Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide

Ed Jacobs calls on the Britain 2012 to decide if we are a Christian country or not.

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Ed Jacobs is a member of the Christian Socialist Movement and City Evangelical Church in Leeds

Amidst the on-going rancour now manifesting itself between what has simplistically been dubbed “the church” on the one hand and gay rights activists on the other over same sex marriages, and the report in last week’s Sunday Telegraph that the government intends to argue at the European Court of Human Rights that Christians do not have a right to wear a cross or crucifix openly at work, we are perhaps overlooking the core of the debate we should now be having, namely are we and do we want to be a Christian country, and if so, what should that look like in practice?

As a Christian, it has been heartening to hear the words coming from government of late.

Before Christmas we heard from the prime minister himself, in a speech marking the 400th anniversary of the King Jams Bible, pledging to “actively stand up and defend” the morals and values contained within the bible which have shaped our society.

Last month it was the turn of Conservative Party co-chair, Baroness Warsi, to argue at the Vatican:

“Europe needs to become more confident in its Christianity.”

Communities and local government secretary, Eric Pickles has also declared:

“We are a Christian country and we should not be afraid to say so.”

And even Nick Clegg’s plans for House of Lords reform envisage 12 bishops maintaining their seats.

But get beyond the words used by the politicians and the mood of the public as outlined in a series of recent YouGov polls give food for thought for all those engaged in the development of public policy.


See also:

We need to defend the hope at the heart of Christianity, not fight militant secularisation 14 Feb 2012

2012 – the year the world must wake up to Christian persecution 8 Jan 2012

Faith leaders call for healing as world remembers 9/11 12 Sep 2011

A “new” age of Christian persecution? 23 Jan 2011

Beware of pushing Catholics out of the progressive club 18 Sep 2010


In recent polling (pdf) for the Sunday Times, for example, 36% of respondents felt Britain had become too secular compared with 31% who felt the balance was about right as it stood and the 17% who felt it was too religious.

Forty nine per cent feel religion continues to provide “critical guidance for the way we live our lives”, compared to 40% who object to this statement, while 38% said they believed in God, compared to 33% who said they didn’t.

As a Christian, I’m not going to argue that policy makers should listen only to the voice of Christians, particularly on critical issues of conscience.

Indeed, the fact that the proportion of people who, according to YouGov, believe in God as compared with those who don’t is so close it doesn’t provide a right for Christians to have their beliefs forced on other people.

As an Evangelical Christian who seeks to share God’s love, that love is accepted best when people have the opportunity to hear the Gospel, have questions answered then reflect on it themselves. Imposing faith on them does nothing other than to build a sense of resentment.

But equally, those not of faith, those who argue for a secular society, must recognise also that as a society all is not black and white and that Christians have equal rights to them to contribute to the national debate over many issues surrounding poverty, same sex marriages and abortions to name just a few without being labelled “bigots”.

At the heart of the problem is that we seem to drift from one policy issue to another without posing the critical question, namely are we a Christian country or not, and if so, what does that mean?

During his conference speech last year, Ed Miliband argued there was a need for a new society. In establishing what that new society for 21st-century Britain should look like, those of faith need to be at the very top table of the debate, shoulder to shoulder with those not of faith, establishing the very morals, ethics and values we in Britain want to be driven and bound by.

It’s time to decide.

Let’s not give the pretence of us being a Christian country as argued by Cameron et al if we are not prepared to put meat on the proverbial bone.


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32 Responses to “Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide”

  1. Patron Press - #P2

    #UK : Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide

  2. Robin Wilson

    The fundamental principle of religious tolerance is that the state is neutral among religions, so that every citizen, including non-believers, can enjoy freedom of conscience and so that public authorities comply with the basic requirement of non-discrimination. The corollary is that those of all religious persuasions, and none, equally enjoy freedom of expression in the public sphere to contribute to social debates. What is not acceptable is that those who purport to represent a majority religion should colonise public authority or that religious leaders should represent themselves as authority figures to whom others must defer.

  3. George Foxley

    "@PatronPress: #UK : Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide" I Fuckin hope we decide no!!!!!!!!

  4. Da'ud X Mohammed

    #UK : Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide

  5. Andrew Foster

    Two examples of the kind of great moral direction we can expect from our religious friends –

    1 Two men falling in love – evil.
    2 One man raping many children – not worth telling the police about.

    If you have something to contribute, do so. It bears no extra weight because your priest or holy book told you it does. And the reality is that due to the bizarre and twisted effects of religious belief, your contributions are markedly less likely to be good ones when compared to someone who makes decisions based on logic.

