NEW

Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Prudence Dailey’s Commentary: Does Religion Have ‘Special Status’ in Our Society?

Prudence Dailey’s Commentary

Does Religion Have ‘Special Status’ in Our Society?

As I write this, I am preparing to travel up to Durham tomorrow to speak in a debate at the Durham Union (a debating society similar to the Oxford and Cambridge Unions) against the motion that ‘This House believes that religious groups ought not receive special status’.

The wording seems hard to pin down: do religious groups, in fact, receive ‘special status’ in our society? On closer examination, the idea that they do is founded on the assumption that secular space is somehow ‘neutral’, and that religiosity is imposed upon it; but this is wrong. Writers such as Tom Holland and Douglas Murray have clearly articulated the extent to which our moral and cultural foundations are explicitly Christian; as Holland puts it: ‘To live in a Western country is to live in a society saturated by Christian concepts and assumptions’.

In Durham itself—as in my own city, Oxford—many of the colleges take their monikers from saints; there are also many street names with a Christian connotation. It is, however, not only our history that is Christian: many of the basic precepts of the modern imagination, which are nowadays blindly assumed to be secular principles, are rooted in Christianity. That the weak are equal in dignity and worth to the strong; that powerful men should not force themselves sexually on those perceived to be their inferiors; that it is as important for husbands to be faithful to their wives as vice versa—all these ideas, now pretty much taken for granted in the West, would have been regarded as unthinkable in the pre-Christian era.

In addition, many of the rights often thought of as ‘religious’—the right to opt out of participating in abortions, for example, or indeed to refuse to participate in military combat—are straightforwardly conscience rights, that do not require religious belief (even though they often go hand-in-hand with it). Our society currently has a real problem with respecting the consciences of others where these differ from our own, and we seem to be moving in the wrong direction: social media (and especially Twitter) have a lot to do with this. Well-known headmistress Katherine Birbalshingh—who is NOT herself a person of faith—recently used the phrase ‘original sin’ in one of her tweets. She was surprised by the ensuing Twitter backlash from those outraged at the very concept, and she said it brought home to her the especial difficulties faced by Christians in the public square at present. There are no easy solutions to this—but further narrowing the social space occupied by religion risks further increases intolerance.

To see what happens when the State distances itself actively from faith, one need only look across the English Channel to France, where the principle of laïcité is central. There, there are no religious state schools (although, even so, the government gives some money to private religious schools), and no expectation that dress does will take account of religious dress requirements (such as thee wearing of a turban or a hijab). A few years ago, it was reported that Muslim women were chased off a French beach by police for dressing too modestly. This kind of statist conformism sits ill with English sensibilities.

Overall, a religious—specifically a Christian—worldview is so thoroughly embedded in Western culture, that we easily overlook its presence. The danger is that, in failing to recognise it, we undermine the very principles on which our common life depends, and on which our society rests.

Previous

Next