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Meditation 1198
If you are going to speak up for the persecuted...

by: John Tyrrell

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In an Easter message, David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK, strongly suggested that Britain is a Christian country, and then went on to assert that on this basis his government had a responsibility to speak out about the persecution of Christians worldwide.

“Across Britain, Christians don’t just talk about ‘loving thy neighbour’, they live it out…

"And it’s for all these reasons that we should feel proud to say, ‘This is a Christian country.’…

“Yes, we are a nation that embraces, welcomes and accepts all faiths and none but we are still a Christian country. And as a Christian country, our responsibilities don’t end there.

"We have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians around the world too.”

To me, this is very sloppy thinking coming from Cameron.

Does the fact that many Christians within the UK live their lives in accordance with Christian teachings make it a Christian country? After all, we know, and Cameron acknowledges, there are Muslims in the UK living their lives in accordance with Islamic teachings; Hindus living Hindu lives; Buddhists living Buddhist lives; Jews living Jewish lives; atheists living atheist lives; Jains living Jain lives; Sikhs living Sikh lives; Druids living Druid lives; and even apathetic agnostics living apathetic agnostic lives.

What this indicates is not a Christian country, but a thoroughly secular country.

The argument could be put forward that there is an “established church” but that claim confuses England (which does have an established Church) with the United Kingdom as a whole which does not. There is no established church in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.

While nearly 60% of those surveyed in the UK self-identify as Christians, the 25% who say they have no religion outnumber and Christian denomination. In addition, 67% of the total population, regardless of how they identify, have no current affiliation with any church, and regular church attendance stands at about 6%

Six percent of the population! If church attendance is indicative of Christians living Christian lives, that’s not enough to make the UK a Christian country. It is considerably outweighed by those of no religion living non-religious lives.

Whether or not the UK is a Christian country (and I think I’ve made a case it isn’t), does it have a duty to speak out about the persecution of Christians elsewhere? And specifically Christians?

Specifically Christians! That’s where I have my real problems with Cameron’s speech.

Yes – Christians are indeed being persecuted in many countries. But so are Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Baha’is, atheists, Druze, Yazidis, Mandaeans, and those of numerous other religious views. Those non-Christians persecuted for their beliefs greatly outnumber persecuted Christians.

And I would suggest, a considerable amount of that religious persecution is not because of the religion the persecuted are following, but rather because of the religion they are not following. They are being persecuted because they are "different" - the specific difference is irrelevant.

When Western leaders make a point of speak up against specifically Christian persecution, it appears they are making a special case for Christians. It can come across as a Crusader mentality; it can come across as Western imperialism; as an unwelcome reminder of colonialism. It comes across as special treatment for Christians. I’d suggest it is quite counter-productive. It is identifying Christianity as having a special relationship with the west - and thus foreign, and even more deserving of being suppressed.

No – if Western leaders are going to speak up, they should speak up against all religious persecution. They should stand up for religious freedoms for everyone – not just the religion which many in the third world see as an imperialist tool of the West.


After I wrote the above, but before it got published, I came across this article which, which while not directly addressing Cameron's remarks, covers similar territory: Polls consistently show we’re not a religious country. So why don’t our politicians get it? Humanist Life, 9 April 2015

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