  6. Derbyshire Anti-Cuts

    Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide, writes @EdJacobs1985:

  7. Pulp Ark

    Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to… #ABritainWeAllCallHome #Atheism #Christianity #muslim #tcot #sioa

  8. grahambc1

    Good article to counter so much anti-Christianity coming from the Left. Many are using the idea of being equal to exclude and marginalise Christianity, something Keir Hardie would have profoundly opposed, Christians have a right to expression and belief just as anyone does.

  9. leftlinks

    Left Foot Forward – Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide

  10. DJ Monnett

    Are we a Christian country or not? It's time to decide: As an Evangelical Christian who seeks to share God's lov…

  11. Ash

    “those not of faith, those who argue for a secular society…”


    First of all, I’m not aware of anyone who’s arguing for a secular *society* – a society devoid of religious belief and practice. What secularists argue for is a secular *state*, which is a completely different kettle of fish. We have no problem with churches, religious charities etc. being part of the fabric of society, so long as the state institutions serving people of all faiths and none keep their noses out. (No religion should be either established or banned, for instance; no state institution should be holding prayers, or require employees to be members of any faith group, or educate children in any faith, etc.)

    Secondly, “those not of faith” and “those who argue for a secular [state]” are two distinct (if overlapping) groups. Some people of faith believe in a secular state, and no doubt some people who don’t have faith nonetheless think that state-funded church schools (say) are a good idea.

    Anyone who worries that the separation of church and state means religion being excluded from public life should look at the US. The idea of state-funded faith schools, or an established church with members sitting ex officio in the legislature, would look absolutely nuts over there; but that hardly means that religion has been sidelined. In fact you could argue that the US is a Christian society with a secular state.

  12. Joy Cherry

    Are we a Christian country or not? It's time to decide

  13. Cambusken

    I think you answer your own question, namely that we are a secular country and not one which privileges one religion over another. Nor is everyone is welcome in democratic debate – not racists, not sexists, not antisemites – and not homphopbes neither, which is the area Church leaders have chosen in which to define themselves. (You might detect a slight difference with Our Lord here). Church leaders’ language in the gay marriage debate is manifestly homophobic, with but an ornate (and so tawdry) connection to either scripture or reason. The structure of their, and your, rhetoric is the stuff of prejudiced debate in all the areas of equality – your talk of “gay rights activists” a variation on lobby, agenda, etc. It is a step away from, but fully consonant with, archbishops’ talk of gays being worse than dogs.Thankfully the vast bulk of Christians views are informed by the spirit, as is shown by their general decency in all social matters. Quite distinct from that of their so-called leaders.

  14. Good News Chronicles

    Are we a Christian country or not? It's time to decide: As a Christian, it has been heartening to hear the words…

  15. Paul Parker

    Are we a Christian country or not? It's time to decide

  16. Lea Milligan

    Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide, writes @edjacobs1985:

  17. Anonymous

    Why? why do we ‘have to’ decide? Out of the christian theologists fear of losing control or income? We haven’t always been a christian country at all, in fact christianity or our own rather altered version of it hasn’t been around that long in the grand scheme of British/European history – since we have a far clearer historical identity within mixed european gene pool than any claim to be christian. The beliefs followed in this country before the blood soaked brutality that forced the imposition of a middle eastern cult on north european tribes have a far longer history and claim on the beliefs of the population, their powers of earth, harvest and life were a sure sight more generous than the cruelty of a faith that torture and terrifies it’s population into subjugation.
    I for one am so utterly bored with this sort of bullish uneducated reactionary garbage which ushers us towards an narrowly defined and viciously exclusive, parochial, mean, judgmental, homophobic and cruel set of beliefs that bear no weight in any world I want my children to grow up in.

  18. Brian Johnson

    Do we actually want to be a Christian. country? You decide:

  19. Newsbot9

    This country is small-c christian. No offence, but this is one of these issues which is almost impossible to see from the inside. As a member of a different faith – Judaism – it’s quite apparent, however.

  20. Newsbot9

    Ah, so, what, strip the vote from theists?

  21. Newsbot9

    Actually, I strongly argue that in America, it’s far easier to pass blatantly faith-based policies. Because if you try and say they are, you’re met with a cry of “separation, separation!”. It prevents rational discussion, rather than aids it.

