Thursday, 24 December 2015

A Christmas message to a "Christian" Britain. Seriously, Cameron?

David Cameron has shared his wisdom with us in his Christmas message to the UK. It seems that, here in Britain, we’re about to “celebrate the birth of God’s only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope.”

Aaah. It’s touching isn’t it?

According to children’s charity Barnardo’s, 3.7 million British children now live in poverty. Infant mortality is 10% higher in poor families than among the rest of the population, and children under three in those families are two and a half times as likely to have a chronic disease. These children also tend to underperform at school, so the chances are that their children too will be brought up in poverty.

Not a lot of hope there. Not much goodwill towards them, either. And, with growth forecasts for the UK revised downwards, hope is shrinking fast too.

The spirit of Christmas Present.
As long as you don't actually need a present.
Just a month before Christmas, Cameron appeared in the House of Commons pleading for authority to take military action against the ISIS death cult in Syria. Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where NATO is trying to withdraw to leave Afghans running their own affairs, six US soldiers died recently in an insurgent bombing, while British forces are being sent back into action in Helmand Province. They will be helping an apparently desperate struggle to save Sangin city, with no guarantee of a successful outcome.

So not much peace or mercy there. In fact, I’d rather hoped at the end of 2014, that this year might be Britain’s first without war since 1914; well, that didn’t happen. So this “peaceful” country has racked up something of a record: not a single year’s peace in 102.

Cameron has no difficulty mouthing sentimental platitudes about the country he leads, though they have nothing to do with the reality of the nation on his watch.

But then that’s obvious from his other words. He’s once again described Britain as a Christian nation. Clearly, this supposed Christianity has nothing to do with Christian values – as we’ve seen, there’s not much compassion for the poor, nor much desire for peace. But then there isn’t much evidence of Christianity in religious practice either: we heard only days ago that Anglicans are planning to close down certain churches since congregations have fallen to single figures in many cases. Overall, it seems that only about one in ten of the population attends a Christian church service on a regular basis.

That doesn’t stop many Brits describing themselves as Christian. In the latest census, 59% of people in Britain and Wales described themselves as Christian, and 54% in Scotland. The British Social Attitudes survey came up with a lower, and probably more reliable figure, of 46% Christians, against 48% describing themselves as irreligious.

Still, even that figure seems to overstate significantly the level of Christian commitment, compared to actual religious practice. Which maybe explains Cameron’s message: he joins the tradition of many of his compatriots, to be long on words and short on practice.

Cameron’s talk of peace, mercy, goodwill and hope is welcome. But given what he’s actually doing, it strikes me that getting much of any of them has to start with getting rid of him.

Now, that would be real note of hope to celebrate in this holiday season.

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