My mother, being from a good Catholic Irish family, tried her level best to raise me and my brother into the faith, despite my father’s unspoken atheism.
“Mum, why does Dad never come to church with us?”
“Because he belongs to a different religion, one that doesn’t go to church very often.”
My Dad’s religion certainly seemed better, especially during those long, toy-free, Christmas morning masses.
None the less, aged around 10, I started going to classes to prepare for my first communion. If you’re not familiar with Catholicism then communion is when you eat the little circular wafer that, thanks to the magic of transubstantiation, becomes the body of Christ.
I mention all of this because the nuns who were preparing me for my first communion were very keen to describe how it should only be taken in sin-free state. This meant having my first confession, telling a priest my sins and having them absolved. I was fascinated by this.
“What happens if a priest commits a sin?”
“They make their confession to another priest, who absolves them.”
“What happens if the Pope commits a sin?”
“Then the Holy Father will make a confession to a priest or a bishop, and they’ll absolve him.”
“What happens if Jesus commits a sin?”
“Jesus can’t commit a sin.”
“Why not? What if he did? Who would he confess to?”
“Go and stand in the corridor!”
I don’t know how much my parents paid for my first communion lessons, but they should be aware that between this and “Why didn’t God just give the dinosaurs souls?” I spent a lot of it just standing in corridors, thinking about what I’d done.
The Jesus one bothered me…surely Jesus had committed a sin. Hadn’t he been angry at the money-changers in the temple, and wasn’t anger a sin? The nuns seemed to think that most things were a sin, including the mysterious “impure thoughts” that they were reluctant to elaborate on (more corridor time for me). It worried at my soul that an organisation should be in such reverence of someone that they are incapable of acknowledging that they could ever do wrong.
Which, via a 350 word roundabout way, brings me to the Labour party.
Some years ago I complained on Facebook that Tony Blair’s Labour was really a continuation of the Tory party. One of my friends corrected me, and reeled off facts and figures in the way that John McTernan does these days…and he was right. I read what he wrote and realised I was being an idiot, parroting opinions I’d heard without really subjecting them to any analysis. As an opinionated, arrogant, egotistical sonuvabitch I admit I’m wrong few enough times for them to stand out in my memory.
A few weeks ago the same Facebook friend told me that if we’d listened to Corbyn’s peace plan for Northern Ireland then hundreds of lives would have been saved.
I don’t think I can find the words to say how much that one post upset me. Somebody who I’d regarded as learned and wise was deflecting Corbyn’s support for the IRA; not by minimising it, or passing it off as a media smear, but actually by saying that it was the right thing to do. We should have utterly capitulated to those inflicting terror, because doing so would have saved lives.
Yet everywhere on social media there are hundreds doing the same. Whatever gaff Corbyn makes – and there are many – people stand by to explain why it wasn’t a mistake at all. This is not healthy.
I wouldn’t be the first, nor the hundredth, to complain that people’s hatred of “career” politicians is hypocritical (no-one ever complains about being treated by a “career” doctor, or defended by a “career” lawyer”), but into the same camp falls “principled”. “Oh yes, all the evidence shows that Peter Partyman has it wrong, but he’s refusing to change his view…because he’s principled.”
There’s nothing I want less from my politicians than that they stick to their principles in the face of all reason. I’m prepared to believe that any politician, however clever, can make mistakes, and unwilling to believe those who never change their minds are the beneficiaries of super-human prescience. Corbyn sticking to his support for terrorism through refusing to disavow the IRA, or by deliberately conflating the 9/11 attack and the lives lost in Iraq, speaks of a man too weak to admit when he was wrong. Those aren’t the actions of a man I want as my Prime Minister, those aren’t the actions of a man fit to lead the Labour party.
Not that what I say today will make the slightest but of difference. Nor will the words of hundreds of others who say the same. His apologists will continue to insist he was always right.
Perhaps, generations from now, those who share their spirit will continue to send boys to stand in the corridor for questioning the truth of it; forgetting that the man who could do no wrong ended up crucified.