Our meetings around the country are indicating that most churchgoers no longer think so
The Prime Minister certainly started a heated debate when he referred in his Easter message to Britain being a Christian country. Of course, the usual suspects immediately responded with fierce opposition from the humanists and their allies. But strange as it may seem, most committed Christians agreed with the secular/humanists and atheists! That has to be a first!
My wife and I have referred to this at several public meetings of churchgoers and a show of hands has usually produced an almost unanimous response that Britain is not, or at least no longer, a Christian country.
National prayer days
Of course, these are the views of people who know what Christianity is all about and many of them are in the older generation who remember the times when most people went to church – at least on special occasions. Back in the Second World War when the King and the Prime Minister called for national days of prayer at a time when the whole nation was under threat of invasion, most people responded and the churches were full.
We really believed in prayer and we saw the results with what Winston Churchill called the miracle of Dunkirk when the weather allowed the evacuation of most of the British Army back to Britain.
In the 2011 National Census nearly 60% of the population said that they are Christians, but does this make Britain a Christian country? Historically, the foundations of the nation and its culture come from our Judeo-Christian roots in the Bible. Our whole system of law and justice is based upon biblical principles.
It was the churches who founded hospitals and cared for the sick and the dying. It was Christians who founded schools and who were determined to ensure that every child had the opportunity for education.
It was Christians in the Clapham Group led by William Wilberforce who not only abolished slavery in the British Empire but led the campaign for social justice in Britain. They were responsible for banning boys being used as chimney sweeps; they founded the RSPCA because of their hatred of cruelty to animals; in 1802 they introduced the ‘Ten Hour Bill’ in the House of Commons to limit the number of hours (to 10 hours a day!) that a 9-year-old child could work in the factories, mills and mines of Britain – it actually took 44 years to pass through both Houses of Parliament!
That same group of Christians, under the leadership of John Venn the vicar, provided the model for the future welfare state. In their parish of Clapham in South London every child was vaccinated for smallpox protection, every child was given free schooling, maternity and nursing and welfare services were provided for every household.
The point I’m making is that the whole culture of Britain historically has been based upon biblical principles drawn from our Judaeo-Christian faith. But the foundations are crumbling!
Within the older generation’s lifetime, laws have been passed which undermine the basic foundations of our culture.
In the 1950s three quarters of the nation’s children went to Sunday School and every child was given basic biblical teaching in day school.
We are now two generations away from the era of biblical teaching and we now have a generation of young parents who are not able to teach their children in the home what is no longer taught in the schools. This is why we need Street Pastors at weekends to deal with binge drinking young people who have never learned self-control, why so many young people are filling our prisons and young offenders’ institutions, and why so many are falling victims to drug pushers, pornography sites and violent behaviour.
All this is because no one has taken the trouble to really care for them and show them love and truth in action in human lives.
So can we really call ourselves a Christian country?
Clifford Hill’s latest book, “Free at Last?” is out now and advertised in the Books section of this paper. We hope to have a review of it in our August/September issue.