Saturday 17 December 2011

A Christian country? No.

Although firmly on the right David Cameron seems to have spent the last week clomping around with two left feet. First he quite unnecessarily upsets our European partners (and three cheers for Nick Clegg in his attempts to undo the damage.) Now he risks aggravating all those with non-Christian faiths and those who aggressively hold no faith by his equally unnecessary claims that Britain is a Christina country.

What we really are is a country with a Christian heritage. We can be proud of that if you like, though I am suspicious of pride in something for which you have no responsibility. But equally we most certainly have no need to apologise for it. Two of our major holidays, Christmas and Easter, are Christian (there used to be a third, Whitsuntide, until Harold Wilson shifted it) and so they should remain. Sunday, the Christian Holy Day, is our national day of rest (or was until greedy capitalists eroded it in order to make more profit,) our four national "protectors" are Saints from Christian history or mythology, and may that happily continue.

But to bang on and on about our being a Christian country is simply to imply that those who don't subscribe to the traditional faith somehow or other don't quite belong, and even caries overtones of a threat that they must "must conform or else."

Even to claim that our values are specifically Christian is a nonsense. Although English common law is based on the Ten Commandments, these we hold in common with Judaism and Islam so there is nothing exclusively Christian about that. But the principles of decent behaviour: integrity, fair play, generosity, kindness, concern for others, and particularly for the underdog. are common to most if not all religions and non-religious codes of behaviour.

It is not churlish, I hope, to point out that these virtues are not particularly evident in modern Conservatism as it was practised under Thatcher and now under Cameron.

A virtue that is not perhaps evident in most religions is tolerance, but that is a virtue which can be claimed as part of the British heritage, and is one of the great glories of the Church of England. Cameron's remarks do not help nurture tolerance and respect for others, but rather give encouragement to those even further to his political right.

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