This week we have our first guest blogger, Peter May. His book, ‘The Search For God’ is published on February 22nd.
What exactly are these British values that politicians keep talking about? They are rarely spelled out. As far as I can see, they seem to boil down to fair play, politeness, patience when queuing, an admiration for cricket and a sense of humour. These are all very good British values, especially the cricket, but are totally inadequate for the foundations of national life.
Our historic national values are not grounded in such trivia but are deeply rooted in historic Christianity. This was clear to King Canute, who according to Goscelin, writing in 11th century, placed his crown on a crucifix in Winchester to show he reigned under the authority of the King of Kings.
In 19th century, it was clear to William Wilberforce as he stood against slavery, to Lord Shaftesbury as he introduced legislation to protect young children, and to Elizabeth Fry as she sought to improve the lot of prisoners.
The contemporary, bogus notion of British Values would have achieved none of these things. These reforms flowed from deep rooted Christian values. If the Government passes laws within such a framework, then so well and good. But if not, if they fail to protect the vulnerable, oppress the poor, lack compassion for the strangers at our gates, damage marriage and family life, put children at risk by teaching them there are no norms for sexuality and that their genders are fluid and can be chosen, the issues are thrown back on us to decide who will be God over us.
Contrary to the spirit of our age, Christian values are rooted in objective truth and morals. Freedom of conscience, freedom of belief, freedom of assembly and freedom of worship, are essential characteristics of a free country. They were not easily won and are grounded in a higher authority, the conviction that the risen Jesus is the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords and, as the Prayer Book put it, the only Ruler of Princes. If we do not honour him as such, usurpers will take his place. Christian people must give back to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s – but give back to God the things that belong to him.