Both nations are Christian and that should count for something

Prof Timothy Bradshaw, Oxford University theology department

The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow certainly went with a bang and provided a bonanza of athletic and sporting excitement. It reminded us of the Commonwealth, a unique family of nations across the globe, across cultures, races, languages and customs.

While no doubt recent criticisms of the British Empire have been well made, nevertheless it has left a legacy of goodwill and a desire to retain this important commonwealth bond, and the Queen is a very important figure in this with her devotion to duty and the good will across the nations.

The games also reminded us of the Scottish referendum soon to be held, and the possibility of the UK being profoundly changed if Scots vote to leave and form a new, independent foreign country.

The opening and closing ceremonies of the games reminded us that Scotland is a mono-cultural nation with its own kilted Celtic culture, whereas the Danny Boyle opening ceremony of the London Olympics emphasised the multi-cultural nature of the modern UK, as did the England team.

The two countries have different histories and traditions, but have intertwined in a very successful marriage, going back to King James VI of Scotland who also became James I of England in 1603.

He devised the Union Flag and the idea of Great Britain and worked hard at the marriage.

As the BBC TV programme The Stuarts showed, his successors destabilized this union a fair bit. 1706 saw the Act of Union, when Scotland was in dire financial crisis. And the bonding of the nations proved amazingly successful.

The English, Welsh and Northern Irish have been pretty quiet during the SNP campaign to end this marriage, although as David Bowie said, ‘we would miss you’ if you left. Can we think about the prospect of this split in terms of a spiritual or religious approach?

Well, democracy itself sprang from a Christian root, the idea that everyone is important and so should have a vote in a nation’s government: this was especially promoted by our Free Churches in the UK, and went to America with the Puritans so successfully.

So if most Scots want to leave, that is their right. But what of the wider role of a strong Great Britain on the world stage? That would be weakened by this split. The UK is thought to be ‘a good guy’ in world affairs – that is why Barack Obama wants us to stay united for example. Pope Francis said that unless separation was to gain freedom from oppression, then there is no really good reason to split, as in this case.

Historically Scotland and England were united by a shared Protestant faith, under a Christian monarchy.

This glue has melted away as society has become secularised. But still the two nations are officially Christian and that should count for something in terms of wanting to be as close as possible in order to implement fair and just social policies, ‘sharing risks and costs’, to quote Gordon Brown – and whatever the result of the referendum that must apply to everyone, not some more than others.

Christians believe that God is love, a complex rich life of mutuality and trusting acceptance, revealed in Jesus’s life. Maybe we should try to look at this political battle through his eyes?

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