Is Britain A Christian Nation?
On March 26, 2012 At 5:30 pm
Responses : 9 Comments
The answer must be a resounding no! Of course, it depends on what you mean by Christian. Many people will not agree with my definition because so much has happened in the last 2000 years to make an apparently simple question mired in complex theology.
For my definition of Christian, I want to look at the man Jesus. Everything I know about Jesus comes first from the four gospels in their many translations (and more recently the Gnostic gospels). But I am also influenced by all the commentaries I have read and the hundreds of sermons, homilies, talks and lectures I have listened to over the years. True, I approach the Bible with a much more open mind than I once did, willing to see other (sometimes completely reverse) interpretations from those I have been taught. And I no longer read the gospels as if they were reporting actual conversations verbatim. I know that each gospel was written for a purpose, mainly to encourage, guide and support early followers of Jesus. They are certainly not an impartial, factual historical record. Neither do I hold with the idea that they are 'the word of God' any more than any other text written in good faith.
Nevertheless, the gospels are all I have, so what do they tell me about Jesus and his vision of 'the kingdom of God'? These are some of the key values that come to mind:
- Life in all its fullness is for all humankind.
- The strong and healthy must support the weak – not exploit them.
- The foreigner, stranger, oddball, is to be given a warm welcome and be shown respect.
- People who are particularly needy or who go astray should receive our special attention. If necessary the needs of the many must be laid aside while the 'lost' are sought and found.
- It is better to serve in humility than to crave power.
- Do 'good works' (and pray) in secret.
- Love your neighbour as yourself.
- Forgive your enemies, without limit.
- Don't store up material riches.
- Seek enough (bread) for today's needs only.
- Don't judge others.
- Violence solves nothing – be imaginative and find non-violent ways to assert your dignity and stand alongside those who are persecuted.
- Let love release you from fear (there are more warnings against being fearful than any other single condition in the gospels).
- Be as trusting as a child and do not exploit that trustfulness in others, especially children.
- Take the long term view – build for the future.
- Be open and honest – what is hidden will be revealed.
So, if these are key Christian values, how do they match up with our record as a country over the years? We don't even get on the scoreboard! And it's not just Britain – no country could claim to be Christian on this basis. Throughout the centuries there have been many men and women who have done their upmost to live by Christian values, sometimes sacrificing their lives as a result. But I don't know of any countries, states, nations or cities who can claim to abide by many of these standards, indeed most follow the exact opposite path.
But is this surprising? Jesus wanted his disciples to be like grains of salt, almost invisible yet profoundly affecting the whole. A meal of salt would be inedible but is that not what a Christian Nation would be? In fact can any institution be Christian? Can even a Church be Christian? That sounds like a silly question but, sadly, history answers in the negative.