David Cameron recently decided to make the statement that Britain is a “Christian country”, which it quite clearly isn’t in any functioning way (even though many of its underpinning laws and practices are Christian in origin). The Church of England, for example, contains many great and godly men, women and churches but is riddled with godless leadership that has surrendered God for a mess of pottage. And the idea of believing in the Bible may not have been less popular in the last 500 years – either in church or the wider society.
|1728 engraving of Esau selling birthright for a “mess of pottage”|
Never the less, Cameron offended a lot of people for whom labels are important, such as a group of
50 scientists, authors and academics who found such talk to be “fostering alienation and division”. Well, if division means people having different views, then yes it did. But apparently a democracy is now only really a democracy if everyone thinks the same things. Orwell’s prediction might have been 30 years ahead of itself, but the thought police are increasingly a reality.
They (that is, a certain brand of secularist) trumpet the increasingly pervasive idea that “we need to be building a strong shared identity in an increasingly plural and non-religious society” (Professor Jim Al-Khalili, theoretical physicist, science broadcaster and President of the British Humanist Association). In truth, the last thing they want is a shared identity or a pluralistic society in which secularism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Catholicism, animism, flying spaghetti monsterism, communism, fascism and other worldviews share equal status, rights and privileges.
They suffer instead from the idea that their own personal view – secularism – is the one and only objective truth from which everyone else varies, against which everything must be measured, and to which everyone else must submit. We are allowed no other objective truths than that because secularism is right. And we know that it’s right because a.) it just is, and b.) everything else is silly.
It’s OK for example, to believe that there is a creator God, objective morality, eternal consequences to our sin, that a Saviour gave his life to rescue mankind…so long as you don’t tell anyone. All non-secularist credos are tolerated only in so far as they don’t threaten the secularist credo…which basically leaves you with secularism itself, and Buddhism which isn’t so much a system of belief as a lifestyle.
And that’s OK.
I mean, it’s not OK, because secularists are wrong and their wrongness has devastating eternal consequences. But it’s natural to want your worldview to be the dominant one, because the world is more comfortable for you when your worldview dominates.
I totally understand why a secularist wouldn’t want prayer or Bible teaching in schools, any more than I want Satanic rituals in the workplace. It makes perfect sense – and it’s actually more honest and more caring for secularists to campaign to eradicate religion from public life, because if you really believe that religion is terribly harmful, why would you tolerate it? Not withstanding the irony that those most concerned about the brainwashing of young innocents are the ones who most closely resemble the Orwellian thought police… Whereas Christianity teaches tolerance for people of all other religions, alongside the freedom to tell them about God and the Bible, and to have them tell us (with equal certainty) about what they believe.
What is disingenuous is to want that eradication of public Christianity, to campaign for it, and then pretend that all you want is equality of views, or a “neutral” culture. Secularism isn’t neutral or default, it’s secularism.
My concern with Cameron’s statement is not that he’s trying to deceitfully claw back some of that little block of voters called evangelicals – it’s too late for that. My concern is more that he thinks it will – that Christians are holding onto the idea of Britain as a Christian country, as a kind of touchstone for their faith. Either because they think it’s their right to have their views enshrined in public life, or because they think that if Britain is a secular country, then it means God has abandoned it.
Neither is true. What we’re witnessing though, is an atmosphere in society more toxic to Christians, and a lot more akin to what it was like 2,000 years ago when rumours went around that Christians were cannibals, albeit mercifully without the torture and killings that accompanied those accusations.
Besides, who cares what David Cameron says about Christianity, and who cares whether he or any secularists think Britain is ‘Christian’, or even ‘christian’? What matters is that we “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Maybe then, in God’s grace and in God’s time, Britain may become a Christian country.