    (For my own part, I’m against state schools and think religious institutions and charities which can’t fill a single set of criteria for a government contract simply need not apply)

  22. Urban

    We are not a secular county – we are a Christian country, with Christian values built into the fabric of our history and core values, laws and we should be proud of this. Thankfully these tolerant christian values also allows freedom of speech and society that helps and supports all sectors of society together – this is our true strength in the uk.
    All countries and religions, and ploiticians, should and can learn tolerance and respect for different view points and show compassion in both words and actions to bring harmony and peace. We have more similarities than differences, share history and certain values, we all should focus on what we can give, how we can help others of any religion and by talking to each other, intergrating and learning from each other we can bridge the divisions and work together to be a society for all.

  23. Mr. Sensible

    I believe in the principle of a seperation between Church and State.

  24. fran

    Why does it matter so much to you ?? It’s a fool’s errand you’re on anyway because people can self declare anything they like about their religious beliefs for all sorts of reasons. Every statistic you quote has to be viewed in that light and vestigial belief makes it likely that a whole lot of people claim an affinity to Christianity which is quite moribund. Depending on your point of view this state of affairs may be a cause for concern or celebration or it may not matter at all and I think most people in Britain today fall into the last category. Only those with robust religious conviction (Christian or otherwise) would want their country defined primarily by religion at all and that group, or groups are not mainstream so why should they get to decide ?
    Nor should having a religion excuse political naivete in expecting politicians to get too literal about the concept of a Christian country. Of course they will pay lip service to religion/s but politics is about power and ultimately politicians know that religion has largely lost its social if not its moral force. Politicians will use religious tradition when it suits them politically as Cameron and Pickles seem to have done in your article and as Blair and others have done in the past. I would say that the political tolerance of organised religion is just about equal to the religious tolerance of the secular and the word tolerance in this context has little real currency implying the minimum accomodation to the views and values of another. We need to go a lot further than that to arrive at a framework for the common good and I certainly wouldn’t start from where you seem to want to.

  25. David B

    I want to see a secular country, not least because secularism is the best guarantee of freedom of religion.

    It is perfectly proper for employers to stop people wearing jewellery of any sort in the workplace in hospitals or machine shops, where it might be a vector for germs, or damage both heavy machinery and the wearer of the jewellery, and perhaps for other reasons, too.

    David B

  26. angus murray

    RT @leftfootfwd: Are we a Christian country or not? It’s time to decide

  27. Gawain Golightly

    There are a few vestigial relics of Christian Britain, like the bishops in the Upper House and swearing on the Bible, but frankly they are about as significant to our national life as Morris Dancers.

  28. John Dale

    No we’re not.

  29. Newsbot9

    So, strip citizenship from Theists?

  30. Louis Henry

    Presumably a Christian country bases its foreign policy on turning the other cheek and loving your enemy.

  31. Anonymous

    We are a post-faith country. Many of our laws and institutions are based on Christian values, but people, rightly, are far more critical and less deferential to priests, bishops et. al, because many act in hypocritical ways (and I’m a church-going Anglican who’s seen it first-hand!)

    Karen Armstrong, the author and expert on world religions, has the right answer: we should focus on compassion, social justice and tolerance for one another, regardless of gender, income, disability, sexuality etc. We’re all human beings, first and foremost, living through very tough and challenging times.

    I put meat on the proverbial bone by helping others whenever and wherever I can – with time, meals, coffee and sandwiches for the homeless, being with bereaved people and others coping with addicted families (like mine). Perhaps if local priests, bishops and archbishops could tell us what they PERSONALLY do, out of their own income (much of which comes from we parishioners) to help, people might listen more.

    Having friends of many different views/beliefs – including atheists – we’d be better off working together and SHOWING that we’re committed to social justice than whinging in the wings. It’s time for Grown Up Action (which is what Christ taught and lived, after all.)

  32. Sam

    “Imposing faith on them does nothing other than to build a sense of resentment.”- was bolded for emphasis. So his objection is NOT that it is immoral in any way to impose his faith on those who want to be left alone, but merely because it doesn’t work. Secularism, equality and liberty and absolutely linked concepts.

    Christianity and other religions are a force for good, and I really mean that, I think the average Christian is better for their faith, though I have none, when they have no power. That is why the Vatican is so despised- we don’t hate Catholics, but their structure centralises and thus increases their power, which is basic on irrationalities and is unchecked, hence the terrible acts the Church has historically and contemporarily be responsible for.

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