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Freedom is not, of course, absolute. It is only possible in the context of the Common Good, where the freedom of each has to be exercised with respect for the freedom of all. Freedom of belief, of expression, and the freedom to change one’s belief are, however, vitally important for a free society, and the onus must be on those who wish to restrict these in any way to show why this is necessary. Nor can we say that such freedoms apply in some parts of the country and of the world and not in others. The rule of law must guarantee, and be seen to guarantee, such basic freedoms everywhere.

Safety from harm is certainly a leading concern in legislation today but this should not be too narrowly conceived. It depends on the biblical idea of shalom, of wholeness, peace and safety, not only of the individual but also of society as a whole. The debate between Lord Devlin and H. L. A. Hart of Oxford, in the middle years of the last century, was precisely about the scope of the “safety from harm” idea. Was it limited to the individual or did it extend to vital social institutions such as the family? Devlin was clear that it must extend to the latter also, and that fiscal and social legislation should take account of this aspect of safety from harm of a nation’s social capital.

One final value which deserves to be mentioned is that of hospitality. It is indeed ironic that Britain had to cope with large numbers of people from other faiths and cultures arriving at exactly the time when there was a catastrophic loss of Christian discourse. Thus Christian hospitality, which should have welcomed the new arrivals on the basis of Britain’s Christian heritage, to which they would be welcome to contribute, was replaced by the newfangled and insecurely founded doctrine of multiculturalism. This offered “tolerance” rather than hospitality, in some cases benign neglect rather than engagement, and an emphasis on cultural and religious distinctiveness rather than integration. As a succession of social commentators — Lord Ouseley, Trevor Phillips and Ted Cantle come to mind — have pointed out, the result has been segregated communities and parallel lives, rather than an awareness of belonging together and a common citizenship which foster integration and respect for fundamental freedoms for all.

It may be worth saying here that integration does not mean assimilation. It is quite possible for people to be engaged with wider society, to be aware of common values, to speak English and to have a sense of citizenship while also maintaining cultural and religious practices in terms of language, food, dress, worship and so on. The example of the Jewish and Huguenot communities, and of many more recent arrivals, gives us hope that integration and distinctiveness are not incommensurable qualities.

While some acknowledge the debt which Britain owes to the ­Judaeo-Christian tradition, they claim also that the values derived from it are now free-standing and that they can also be derived from other world-views. As to them being free-standing, the danger, rather, is that we are living on past capital which is showing increasing signs of being exhausted. Values and virtues by which we live require what Bishop Lesslie Newbigin called “plausibility structures” for their continuing credibility. They cannot indefinitely exist in a vacuum.

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DR J
January 14th, 2009
2:01 AM
"Imagine there's no heaven, and no religions, too..." John was an excellent songwriter and a poor sociologist. Remove the spiritual underpinnings of a society and you do not remove the need for spirituality. Crap and Islamofascism will fill the void.

D. Thornton
October 2nd, 2008
7:10 PM
Kentun8 - I have also heard the bishop speaking, & am extremely impressed by his grasp of what is happening in this country. As for the Anglican church's "constant adjustment to secular values" - that is its nemesis: it is becoming secularised & will eventually have no purpose for existing.

zodiaclove
September 30th, 2008
11:09 AM
hola I can't agree with what you said really.... please ellaberate a bit more for me ;D thank you

kentun8
July 13th, 2008
11:07 PM
To go back to the article... does anyone really know what the bishop was saying? He proposed "a rigorous investigation into the origins of nationhood", to show, I think, that Christian values moulded those that are essentially British. But his grasp of historical development is not just fuzzy but absent altogether. To cite one secular example, there was no consensus between Evangelicalism and the Enlightenment, the former arose in protest against the latter's diminishment of faith and Biblical belief. In his own backyard of church governance, the founding documents of Anglicanism, - the preface to the 1662 Prayer Book and the Thirty-Nine Articles - reflect the pervasive influence of secular values such as political tolerance, individual rights (mostly founded on property), and respect for personal conscience on the life of the church, rather than the other way round. And a phrase "The Westphalian consensus is dead" suggests that he does not even know what the Treaties of Westphalia were concerned with - the right of an outside force to interfere across national frontiers to right what it perceives as a moral wrong; if the concept of nationhood that grew ut of those treaties is really dead, why are we tying ourselves in knots about conditions inside Zimbabwe's borders, as we did over Bosnia, Kosovo, etc? I know the bishop is the media's conservative darling, but he is not the real article. He has no sense of the abiding values of the Anglican church, its tolerance, its constant adjustment to secular values, and its continuous self-criticism. As one of the bishop's flock, I have listened intently and repeatedly to his sermons, and I know him personally to be a kind and charming man, but I have never known him present an intelligent, clearly argued statement of what he actually believes.Or more alarmingly still, what he actually knows.

