Expressing deep concern about the broken state of our democracy in a recent interview on Channel 4 News, the political commentator and novelist Robert Harris alluded to WB Yeats’s 1919 poem The Second Coming:
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.
Mr Harris said ‘something is slouching to Bethlehem to be born out of all this (the current crisis in Britain’s Parliamentary democracy) and it might be quite worrying’.
It was strange to hear an albeit poetic allusion to the Anti-Christ from a secular writer on the uber-politically-correct Channel 4 News. But Mr Harris’s culturally prophetic insight raises this desperately serious question: why should we as 21st Century Britons imagine that our political system is immune from falling into terrible disorder and then tyranny?
The moral basis underpinning our democracy used to be a transcendent one – Christianity with which our culture was once saturated following the Evangelical Revival of the 18th Century. How can anyone seriously claim that our democracy is not struggling without its former transcendent foundation?
To give a practical example of how this spiritual loss has damaged our democracy, take the issue of truth and lies in public life. Christianity teaches the value of truthfulness – Jesus Christ Himself said: ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’ (John 14v6 – King James Version).
Attaching a plain utilitarian rather than a transcendent value to truthfulness surely lessens the seriousness of political lying. But when deception transgresses a transcendent value most people adhere to, then does it not become much more serious and, if lives are lost as a result of mendacity by an executive politician, even deserving of a prison sentence?
The United Kingdom desperately needs its next Prime Minster to be a committed Christian with the spiritual, moral and intellectual insight to address the profound problems caused by the vacuum of transcendent values in our democracy. But how can she begin to administer a democratic recovery unless we as an electorate invite the Divine Man from Bethlehem we have banished back onto His throne?