Monday, 21 November 2011

Why bankers used to be good

This is a guest post by Rev. Julian Mann.

Hopefully Private Eye editor Ian Hislop's BBC programme about Victorian financiers - When bankers were good - will properly explain why they were.

The answer very clearly is that Victorian Britain was saturated with Biblical values in the wake of the 18th century evangelical revival. Evangelical Christianity teaches that the whole of life is impacted by the truth of the gospel. That means one should earn one's money in an ethical manner and use it for the love of God and of one's neighbour.

Such a spiritual and moral culture thus conduced to bankers with active consciences moved to virtue, in contrast to the financiers spawned by de-Christianised Britain.

My Hislop's own position in relation to Christian Britain is interesting. He clearly has some sort of spiritual sympathy with it, having presented a previous BBC series about Victorian philanthropists.

But the magazine he edits was a product of the 1960s, the decade which set the hounds on Christian Britain. Private Eye, launched in 1961, belongs to the Beyond the Fringe satirical movement championed by its former proprietor, the late Mr Peter Cook, which set out to lampoon authority and undermine respect for the then British establishment.

The current corrosive cynicism about politicians, in fact more accurately the nihilism about political engagement, has its roots in that godless movement.

The antidote to greedy bankers, corrupt politicians, and a cynical public is evangelical Christianity. That antidote was active in Victorian Britain when rich people were more inclined to listen to Jesus Christ: "Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth (Luke 12v15 - King James Version)."

Mr Hislop's moral position would be more consistent if he preached that message, forsaking the cynical cultural Baal of Private Eye, now ironically a journal the Ahabesque British establishment is quite comfortable with.