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The rapid fragmentation of society, the emergence of isolated communities with only tenuous links to their wider context, and the impact of home-grown terrorism have all led even hard-bitten, pragmatist politicians to ask questions about “Britishness”: what is at the core of British identity; how can it be reclaimed, passed on and owned by more and more people?

The answers to these questions cannot be only in terms of the “thin” values, such as respect, tolerance and good behaviour, which are usually served up by those scratching around for something to say. In fact, the answer can only be given after rigorous investigation into the history of nationhood and of the institutions, laws, customs and values which have arisen to sustain and to enhance it. In this connection, as with the rest of Europe, it cannot be gainsaid that the very idea of a unified people under God living in a “golden chain” of social harmony has everything to do with the arrival and flourishing of Christianity in these parts. It is impossible to imagine how else a rabble of mutually hostile tribes, fiefdoms and kingdoms could have become a nation conscious of its identity and able to make an impact on the world. In England, particularly, this consciousness goes back a long way and is reflected, for example, in a national network of care for the poor that was locally based in the parishes and was already in place in the 16th century.

In some ways, I am the least qualified to write about such matters. There have been, and are today, many eminent people in public and academic life who have a far greater claim to reflect on these issues than I have. Perhaps my only justification for even venturing into this field is to be found in Kipling when he wrote, “What should they know of England who only England know?” It may be, then, that to understand the precise relationship of the Christian faith to the public life of this nation, a perspective is helpful which is both rooted in the life of this country and able to look at it from the outside.

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Mik
June 11th, 2008
5:06 AM
Atheistic leaders in the USSR and China slaughtered millions of their own citizens. Millions more were tortured and those that are alive will not agree with some of the outlandish statements made by religion-knockers here.

Christopher Brown
June 10th, 2008
4:06 PM
Fear, Fear and another time Fear. Given the fact that the Church as a whole gave up the prohibition of usury, is it any wonder that the church has been marginalised as a force for social justice? The prohibition of usury is divine and when you throw it out then all other aspects of faith become relative along with it. The next battle is not with Islam or the Muslims, it is with the injustice and inequality brought upon us by the banking, corporate, and stock exchange systems.

Mik
June 10th, 2008
5:06 AM
There is a lot of insecurity and confussion in Britain otday. This has had a terrible effect on its youth. Studies have confirmed this. A young person having the same faith as the Queen is punished because she does not bless gay marriage. Thwo others were threatened with arrest by a British police officer - a Muslim, I believe - because they were talking about their faith to some muslims. Apparently, they have no right to be in that part of London! It's a Muslim area!!!

Anonymous
June 9th, 2008
4:06 PM
Generalisations abounding: 'doctrine of jihad', 'caste system', Buddhist 'fatalism. How glib, & easy to dismiss what one doesn't begin to know or understand. What could be closer in so many regards than the 3 monothestic, Abrahamic religions? Those whose followers at times go at each other vigorously, furiously, & unfortunately, even viciously. The more I travel and live in various continents, the more I find people have in common, and the differences appear in a relative perspective. On the other hand, I find it sheer horror to deal with the kind of divisiveness that professedly religious people manage to spew, and tangle up in cultural, ethnic, etc frays.

Robert Callow
June 9th, 2008
11:06 AM
Yes bishop, a justified concern does exist over the absence of moral development in a growing proportion of children in western society. There is a justified concern also being expressed in many western countries over the inadequate deterrents reflected in the sentences or punishments now being given to the worst kind of criminals, i.e. those who are guilty of having complete contempt for their victims. Yes, these concerns are nothing new, since the 1960s many including myself have watched this situation grow steadily worse as decreasing deterrents and a forsaking of established values have worked as an incentive for all kinds of evil. But probably the greatest concern for me right now is that we live in a democracy where the majority of voters have freely and repeatedly elected politicians who, in these last few decades, have continued passing legislation that allows and encourages evil to increase. Despite all of the promises from politicians, nothing effective comes from them, nothing is being achieved by them that would curb and overcome this worsening evil in our society. Under this growing and yet deceptive evil many of the electorate have grown ignorant, having now only contempt for the truth; and for as long as enough of these blind and gullible voters continue to hold sway at elections, so also will evil naturally continue to increase in strength, but not just in the West: Working through unseen enemies of the West, a most dangerous evil with all it's twisted reasoning and paranoia is growing and reaching out for the knowledge and power to destroy cities. Leaders of the revival of radical Islam who are now affecting millions with their extreme hatred for the growing depravity working through offensive western culture, which threatens to dominate or destroy their faith, have already begun their quest for weapons of mass destruction. A growing number of Muslims then, as they become radicalized, are able to believe more easily they are the ones fighting the just war and that it is good for them to offer their lives to kill or maim whoever seriously threatens their religion and authority... and let no one underestimate how Islam controls those who take the word and the way of this religion seriously...

