THE British, or a goodly part of the newspaper-reading and BBC-listening segment of the population, last month at around Easter week, spent time reflecting on whether theirs is a Christian or post-Christian country.
In graduate schools, for the past 40 years or so, the “post” status of aspects of civilization has been a subject of study. This is a result of the philosophical “post-modernism” movement. From this emerged such concepts as post-modern art, literature, architecture, criticism, and so on.
Post-modernism gives weight to skeptical, subjective, up-ending positions. It gives as much importance and credence to non-standard and innovative thinking and approaches. This is wonderful from the point of view of arriving at fresh and creative ways of analyzing and assessing anything.
But a negative effect has been the granting to upstart, immature and even ignorant positions the same respect given to established and scholarship-backed theories and ideas. The post-modernist does not confer acceptance to anything as the finally correct version of reality—because the established and time-honored definition could in fact be wrong or because the scientifically established truth could be true only according to a certain angle of relativity.
That philosophical attitude has become so widespread that most people in most Western societies actually believe that what a child and an old man say are equally valid, and the wisdom of a high school graduate is not superior to that of a Ph.D.—and that all religions are the same.
The UK debate on whether that realm is a Christian country or not started with an article by Prime Minister David Cameron (a Conservative) in the Anglican publication, Church Times, which is known as the world’s leading Anglican weekly. The article is titled My Faith in the Church of England.
In the article, the British PM expresses his pride in the Anglican Church’s openness, beauty, social action, and pastoral care.
The article starts with Mr. Cameron recalling that the week before he had held his fourth annual Easter reception in Downing Street. And continues:
“Not for the first time, my comments about my faith and the importance of Christianity in our country were widely reported.
“Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn’t talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organizations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.
“First, being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgment on those with no faith at all. Many people tell me it is easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.
“Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work, charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of every faith and none – and we should be confident in standing up to defend them.
“People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course, faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.
“Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code – and there are Christians who don’t. But for people who do have a faith, that faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction – and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code matters.”
Driving force for pro-poor projects
He proceeds, reminding his countrymen that the Anglican faith is “the driving force behind some of the most inspiring social-action projects in our country, our faith-based organizations play a fundamental role in our society. So, in being confident about our Christianity, we should also be ambitious in supporting faith-based organizations to do even more.” He then justifies his government’s “investing £20 million in repairing our great cathedrals, but also giving £8 million to the Near Neighbors program, which brings faith communities together in supporting local projects” which do a lot to “help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For generations, much of this work has been done by Christians, and I am proud to support the continuation of this great philanthropic heritage in our society today.”
Then he called on his Christian countrymen to have “greater confidence in our Christianity” because that “can also inspire a stronger belief that we can get out there and actually change people’s lives, and improve both the spiritual, physical, and moral state of our country, and even the world.”
Secular writers who, like those of the United States and here in our country, complained that because Britain’s is a plural society with a lot of Muslims, Jews and believers of other religions, Mr. Cameron should just keep his thoughts about Christianity to himself and lambasted him.
But the point that some people did not like was his calling Britain “a Christian country.”
Fifty celebrities wrote a joint letter disagreeing with PM Cameron, insisting that the UK had a “non-religious” and a “plural” society. They scolded Mr. Cameron for causing “division” and “alienation” by saying that Britain was “Christian.”
The debate became more interesting when a former head of the Anglican Church said Britain is a “post-Christian” not a “Christian country” as Mr. Cameron had said.
Lord Archbishop Rowan Williams, who retired as head of the Church of England in 2012, told the Telegraph that the UK had ceased to be a nation of Christian believers.
PM Cameron refuted Lord Williams, who then made the clarification that the UK’s being “post-Christian” that does not mean it’s a “non-Christian” because the British people’s “cultural memory is still quite strongly Christian.” But he insisted that the British are
“post-Christian” because most of them don’t practice their Christian faith.
But he said “we are not a nation of dedicated secularists.”
The current Archbishop of Canterbury and therefore head of the Anglican Church, Reverend Justin Welby, supports the Prime Minister’s view of Britain as a Christian country. He said it is a “”historical fact [perhaps unwelcome to some, but true]that British culture, law, and ethics were founded on Christian teachings and traditions. “
Are we really Christian?
How about us Filipinos? Are we a really Roman Catholic Christian country?
I agree, from the viewpoint of history and culture, that we are. We still have enough Christians who believe in most of what the Credo (“I believe in God the Father Almighty…) says. I also agree with Mr. Cameron about the power of our Christian faith in making believers do something for others, specially the poor.
But I think a lot of Catholics—the majority who don’t go to Mass on Sundays and holidays of obligation and those who support President Aquino’s enthusiasm for the population control law that is misnamed Reproductive Health Law—are really “post-Christians” as Lord Rowan Williams defines them.