The rapid fragmentation of society, the emergence of isolated communities with only tenuous links to their wider context, and the impact of home-grown terrorism have all led even hard-bitten, pragmatist politicians to ask questions about “Britishness”: what is at the core of British identity; how can it be reclaimed, passed on and owned by more and more people?
The answers to these questions cannot be only in terms of the “thin” values, such as respect, tolerance and good behaviour, which are usually served up by those scratching around for something to say. In fact, the answer can only be given after rigorous investigation into the history of nationhood and of the institutions, laws, customs and values which have arisen to sustain and to enhance it. In this connection, as with the rest of Europe, it cannot be gainsaid that the very idea of a unified people under God living in a “golden chain” of social harmony has everything to do with the arrival and flourishing of Christianity in these parts. It is impossible to imagine how else a rabble of mutually hostile tribes, fiefdoms and kingdoms could have become a nation conscious of its identity and able to make an impact on the world. In England, particularly, this consciousness goes back a long way and is reflected, for example, in a national network of care for the poor that was locally based in the parishes and was already in place in the 16th century.
In some ways, I am the least qualified to write about such matters. There have been, and are today, many eminent people in public and academic life who have a far greater claim to reflect on these issues than I have. Perhaps my only justification for even venturing into this field is to be found in Kipling when he wrote, “What should they know of England who only England know?” It may be, then, that to understand the precise relationship of the Christian faith to the public life of this nation, a perspective is helpful which is both rooted in the life of this country and able to look at it from the outside.
- Do we value freedom of speech in Britain?
- Can Europe's Jews Feel Safe Alongside Muslims?
- We Cannot Avoid The Battle Over Blasphemy
- Inside The World Of 'Non-Violent' Islamism
- We Can Fix The Economy But Not Human Nature
- The Keynesian Versus The Monetarist: A Lost Decade
- The Keynesian Versus The Monetarist: Time To Re-Read Keynes
- The New Language Of Political Narcissism
- Two Words You Won't Hear This Election: Foreign Policy
- The Many Faces Of Holocaust Denial
- Why Is 'Fifty Shades of Grey' the New Normal?
- Obama scuttles. America retreats. Things fall apart
- Putin and the Art of Political Fantasy
- An English parliament: the only way to save the UK
- Don’t Listen to Britain’s Designer Demagogues
- The Great Betrayal: How Liberals Appease Islam
- Better a Thick Skin than a Troll-Finder General
- The Har Nof Massacre: How Jewish Life Carries On
- My Meeting with the Byron of Our Times
- Boris is Ready for his Finest Hour. Is his Party?