There’s a lot in the news at the moment about whether Britain is a Christian country any longer.
David Cameron says we are a “Christian nation.” The former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says we are a “post-Christian nation.” Nick Clegg says wants us to be an “ex-Christian” nation, and Philip Pullman wants us to be a secular society.
I believe that we cannot say that Britain is a Christian country any more than we can say, as Pullman would like us to, that it is a secular one.
Many people in Britain are involved in both secular and religious organisations and there can be a lot of blurring between the two.
Establishing whether people are truly Christian from census records, is not straightforward either.
As humanists point out, many of those who marked themselves as Christian in the census, do not believe, for example, that Jesus rose from the dead. They are nominal Christians.
Can a country be Christian anyway? I would say this is too abstract a concept to apply to a geographical area stretching from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
What I do believe is that there are many Christians in Britain who – by living their lives with Jesus Christ at the centre, in church communities that look outwards to the needs of others around them – can change things for the better, and even turn the world upside down.
Jesus talked about this as “the kingdom of God,” a hidden power that is at work for good in the world through his followers.
He describes it as being like a little handful of yeast that gets mixed into a large amount of flour (Matthew 13:33). The power of the little grains of yeast is released to raise the dough ready to make fresh bread to eat.
The important question to be asking is, not whether Britain is a Christian country, but whether Britain is a nation of freedom. Freedom to express and adhere to all faiths or none, without harm to others.
But I believe the kingdom of God, like that little handful of yeast, is at work in Britain and throughout the world, even where there is less freedom of expression than here.
Whatever the political and religious climate in Britain, now and in the future, the call for Christians everywhere is clear: “To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)