RacFos19
July 3rd, 2008
1:07 AM
When I was young I attended Church every Sunday with my family and was ridiculed for doing so by the neighbourhood children. As I grew up and learnt more about religion and the world in general: new discoveries, technologies and ideologies I too turned away from God. How in an age of reason could a person believe in and worship children's stories and fairy tales? And then I continued to grow up and discovered that although one didn't necessarily have to believe in the supernatural aspects of God one could believe in his teachings. Being a good and moral person how could one scorn the teachings of the bible? I was happy to discover that a man born some two hundred years ago thought along the same lines that I was thinking, I am of course referring to Thomas Jefferson, the 3rd President of America, who took a pair of scissors to the Bible and cut out the supernatural aspects and repackaged it as "The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth". However after looking at the long-term impacts that removing the Church and God from studies, as he perpetrated, and day to day life I realised that you can't have one without the other. Some think that I am quite childlike in my belief that man can and will be better. At one time politicians were of quite good moral stock, yes you could always find a bad apple in the barrel but generally speaking recent history has shown that those who democratically governed us did so with truth and honesty. I do not believe that it is childish or naive to think that that time will come again, and is, in fact, closer than we realise. Politicians today have a bad rap and in most cases quite deservedly, but the new generation of politicians will learn from their predecessors they will see that they cannot base their careers and campaigns on lies and deceit because it is getting harder and harder to fool the public, and so the new stock of politicians wont be the same mealy mouthed rats that we have grown so accustomed too. They will be of the most impeccable scruples, morals and decentness. To believe in God is not to believe in "sky Gods" to believe in the teachings of God is not to believe in "nonsense" it is to believe in the better nature of man and to believe that man can and will be better. God doesn't insist that you genuflect to him, or that you partake in costly rituals. He only asks that you love him and that you love your neighbour. God will forgive even the most destitute sinner if that sinner truly repents. God is merciful but only if the mercy is deserved, many people have the mistaken belief that if you say sorry for your sins that it gives you leave to sin again: because you can always say sorry again and God loves you and will forgive you. God does love you and he will always forgive you, but remember whatever God does to you he does because he loves you. If you are of the stock that sins, makes a false apology and then sins again, he will find a way of making you truly repent before opening the doors of Heaven to you.

Robert Callow
June 27th, 2008
5:06 AM
Miles, The bad news is that because of man's increasingly deceitful and proud state of mind, we are willfully killing ourselves at an increasingly alarming rate: The knowledge and power to completely destroy deluded mankind becomes increasingly more available to an increasing number of people who are growing increasingly more evil. The good news however, is that God has made known to us how to overcome this death culture and to look forward to His promised paradise where the infinite imagination of the Spirit of truth is the infinite realm of everything, where pure love's endless glory is perfect love's free and endless creation. Freedom is the freedom to choose.

Amy Jayne
June 26th, 2008
10:06 PM
This should not be about whose religion is "right" or "wrong". This should be about the ability of out nation's religions - and athiests - to co-exist without conflict or without the need to overshadow one-another. I am only 19 and yet I am greatly saddened by what I see has become of this once great country. Britain is weak and lacking in identity. This is nothing to do with how many Muslims we have, how many Christians we have or how many Hindus we have. It is to do with how many horrible, nasty excuses for human beings we have roaming our streets and running our country, and the rifts that they driving open between our many wonderful communities. The religious and non-religous alike should be uniting against these hatemongers, not each other.

Miles Sinclair
June 25th, 2008
7:06 AM
If christians want to believe in their god, then go ahead. BUT - if you are planning on "sharing" the good news that we all deserve death and eternal punishment - and that is what we will get if we don't believe what you believe, then expect a challenge. And it will be loud, and reasoned and equally passionate.

Richard Calhoun
June 12th, 2008
11:06 AM
The Churches only have themselves to blame, they have conspired with socialism since 1945 and abdicated their responsibility to the people to the 'Welfare State'

John Scott
June 11th, 2008
1:06 PM
The intellectual history outlined here is, frankly, so oversimplified as to be incredibly misleading (an obvious example, one cannot simply lead from the neo-Scholastics concerned with the Americas to John Locke: a hundred years and Northern European permutations are something of a gaping chasm). We are fortunate indeed that the current Archbishop of Canterbury is not given to making such intellectually dubious pronouncements.

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