Co-Directorof christian think tank Ekklesia Jonathan Bartley (pictured) asks whether the Church’s ‘Christian nation’ rhetoric is aiding the far right.Leading figures within the Church of England have also become more vocal in their calls to stem the tide of secularism, and to defend the predominant ‘Christian culture’ of Britain, making the same political point about national identity as the BNP.“Of course the rationales of these messages are very different. The agenda behind the BNP’s claims is essentially a cultural one – partly in opposition to an alleged liberal elite, and partly in an attempt to whip up fear of minority faiths. In contrast, few would question the commitment of the Church of England to combating racism. But the time has come to face the fact that when it uses ‘Christian nation’ rhetoric, it risks encouraging support for right-wing extremists.
It may be no coincidence that it has been the Church’s two most senior black leaders, Archbishop Sentamu and Bishop Nazir Ali, who have made the most prominent pronouncements against ‘the secular tide’. The Church must surely be aware of the dangers of its arguments.”
He continues, “It is easy to make a claim to speak for the sentiments of an, albeit dwindling, majority of the population. It is far harder to mount a practical stand for justice, and base one’s political authority on the quality of one’s actions in the here and now. But in an increasingly plural society, it will be the quality of contemporary political witness, not appeals to a bygone age, which will sort the sheep from the old goats.”