N:B: This mini-Blog was reposted because some parts of the original blog-story were missing from the first version.
During a pre-Easter reception at Downing Street for religious leaders, British Prime Minister David Cameron made some remarks about his own religious faith. He followed up on his comments by writing an article for a paper called the Church Times. The result created quite a stir within the British media.
Here is what appeared to be at least one of Cameron’s ‘offending’ remarks: “I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country.” Cameron also said Britain should be “more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.” Not exactly front page news material.
However, the various reactions to Cameron’s comments were quickly swept up by the news. Various groups and individuals were either quick to comment or pulled into the fray because of distinction and/or intellect.
A group of prominent liberals, writing in an open letter published in the Daily Telegraph, accused Cameron of fostering alienation and division within the UK. Written by various personalities, it said, “Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an establish Church, Britain is not a “Christian country.”
How is it that Britain, a country so richly steeped in Christianity stumbles upon its own Christian identity? This was a country that was so profoundly changed by having the Bible placed into the hands of the common person just centuries past. This is a country that gave rise to such prominent Christians as John Tyndale, John Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Spurgeon, and John Stott, to name just a few.
During a recent interview, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams was asked to comment on Britain’s religious status. Shrewdly, Dr Williams “said it was important to ‘pick your way quite carefully’ in the debate about the nation’s relationship with Christianity.”
It was interesting to note Dr William’s belief about whether Britain was a Christian country or not. During the same interview, when Dr Williams was pressed for a yes or no answer, he replied, “A Christian country as a nation of believers? No. A Christian country in the sense of still being very saturated by this vision of the world and shaped by it? Yes.”
The debate also included the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. During an interview Welby was asked the same question as to whether Britain is a Christian country. His reply essentially echoed Dr Williams, that is to say, if one goes by the number of pews filled in each service then the answer is no. But if one considers the British system of ethics, law and justice, protection of the poor… these values have been shaped by and founded on Christianity.
The Archbishop also stated these values are a historical fact. He further states, “For those in the church as well as for those of other faiths and traditions, history ‘makes for some uncomfortable reading… Its facts are awkward for all of us, but its no use pretending they do not exist… The PM is right on this.”
Whether the PM has ulterior motives behind his religious comments or not, as suggest by this article, the question of whether Britain is still a Christian country should be one that other countries might ask of themselves. 48% of the British public believe Christians are afforded less protection than members of other faiths. 50% are afraid to express their beliefs due the rise of religious fundamentalism.
How does this affect a country such as Canada? What will our religious landscape look like in twenty years and what sort of protection will the various faiths enjoy?