‘Militant secularists’ offended by David Cameron talk about Britain’s status as ‘Christian country’
“Are you there God? It’s me David. And, um, well … I’ve managed to cause a spot of bother ….”
Apologies to author Judy Blume, but it’s hard not to imagine some of the inner conversations Prime Minister David Cameron might be having in the fevered wake of his pre-Easter comments about Britain’s “status as a Christian country.’
Admittedly, they might be a little more complex than the musings of a prepubescent girl struggling with her own religious identity while also trying to navigate the complex world of training bras and spin the bottle.
But David Cameron’s actual comments – and the reaction to them by a group of “militant secularists” as the tabloid press has dubbed them – have sparked a mini media frenzy in Britain.
Britain: a ‘Christian country?’
The debate has even drawn out the great serpent of spin Alistair Campbell, who has accused Cameron of exaggerating his Christian zeal in order to deflect government scandals. “How are we to believe Cameron believes it all when so recently he was twiddling the knobs on the radio trying to find his faith at all,” Campbell wrote in a blog.
Campbell, Tony Blair’s former communications chief, was referring to comments Cameron made about his own flickering faith just a few years ago when he famously said that it tended to “come and go” like a hard-to-find frequency on the radio.
Cue the quips about trying to tune in to religion and fuzzy dials.
Cameron’s latest – and to some, offending – comments about his Christian faith came in the form of a pre-Easter reception at Downing Street for religious leaders. He followed up with an article written for a paper called the Church Times.
“I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country,” wrote Cameron, saying that Britain should be “more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get out there and make a difference to people’s lives.
“Being more confident about our status as a Christian country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing judgment on those with no faith at all,” he wrote.
A group of prominent liberals was quick to challenge that, writing an open letter to Cameron in the Daily Telegraph and accusing him of fostering alienation and division in the UK.
“We object to his characterization of Britain as a ‘Christian country’ and the negative consequences for politics and society that this engenders,” said the letter, signed by a bevy of “personalities” ranging from philosopher A.C. Grayling to author Philip Pullman.
“Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a ‘Christian country,'” the letter said.