So the UK is a Christian country. Prime minister Dave Cameron has decreed it. In his hallowed Christmas message he proclaims that Britain derives all of its values from Christianity:
As a Christian country, we must remember what (Jesus’) birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope. I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none.
‘Peace, mercy, goodwill, hope and tolerance’. Doesn’t it warm your heart? This country of ours has these wonderful sentiments at its core and all of them derive from the baby Jesus. I’m not sure about where our other values – capitalism, colonialism, democracy, free-thought and expression – originate but no doubt Dave will tell us they too spring from our ‘religious roots’.
What about the values he mentions though? Do they originate with Jesus as Dave claims?
Peace we covered last time: Christianity have not brought peace into the world, ever. Dave seems to have forgotten that Britain is currently at war; the so-called ‘war on terror’ Is he now suggesting that as a ‘Christian country’ we should turn the other cheek and propose peace, because that’s what Jesus would want? I doubt it, somehow.
Mercy? Here’s the kind of mercy Jesus proposed: ‘But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me’ (Luke 19:27). Nice.
Goodwill? Jesus always extended goodwill to others. Like here: ‘It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs (non-Jews)’. And here: ‘Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs (non-Jews again), lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you’ (Matthew 15.26 & Matthew 7.6).
Hope? The Bible does speak about hope – hope that this will all soon be over and God will consign non-believers to hell, set up his kingdom on earth and put Jesus in charge (Matthew 19:28 & 24.51). Is this what Cameron means by hope?
Tolerance? Paul on tolerance: ‘do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men’ (1 Corinthians 6:9). It’s difficult to see how modern notions of equality and acceptance can derive from bigotry like this.
No, Britain does not get its values from Christianity or the Bible or baby Jesus. It has worked them out for itself, principally through social progress and the reforms of modern times.
The UK is not a Christian country in any other sense either. Christians are required to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5.38–42), give all they have to the poor (Luke 14.33) and buy into a convoluted salvation
scam plan (2 Timothy 1.9 etc). Can a country do these things? It would be unthinkable for it to give away its wealth, accede to other countries’ demands and respond non-aggressively to attack. Individual Christians don’t or won’t do these things and it would be nothing short of suicidal for a country to attempt to; yet this is what Jesus insists is involved in following him. It’s impossible for individuals to live this way, let alone entire nations.
Cameron can’t even claim that the majority of the population subscribes to the great salvation plan either. A recent government poll showed that only 49% of the population admits to being Christian and in any case, the plan is designed for individuals, not countries. So let’s hope (hah!) the Prime Minister will stop fawning over Christians, fatuously pretending that the UK is a Christian country when it isn’t. Let’s hope too he understands that our values, whatever they are, do not derive from an ancient, expired superstition. The UK is not a Christian country in any sense. Let us rejoice in that fact.