Feb

15

2012

Joe Carter|2:37 AM CT

Britain's Muslim Ally in the Fight for Christian Britain‎

The Story: In an historic visit to the Vatican, Baroness Warsi, Britain's first female Muslim Cabinet minister, gave a speech in which she expressed concerns about the marginalization of religion throughout the United Kingdom and Europe, saying that faith needs "a seat at the table in public life."

"You cannot and should not extract these Christian foundations from the evolution of our nations any more than you can or should erase the spires from our landscapes."

The Background: Although Warsi is Muslim, she grew up in a town where Christian values were important during her youth, notes Robert Winnett of The Telegraph. The minister has decided to send her own daughter to a Christian school.

Winnett says the speech represents one of the most strident defenses of the importance of religion by a serving British minister. "It comes days after the High Court ruled that local councils could not hold prayers during meetings. There have also been recent cases of public sector workers being banned from displaying Christian symbols at work."

What It Means: While Warsi is justified in being concerned about the marginalization of religion, much of the blame can be placed on those who call themselves "Christians."

A recent survey reveals that a majority of people in the U.K. who identify as Christians do so only for cultural reasons. When asked why they think of themselves as Christian, the research found that fewer than three in ten (28%) say one of the reasons is that they believe in the teachings of Christianity. Around two thirds (64%) were not able to identify Matthew as the first book of the New Testament, when given only four answers to choose from and over a third (37%) have never or almost never prayed outside a church service. Almost three quarters (74 per cent) agreed that religion should not influence public policy, while only about one in eight (12 per cent) thought it should, the survey found.

Before the Christian faith can take its place in the British public square, it first needs to reestablish its place in the country's homes and churches. The United Kingdom doesn't just need to recover Christendom, it needs to recover its faith in the kingdom of Christ.

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Joe Carter is an editor for The Gospel Coalition and the co-author of How to Argue Like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator. You can follow him on Twitter.

  • DaveL

    > much of the blame can be placed on
    > those who call themselves "Christians."

    Hang on... the majority of people who call themselves Christians may well be those that identify with the social construct and not our Lord and Saviour, but to suggest they are to blame for anti-Christian sentiments is very wide of the mark. There are organisations taking a much more militant role.

    A Christian group in the UK has been banned from claiming that God can heal illnesses on its website and in leaflets by the Advertising Standards Authority. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-somerset-16871116

  • Andrew

    I must agree with DaveL.
    There is no clear connection between the statistics quoted and the implication drawn that "nominal" Christians bear much of the blame for the hostility expressed within the UK toward public expressions of faith. In fact the statistics, gathered for a publicly hostile institution, actually give hope that a significant proportion of those who nominate as Christian actually have at a least rudimentary faith that they are prepared to declare apart from the institution of the church.

    Keep in mind that the culture of the UK is not that of the US, where the connection between private belief and public expression appears to be the inverse. A more convincingly complex argument might debate the historic tendency toward shying away from public expressions of faith. This is something that relativistic Christian theologians have fostered. Ironically, one professing Muslim seem not to have a problem grasping this.

    Let us weep for all our brethren who risk crossing Jesus' own warning in Matt 10 regarding those who will not recognise him publicly and pray for those who are willing to risk all to continue proclaiming the truth. I believe that this is a universal problem for the Body of Christ.

    • Joe Carter

      There is no clear connection between the statistics quoted and the implication drawn that "nominal" Christians bear much of the blame for the hostility expressed within the UK toward public expressions of faith.

      Because I try to keep the YSK posts rather short, I don't always include all the material that could be relevant. To be honest, I didn't think it would be controversial to say that those who consider religion "marginal" to their private life should share in the blame for the "marginalization" of religion in public life.

      But since that has been a point of contention, I should clarify that I base that opinion on the survey I cited in the post. It notes that almost three quarters (74 per cent) agreed that religion should not influence public policy, while only about one in eight (12 per cent) thought it should, the survey found. (See also: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/9081215/Christians-dont-want-religion-to-influence-public-life.html)

      I'm certainly not blaming the actual Christians in the U.K., only those who—like atheist Richard Dawkins—have no problem referring to themselves as "Christian" but who have no use for Christ.

  • http://shoughts.wordpress.com Scott Baxter

    Joe, are you English?

