A couple of weeks ago our local paper [Morecambe Visitor 12th Jan] published an article about the concern the Bishop of Blackburn had expressed about the impact of cuts on the most vulnerable members of society. It was good to see him making such a clear and public statement about his concern, and that the cuts will have a substantial impact on vulnerable members of our society.
It was disappointing, therefore, to see our MP respond by voicing his"..concern that the Bishop is becoming embroiled in a political argument that goes way beyond his remit as a religious leader." Desmond Tutu once responded to a similar comment that he thought the other person must be reading a different Bible.
We live in an era of fear of politicised religion, and no without justification. The religious right in the US, and extreme Islamist movements both understandably scare people of a secular mindset. However, given the Bishop is a person with influence and a public voice, and (whether you think it right or wrong in principle) he currently has a seat in the House of Lords, it is absolutely right that he speaks out for the poor and vulnerable.
Ironically, one of the thinkers behind the Big Society, Phillip Blond, would be very clear that there should be no dualism between the secular and spiritual. He is very strong on having a holistic and integrated way of thinking about the relationship between the divine and the material world. If a Bishop speaks theologically, he will be speaking politically.
It's also worth remembering times when Churches have privatised religion and limited themselves to speaking only of religious matters. It's not always very comfortable reading. For example, it happened in Germany in the 1930s, albeit with some heroic exceptions. Sometimes those with no public voice need someone to speak for them when it counts, and the Church must play its part.