Skip to comments.Stop apologising for being Christian
Posted on 12/21/2005 10:14:14 AM PST by sionnsar
A measure of the sort of country we now live in - or fear we live in - was to be found on the front of Monday's Daily Telegraph. "Stand up for Christmas, archbishops tell their flocks", our headline read.
It referred to a co-ordinated (and many would think somewhat belated) rearguard action against the forces of political correctness by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and his predecessor, Lord Carey.
Both referred to the pressure now placed on us to ease off on references to Christmas, Christ and Christianity, for fear of causing offence to those who do not follow that particular faith. They also indicated the help they feel is being given to the process of making Christmas into a secular winter holiday by the forces of consumerism.
One or two of us took a deep breath at this, for it was a rare instance in our lifetimes of the Church of England actually standing up for something, and actually being right. It was also shocking, however, that in a country with an established Christian church, and whose Muslim population (for example) is only around three per cent, such an exhortation should be felt necessary.
Perhaps I am one of those whose feelings the thought fascists hope to spare by not mentioning the C word. In a hideous act of precocity, I saw as a child that, having tried as hard as I could, I could not believe in God. I greatly regret this, but, despite extensive reflection, I can see no reason after all these years to revise my view.
I accept the existence of Jesus Christ as a historical figure, but the Christian miracles are beyond me. I wonder, too, what the narrative tradition of history has meant to the evolution of the Gospels, and rather suspect that what we have read since the King James Bible is rather a long way from where events actually started.
So, in common with many who have suffered from the secularisation of the European mind since the mid-19th century, I must make my way down the Cresta Run to the grave without the considerable comfort of religion. However, as I do so, I rejoice wholeheartedly as an atheist that I live in a Christian culture, and I know that, in that undeniably hypocritical act, I am not alone.
Indeed, it is not just those who, like me, were born into Christian families who feel this way: so do many Muslims and Jews, and it is one of the reasons that they are so happy to live in our country and be surrounded by that culture.
It is bewildering, therefore, that there should apparently be people here who take such offence at Christmas, and against whom a brace of archbishops feel the need to take up their croziers. I suspect they are very few in number and exert an influence far in excess of their real strength. Like all extremists and bullies, they deserve no tolerance at all.
They might merit some of our pity: if they shut themselves off from the Christian culture, whether from the beauty of the liturgy, the serenity of church music, or from admiring the reticulated tracery of an east window, then their lives can only be deeply impoverished. They must also conduct a pretence that some of our most fundamental institutions are expressly Christian: notably our monarchy, and the Established Church of which our monarch is Supreme Governor. Parliament still begins each day's deliberations with prayers.
Our oldest schools and universities have intrinsic links with the Anglican Church. Our very system of justice is implicitly Christian. Our history is Christian since the dawn of the seventh century. More to the point, it is by the will of the majority, in our democracy, that all this remains so.
Those who dislike this have, of course, every right to militate against it. They have, however, no right to impose their minority view on anyone else. One of the most admirable qualities of Islam is that, in Islamic states, it makes no apology for itself, but has all the self-confidence that makes old cultures so attractive and potent. Nor should Christianity in Christian states such as ours have to go on the defensive, or seek accommodations with modern fashions, alien customs, bigotry and ignorance.
Most Muslims I know enjoy our Christmas just as much as atheists such as I do, and they understand, as intelligent people, the place of the festival in our history, our culture and our way of life. No: the offence they are alleged to take about it is, instead, taken on their behalf by politically motivated wreckers, who do so without actually asking Muslims, or Jews, or atheists, whether they mind this sort of prejudice being promulgated in their names. And, sadly, they seem to be encouraged in this offensive behaviour by the cowardice of politicians.
It is less appreciated than it might be that the Archbishop of Canterbury, as the leading prelate of the Established Church, is as much a political figure as an ecclesiastical one. We have an established church presumably because our rulers (on whom the very idea of establishment depends) feel it remains right that Protestantism should be supported by the state, as the mainstream religion of the English nation and its people. This does not, of course, exclude other religions from being practised freely in England: it just means that there is a pecking order.
Unlike many such pecking orders, this does not reflect the imposition of a tendentious point of view: it reflects popular belief, both religious and secular, and a sense of how things actually are and not what a politically motivated minority would like them to be.
The modern Left exercises a militant anti-Christianity not so much because of a cultural cringe in the face of immigrant minorities, but because of its general wish to dismantle history. Once you have erased Christianity, you have erased (or at least made appear irrelevant) much of the past 1,400 years. "Modernisation" in all its political forms is about the tabula rasa, and there are few ways of creating one of those so effective as the destruction of the traditional faith.
The two archbishops were, it must be pointed out, only following the example of the Supreme Governor herself, who made what once would have been an entirely unshocking defence of Christianity at the General Synod a few weeks ago.
The Queen attracted great attention when she did this precisely because it is so unusual for leaders of our society to promote Christianity and the Christian way of life. We know the Queen's sincerity on this subject, expressed since before her coronation, and we know, too, how a vast but largely silent majority of her people will have agreed with her and, now, with her two prelates.
Our main politicians, though, prefer to remain silent. No one is actually expecting either Tony Blair, or David Cameron, or (if his party would let him) Charles Kennedy to issue a theological pronouncement even at this season, or to parade his faith (if he has one) in what could only be construed as a vulgar and opportunist fashion.
But it would be refreshing for one of them to speak out and assault council officials who ban Christmas decorations in their offices, or teachers who refuse to tell the story of Christmas, or local authorities that issue diktats about the importance of secularising what we used to call "Christmas lights" in shopping centres. The demented fear of causing offence, and of not, for a moment, being all things to all men (and, in these inclusive times, women) continues, however, to prevail.
As so often now, a lead is being taken by the people. Last summer, a small, unrepresentative group of militant Islamists sought to attack our country not least because they despised its Christian culture. At this season, we should think especially of their victims, who died not least because they lived in a country whose Christian ethic of tolerance meant it was slow to grasp the threat against itself from within.
All of us, whatever our faith or lack of it, should see in Christmas a reaffirmation of a way of life that a few others wish to destroy, and the wonder of our benign sense of atavism. Atheist, Muslim and Jew can be part of this civilised, free-thinking resistance movement. And perhaps, if enough of us express this feeling now, our political leaders will feel it safe to jump aboard the bandwagon, with their usual lack of shame, in time for next Christmas.
BTTT....I've got to finish this one later. Looks good.
Okay I read the whole thing and really enjoyed it. Thanks.
I apologize that anyone would apologize for being Christian. And I'm not even Christian.
In a hideous act of precocity, I saw as a child that, having tried as hard as I could, I could not believe in God. I greatly regret this, but, despite extensive reflection, I can see no reason after all these years to revise my view.
Yes it is too bad. But he is wonderfully gracious to the rest of us none the less. We should pray for him.
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