LONDON (AP) — Church of England bishops appealed to Christians on Tuesday to take part in the politics ahead of upcoming elections, calling for a fresh moral vision for Britain at time of disillusionment.
The bishops said in a 52-page letter that it is the duty of every Christian to vote May 7. The letter, the first of its kind before a vote, touches on topics such as the concept of a living wage and Britain's relationship with the European Union.
The Bishop of Norwich, Rt. Rev. Graham James, said the bishops are aware that voices in British society, notably comedian Russell Brand, have been arguing that voting is pointless.
"While one may think that the bishops of the Church of England don't quite have the sex appeal of Russell Brand, we think that we should counter it," James said.
The bishops urged a debate on whether Britain should have a nuclear deterrent and an "honest account of how we must live" in order to prevent future generations from inheriting "a denuded and exhausted planet." They also addressed some of the more loaded rhetoric about public policy, including the often degrading way in which welfare recipients are described.
"For instance, when those who rely on social security payments are all described in terms that imply they are undeserving, dependent and ought to be self-sufficient, it deters others from offering the informal, neighborly support which could ease some of the burden of the welfare state," the letter said.
Though "not a shopping list" of preferred policies, it forced Prime Minister David Cameron to defend his employment and welfare policies — many of which have been challenged as unfairly targeting the poor. The Conservative Party leader stressed his government's effort to create jobs and cut taxes.
"A welfare system that pays people to stay idle when they could work —that is not the sign of a strong economy or a strong or good society," he said.