Saturday, 26 December 2009

We need a shared story to underpin our national life

By any reckoning, Britons have had an uncomfortable and anxious year. Even as the implications of the financial crisis sank in and the belt-tightening began, news broke of the ride for which we had been taken by our political masters, via their expenses forms. The war in Afghanistan claimed the lives of more than 100 British soldiers. The Copenhagen summit raised awareness of environmental problems, but left it unclear what would or should be done about them. And attacks on the traditional family continued, with claims by ministers and "experts" that no one form of the family was to be preferred to any other.

It has been tough for everyone, but Christians in particular have found themselves under pressure. Nurses have been told not to pray with their patients; registrars ordered to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in spite of conscientious objections; evangelists forbidden to spread the word in "Muslim" areas; and permission for Good Friday processions refused on the grounds that they are a "minority" interest and do not warrant police time.

Given the sea of troubles with which we are faced – at home and elsewhere – what can we look forward to as we face 2010? First, we need to accept that the financial and political crises are not primarily about the failure of procedures and regulation. The angst about the war in Afghanistan, similarly, is not just about the sad loss of life. The broader problem is that there has been the loss of a common narrative, a story which underpins our national life. In the past, this was provided by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, derived from the Bible. This narrative has been at the root of those values which we regard as particularly British, whether to do with the dignity of the human person, with fundamental freedoms of belief, speech and assembly, or with equality – which is not about "sameness", but a recognition of the image of God in others. Read more
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