Thursday, 2 December 2010

Not Ashamed

Not Ashamed is a campaign launched by Christian Concern, and backed by Lord Carey (former Archbishop of Canterbury).

It calls upon Christians to be more confident in their faith against an “attempt to ‘air-brush’ the Christian Faith out of the picture”.

I sympathise with many of Lord Carey’s concerns, as stated in the campaign leaflet. Britain does indeed owe much to the Christian faith, from the UK’s overarching morality to its educational establishments (it was Christian schools that educated the poor and the young in the UK well before the State had even the slightest concern for such things). It should also be appreciated that Non-Conformist and the Protestant traditions helped imbue Britain with a sense of religious freedom that is still visible today.

I likewise agree that there are determined efforts to remove Christianity from the public sphere. Although perhaps not all of his examples are accurate – the concern over ‘winter lights’ instead of Christmas lights leads on from repeated tabloid stories about ‘Muslims banning Christmas’. In fact, the stories are so often repeated that they feel part of the annual Christmas run-up. This year was no disappointment, with the Daily Star leading a front page story with the headline ‘Christmas ‘nicked’ by Muslims’. It goes without saying the headlines are somewhat fabricated.

But I do not agree with Lord Carey’s diagnosis of the causes for the removal of Christianity from the public sphere. He writes: -

“So, it appears that flowing from a combination of well-meaning political correctness, multiculturalism and overt opposition to Christianity, a new climate, hostile to our country’s tradition and history, is developing.”

Almost like an elephant in the room, the word ‘secularism’ seems conspicuous in its absence.

I strongly disagree that political correctness (an empty term which few take heed of) is responsible. Nor is multiculturalism to blame. Multiculturalism is widely misunderstood and offers much to this country. A simple definition of multiculturalism is the acceptance of more than one cultural tradition in the public sphere (arguing in favour of pluralism) and a recognition that there exists, alongside the individual, group identities. It is in many ways in antipathy with secularism. It may be out of vogue, but it is invaluable.

Rather, the concern to remove Christianity from the public sphere began during the Enlightenment, and Christianity alone is not the focus, but religion all together. The Age of Reason often put itself squarely in opposition to religion. In France, the values of the Enlightenment came to fruition through laicite, which has generally made slow progress in Britain, and thankfully so.

Secularism, in its extreme form, denies the individual freedom of expression, in the hope to maintain some imagined absence of religion. It is contradictory in that it abuses and infringes upon the individuals rights while claiming to defend them, and likewise removes the very moral tools needed for a free, open, just and merciful society.

I wish Lord Carey and Christian Concern well with their campaign, but if they wish to be truly effective, they should recognise that it is secularism which is infringing upon the right to faith in the public sphere.

And if they wish to successfully contest the ideals of secularism, then partnership with other faiths will be necessary.