Mo
June 9th, 2008
7:06 AM
Iftikhar Ahmad: It's a chicken-and-egg problem. Muslims behave badly and think they're treated badly. Which came first? Does it matter? The larger issue is whether Britain should change to accommodate Muslims. I don't think it should. And if Muslims disagree and insist on living in a manner that is not only alien to Britain but in many respects opposed to it then they have no choice but to live in ghettoes or leave the country. We non-Muslims ought to make it easy for Muslims to prosper if they live in harmony with our culture, deferring to our ways, and extremely difficult to do so otherwise. If Islam had deep roots in the country I might argue otherwise, but it doesn't. There were 20,000 Muslims in the country in 1950. Most of the two million who are here now came looking for a better life. If they or their children haven't found it, it should be just as easy to go away.

Steve Meikle
June 7th, 2008
8:06 PM
Too any people think that civility, honesty, loyalty to parents etc are christian values. This would only be the case if they, or their invocation, were unique to the gospel of christ. But they aren't. Confucius advocated these self same things. Aztecs brought up their children to be this also, even when they slaughtered prisoners of war for their gods. Christianity is something else, a love i have never seen in any church. Thus the church and public religion of Europe for the last 1700 years was never christianity. As for democracy stemming from christianity, the limitation of royal power was a germanic idea in which the king was the first of equals among his war band. There is in fact no trace of democracy in the Bible I am a convinced christian, but let us not obscure the issue by bad history or sentimental adherance to a cultural tradition

Steve Meikle
June 7th, 2008
7:06 PM
Europe was never christian for all its self proclamation thereof. when Europe called itself christian they burned heretics and disembowelled traitors: such curelty is at total variance to the commandment of christ to love one another and to show mercy. Thus it was never christianity that was abandoned, rather the pretense. And thank God, I say. After all would you really want to be legally compelld to go to churh every sunday on pain of a fine that constituted a day or more of your pay (as in Elizabethan England) Human nature is such that no public religion that calls itself christianity will ever be such. And this is because Jesus said his kingdom is not of this world.

Bill Hensley
June 4th, 2008
5:06 AM
Brian, of course you will find some elements of truth in most religions. Almost no one gets everything wrong! But each of the values mentioned by Bishop Nazir-Ali does in fact find full expression in the Christian scriptures. Human dignity: "Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." (I Peter 2:17) Equality: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) Liberty: "You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." (Galations 5:13) Safety: "The commandments, 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not covet,' and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13:9-10) Hospitality: "Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it." (Hebrews 13:2) Just to illustrate the unity of thought in the New Testament I pulled all of the above from the Epistles rather than the Gospels. Certainly each of these values was also taught by Jesus himself. Critics of Christianity like to treat the Bible piecemeal. They try to set Paul against Jesus, and the New Testament against the Old. But if you want to understand the core teachings of Christianity, I encourage you to focus on the whole New Testament, taken together, as being the final and fullest revelation of God's message to us. The Old Testament does not contradict the New, but must be understood in light of it. A complete picture of God must include both his judgement of sin and his sacrificial love. If you focus on one to the exclusion of the other you get a distorted picture. These values did not suddenly appear in Europe during the Enlightenment. It is better to say that the Enlightenment thinkers tried to liberate these ideas from their Christian substrate. In so doing, they unintentionally made them easier to discard in later centuries when such concepts became inconvenient to those who desired to wield absolute power with no moral constraints on their actions. When one understands that these values are rooted in the commandments of Almighty God it is evident that the cannot be ignored without disastrous consequences.

Anonymous
June 4th, 2008
3:06 AM
The truth is that if you really do your homework in truly honest and rigorous manner you will find that that there is no basis in Truth and Reality for any of the usual Christian beliefs or propositions. Which is not to say that the Indivisible Conscious Light that IS Real God does not exist.

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