Is being a Christian now, a political statement?
Is being a Christian now, a political statement? asks Nelson Jones, the New Statesman journalist on Belief, Disbelief and Beyond Belief in the wake of the news on the 2011 census report today, the 11th December 2012. This should be a Red Letter Day in the history of Christianity possibly since the time of the Edict of Milan by Emperor Constantine in CE 313 when the status of the Christians changed overnight. Today should be Red Letter day because the change made in 313 is reversed, not by an edict of a government but by free choice of individuals in Britain. Today is a day for celebration because we know that those who call themselves Christians are making a political statement. It is a day of rejoicing because nearly 12% of the British population came out of the bondage of cultural norms and expectation and declared themselves free to be – be themselves.
It is a temptation to go on the defence when the church in Britain seems to regard itself to be in the decline. It is temptation to say that the church has a role to play in the affairs of the nation. The church does have a role to play in the affairs of the nation but not necessarily in the terms shaped and informed by the Edict of Milan. The role of the church in the life of the nation is political but not one based on the Reformation principles or even the one that emerged in opposition to fascism in Europe. The politics of the church can be based on one and only principle which is the principle of the Cross of Christ.
There can be no stronger political statement than historical image of the young Galilean crucified on the cross for speaking truth and standing up for justice for the oppressed.
In 1997 I arrived in Edinburgh from the Middle East to commence my training for ministry. I came with great expectations of being in the company of Christians who are training to be ministers. I came with expectations to meet people who came to my birth place in India to serve as missionaries. However, I was relieved to discover that Edinburgh was full of ordinary people who were general kind and good and went about their own business. My expectations of a Britain as a Christian nation were somewhat misplaced but it was by no means hopeless.
One day I happened to be in a church study group, during my early days and I casually mentioned on the basis of my observation that Britain is not Christian Nation. What I meant was, the cost of Christian discipleship is too high to pay that one cannot expect a whole nation to be Christian i.e. ‘Christ like’. I soon realised that I touched a few raw nerves and was shot down in flames. I made a declaration of my observation over a decade ago. I am delighted today that 12% of the British population join me in that declaration.
I rejoice in today’s news that 12% of the people Britain no longer wish to take on an identity for social or economic benefits. This is Good News and I believe there would be great rejoicing in heaven over these people who rejected a worthless social identity as a Christian. Especially, in this season of Christmas, this is great news. On the eve of Christmas around 10% of the British population may celebrate the Christ-Mass and the rest will celebrate Christmas. One is a Celebration of Holy Communion in thanksgiving for the birth of a poor boy in a very poor and complex circumstances and the other is a winter festival. I refuse to make any value judgement on either but one is costly commitment and the other is expensive party.