Saturday, April 19, 2014
Britons should be “more confident of our status as a Christian nation”.
If a church leader said this, I could just about forgive the naivety. After all, us God-fearing types are supposed to cut each other some slack.
But the man who did say it, prime minister David Cameron, ought to know better. For Britain is not a Christian nation.
What did you do yesterday to remember the crucifixion of the Son of God? And what will you do tomorrow to celebrate His resurrection?
Most people will have worshipped the great god of DIY, gone for a walk, watched a Bank Holiday film or gorged on chocolate. Hot cross buns are available all year round. And most of us munch them with no clue of what they signify.
In truth, if we all meditated on the bloody crucifixion of Jesus while nibbling a bun, we’d rapidly lose our appetite.
There are, of course, the hardy few who will be genuinely moved by the significance of the Easter season.
But the truth is, Britain is a secular nation.
There are probably more ginger people in total than true Christians. But nobody would suggest Britain is a “ginger nation”. Nor would they say we’re a nation of people who wear double-denim. Mr Cameron is right that Christianity can make a positive difference to society: take the Christian-led food banks, which are keeping many people from starvation in this “Christian” nation of ours.
But his brand of Christianity has a small “c”. For he cheerfully admits to occasional church attendance, sporadic prayer and no real day-to-day experience of living close to God. It’s “insurance policy faith”: doing your bit to keep in God’s good books, just in case He does exist. And there is a hint of cynicism about what he said – for he knows that many voters will welcome his wishy-washy words as they live in daily fear of the foreign demons taking over Blighty with their strange religions and unfamiliar food.
The big problem is that he is perpetuating a myth that keeps us all in dangerous complacency.
While we kid ourselves that we are a Christian nation, it enables us to slide further away from what that should mean in reality.
Real Christianity changes people’s hearts and behaviour and has a positive impact on communities.
Mr Cameron’s version is an empty, meaningless platitude.
• While David Cameron is kidding himself while winning a few cheap votes, a former Norwich City footballer is closing in on becoming a Roman Catholic priest.
It gives me the chance to roll out a few cheap puns.
Phil Mulryne has gone from crossing the ball to crossing himself. Mulryne steps up to take the penalty – but Jesus saves.
I could go on. But I have ringing in my ears, the echo of my children saying “you’re not funny, dad”.
Anyway, the story of the soon-to-be Father Mulryne illustrates the difference between Mr Cameron’s belief and others’ faith.
And it shows how fame, fortune and adulation do not ultimately satisfy – a truth that the current X-Factor generation would do well to take on board.
Mulryne learnt his trade with David Beckham at Manchester United, and went on to be very well paid and much admired during a successful spell at Norwich City.
But he still yearned for something more, something truly meaningful. His chosen path is unusual for a former footballer. But he is not alone as a sportsman in discovering that the trappings of success can feel like emptiness.
You only have to consider the number of footballers and cricketers who have turned to drink or gambling, or have battled depression.
Mulryne’s choice will baffle many people. And he does look a bit odd in his cassock – especially to those who are accustomed to seeing him in a green and yellow football kit.
But, with big money and fleeting glory behind him, I’d bet he’ll be a lot happier.