God’s own country
No loaves and fishes from Cameron
After alienating the fundamentalist Church of England wing of the Conservative Party with his support of equal marriage, David Cameron has decided to play to them and place down the Christian card in the run up to the annual celebration of the torture and execution of a literary character. In a vile twisted perception of reality, Cameron pines in the pages of the Church Times for good old Christian values, but moans:
“I sometimes feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty.”
I don’t quite know what to make of this. Tory ‘efforts to tackle poverty’ have been a naked war on the poor, making poverty worse. The coalition government has been instrumental in making life worse for people on the poverty line, the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’, punitive welfare sanctions, the vicious cutting of welfare budgets. This has led to a massive increase in food banks, and the emergence of people being admitted into hospital with malnutrition.
Malnutrition; in the 21st Century; in one of the wealthiest nations in the world; in what Cameron considers a ‘Christian country’.
Well, this is the guy who said that “Jesus invented the Big Society 2,000 years ago.” If Jesus invented Cameron’s Big Society, then Dracula invented blood transfusions.
It is true that religious organisations are stepping in to help where they can. The Trussell Trust has reported a massive growth in requests for emergency food:
Cameron is grateful to Christian organisations though:
“I welcome the efforts of all those who help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For generations, much of this work has been done by Christians…”
This is because he and his chums are dismantling the welfare state, the fair, secular solution.
Not a Christian country
Cameron said Britain should be “more confident about our status as a Christian country”. This is a myth that is regularly resurrected, and it seems appropriate that Cameron’s done it in the run up to the celebration of the Christian resurrection myth. True, our unelected head of state is also the head of the Church of England. Unelected bishops sit in the House of Lords. For over a thousand years Christianity of one flavour or another has been the dominant religion in Britain, owned massive swathes of land and property, and held power over the lives, deaths and afterlife of British people.
But that doesn’t mean that Britain is a Christian country. Our laws are secular. Our electoral system is secular. Our state machinery is secular. Despite having a state sanctioned church, it’s largely a ceremonial relationship and the UK is probably one of the most secular states in the world.
Religiously, the UK is diverse. For the Prime Minister to suggest that Britain is a Christian country, it implies that any citizen of any religion that isn’t Christian (or of no religion) is somehow not properly British. This attitude skirts the bigotry of the EDL and UKIP, with the sinister finger-pointing of the zealot, who lives in a paranoid world where the non-Christian is an outsider whose is ‘not one of us’. We can see where that kind of thinking can lead today in the Central African Republic, where Muslims are being butchered by the thousands. By Christians. We can see it in Muslim countries where being un-Islamic can put an innocent person in prison or their head on the chopping block. Closer to home, sectarianism in Northern Ireland has kept communities fractured for generations. There are still many in North Ireland who believe that being Protestantism is a core component of Britishness.
Defining a country and it’s citizens by a religious belief is at best pernicious; at worst, murderous.
This is why Britain being a secular country is a good thing. No matter what religious baggage our history brings, a country with secular values ignores arbitrary ‘morals’ born out of iron age superstition and medieval ignorance, and treats everyone equally, irrespective of their religious beliefs.