    I would hope making such a sweeping generalisation that you can at least support your view by drawing from the culture in which you reside?

  • Ali J Griffiths

    Those trying to push religion to the margins of UK public life are not the Christians, nominal or otherwise. This article is somewhat lacking in its awareness of the UK scene.

    • Al

      I think the point Joe is making Ali and your point aren't at odds with each other necessarily. Although nominal Christians aren't to blame for

    • Al

      Sorry I hit the button there before I finished. I continue - Although nominal Christians aren't to blame for WANTING to push faith to the sidelines, they are in a large part guilty for allowing it to take such a battering all the time - but not only them but everybody else in Britain also who doesn't truly in their heart follow Christ. I hope this might reconcile your position with that of Joe's :)

  • John Jones

    Joe,

    Brave of you to comment on the state of the Church in the UK after Driscolls offended so many pointing out the obvious. I must say I my experience of Christianity in the UK testifies to the same. Growing up in an area where everyone called themselves christian but Christ was absent from people's lives, why would Jesus have anything to say to policy if he had little authority in individuals lives. And I think that is what people in general think the church in the UK is. Thankfully God had mercy on me almost 10 years ago and revealed the truth to me through people who did put themselves under the authority of his word and shared his gospel and lived in light of the grace of god. I am greaved that the laws of the UK will become less and less christian. However I think
    This is necessary to let the light of the Gospel shine more brightly. As the church has fallen away from the whole councell of god and failed to obey the teaching of Jesus the power and presence of Jesus had left those churches, that's why we see only 12% of Christians confessing that Jesus should have authority over the UK. Because they don't think Jesus has authority over them.

  • mel

    I don't know how things are in the UK. I won't claim to but I do know how things are in the Us. I think that everything that is said in the article is true about our country. So many people claim to be Christian but over and over they chose politics over faith because they think they are being the bigger more tolerant person for doing so. They detest "religious" people. They detest those that actually believe and follow the bible. You will find them all over the internet. They will speak filthy about a religious leader that they don't agree with all the while claiming to be Christian, spiritual or believe in God. They are the same ones that will complain about Tim Tebow making a spectacle or people mixing politics with religion if they object to something that goes against the bible.

  • DaveL

    Whilst the following are probably extreme examples, there are 'religious' people across the world who set back a Kingdom agenda.

    Remember 'Christians for a Moral America' and praying for George Michael to die?

    Also, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey once told the story that the head of the Teacher's Union in Bergen County sent out an email encouraging people to pray for the death of the Governer.

    It seems we all have our allocation of nut cases!

  • Ali J Griffiths

    A more detailed breakdown of this survey can be found here: http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/2012/census-christians/

    I think we have to careful about paying too much attention to surveys especially ones conducted to prove a point - which this one was.
    There are certain assumptions made about the results from secularists and Christians. Personally, although I am saddened in one way that less people are calling themselves 'Christian' I think one of the main problems with reaching out to the British in the past is their assumption of a Christian identity because of their country - it's not something that they 'own' themselves. Claiming to be Christian is now not seen as a normal thing to be - in many circles you are definitely taking a stand just by identifying yourself as Christian and going to church. A clear distinction is now being made between those who hold Christian values to be important and want to live in a country that practices them and those for whom being a Christian is a transforming daily encounter with Christ. That is, I suggest, a healthy distinction.
    Those who would call themselves nominal are, in my experience, happy to live and let live. It is people who are promoting a certain secular agenda who are attempting to push Christians underground and to make them embarrassed to have a faith - Dawkins is a key player in this. There are plenty of atheists who are deeply embarrassed by his rhetoric but like so much of life, it is the loudest voices who dominate and distort the debate.
    How do committed Christians respond? This is the difficult question and it's not something that we all agree on. The way that the courts are not allowing one's conscience to apply in the workplace is certainly worrying but when I hear of people fighting to wear a cross as central to their faith I am dismayed because that is not what being a Christian is. On the other hand I am glad that people no longer feel that they have to pretend to be Christian in order to fit in/be respectable - that was also a form of persecution but that time it was the Christians who were at fault.
    There is a huge amount to say on this subject but the UK scene is certainly far more complicated than this survey may suggest and some of the results may be more positive than it appears at first glance.