Marlborough’s Rector answers the challenge of Christians frightened to speak out about their faith
Religion is changing in Britain with the result that it has become an interesting mix of both religious and secular values. But religion will not go away even if its roots and values are no longer widely recognised.
That is the view of Marlborough’s Rector, Canon Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, in response to a declaration by Dominic Grieve, the Attorney General, who claims the rise of religious fundamentalists has made Christians afraid to speak out.
The Cabinet minister’s challenging views were splashed on the front page of the Daily Telegraph in the heated debate over Prime Minister David Cameron’s claims that Britain remains a Christian country.
The Attorney insisted that 1,500 years of Christian values were “not going to disappear overnight” and that many people remained believers even if they chose not to go to church.
And the Rector responded, declaring: “Given Alistair Campbell's infamous remark that 'we don't do God', it is no surprise that David Cameron's comments about Britain being a Christian country have prompted such debate.
“Perhaps the more surprising thing is that he was willing to speak personally about his own faith and the value of the church's pastoral care.
“The Prime Minister suggested he was a rather 'classic' member of the Church of England -- 'not that regular in attendance and a bit vague on some of the more difficult parts of the faith'.
“I suspect that this is indeed representative of others and what lies behind it is the sense that Christianity sets standards towards which we aspire.
“So when people are asked whether they regard themselves as Christian, they often say ‘Well, I’d like to think so’. It is an aspiration as much as an affirmation.”
He pointed out that one of the Church of England’s most valued characteristics is its tolerance and inclusiveness, making it an irony that those who objected to the Prime Minister’s remarks did so partly because they fear that the comments will “foster alienation and division” in society.
And he added: “The truth is that religion is changing in Britain. Whilst regular church going has declined, a lot of belief has not. At the same time certain secular values -- equality, fairness --are also held deeply.
“This suggests that Britain is neither a religious country nor a secular one, but an interesting mix of both. Religion will not go away, even if the link between the values which are widely held in common and the roots of belief from which they stem is less widely recognised.
“There may be parts of Britain and parts of British culture where Christians feel afraid to speak up as the Attorney General has indicated, but that is a far cry from claiming a sense of persecution.”
The Rector pointed to the relentless negative statements broadcast today and declared: “We are on stronger ground when we assert the positive values that the Christian faith encourages us to adhere to.
“We witness to the belief that money isn’t our ruler and self-promotion isn’t King, but that fulfilment comes in part from serving others and imagining what it is like to be someone different.”