Christian' party. Yet we believe that people of faith have both a duty to perceive the signs of the times, and a role to play in helping renew the face of democratic socialism, and indeed the political life of our nation.

We believe, in short, that Britain needs, as John Smith said, 'a politics based on principle', and that our tradition, stretching at least as far back as Wat Tyler and the first poll tax revolt, if not as far as the first disciples 'who held all things in common', will be vital in framing that agenda.

Furthermore, we know there are many people already in politics whose ethical socialism is grounded in Christianity. Half the Shadow Cabinet are members of the Christian Socialist Movement, CSM, and many people have recently joined the movement in the belief that conservatism and devil-take-the-hindmost monetarism must be challenged and defeated ethically as well as politically if Britain is to be renewed.

That means both proving that Tory politics is wrong and removing the Christian crutch that the church has sometimes afforded Toryism - a twofold task we relish, and we alone can perform.

Yours faithfully,

CHRIS BRYANT

Chair

The Christian Socialist Movement

London, N1

8 July

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