Showing posts with label CCF. Show all posts
Showing posts with label CCF. Show all posts

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

STRETCH ARMSTRONG



The world I occupy has been called by David Cameron 'the bridge' between the two superpowers of the the Conservative Party and Christianity. Based in Westminster, the Conservative Christian Fellowship is a fascinating and intriguing place where artistes of political compromise smudge their lipstick on the mouth of the supernatural; where pragmatism all too often raises its unholy leg on the lamppost of things sacred. As Jim Reeves said in his 1964 hit of the same name, "Welcome to my World."

Readers of a certain age will remember Stretch Armstrong. He was a boy's doll that wore his speedos with a 70's pride not seen since a Village People pop video. The orange skinned, blonde haired body builder with fantastically muscular arms could be elongated and stretched, but after being rigorously played with, the arms would slowly but always morph back into their original shape.

One evening after school my friend Thomas came over and we had a plan to see how far we could stretch Stretch. I think I can vividly recall seeing the fear in Armstrong's eyes as we plotted our vicious plan for his viscous arms. So with me gripping the toy's left hand, Thomas holding his right, we marched manfully in opposite directions, giving Stretch a stretch that he would never, ever forget. After straining every fibre of our seven year old bodies we distended the bronzed Adonis to what seemed like the width of the patio until we couldn't hold onto his increasingly sweaty palms any longer.

Sadly for Stretch, he never recovered from the experiment and instead of his arms pinging back into muscular arm shaped shapes, they stayed like the hilarious limbs of Mr Tickle of Mr Men fame, ironically the only other bright orange hero of that decade. Afterwards I recall that Stretch Armstrong was retired to the bottom of the toy box, where we suspect he stayed until he was finally laid to rest in the unmarked grave of a landfill site.

It's not often that I think of Stretch, but since taking over from my predecessor at the CCF I have sometimes felt a bit like him. Perhaps I was designed to cope with the heave and roll of where politics and faith connect, but after a good workout hopefully I should get back into the shape I was meant to be.

This feels true of the Consersvative Christian Fellowship, the organisation I lead. Founded more than twenty years ago by Tim Montgomerie (of ConservativeHome and now the Comment Editor of the Times) and David Burrowes (the indefatigable Member of Parliament for Enfield Southgate), the CCF is the space between the Church and State.

However, pulling at us aren't couple of cheeky schoolboys feebly testing out the toy maker's claims that we will always return to our original design. With one hand gripping the Conservative Party and the other on the Christian world, these are forces of tectonic and continental power which all too often seem to be needlessly pulling in opposite directions. If unrestrained, this tension will irreparably damage the thing whose genius is that it is designed to cope with the heft of both superpowers.

At the same time many people of faith are complaining that aggressive secularists are having too much influence over the Coalition Government's agenda. Some have cited the redefinition of marriage as proof enough that the state is straying too far into things sacred. Others complain that whilst the Conservative Party at least say 'they do God', there is, they claim, scant evidence of it. Some go farther still, in his address to parliamentarians at the National Prayer Breakfast in July 2011, Andy Hawthorne from the Message Trust said, "The truth is we do 'do God' we just don't 'do Jesus' - how bizarre is that?" He got a spontaneous and standing ovation. 

So think of Stretch, and say a prayer for those of us that look like him!.