The Prime Minister wants to preserve Christendom, not dissident Christianity

By Michael Marten
April 23, 2014

My response to the debate about Christianity now raging across sections of the media is this: No, Britain is not a 'Christian country', but it is a country marked by the history and institutions of Christendom.

In other words, it a country that has emerged from a close entanglement between Church and State, the vestiges of which are still with us (e.g. bishops in the House of Lords, Anglicanism as the Established Church in England, the privileged position of the Church of Scotland in Scotland, and so on).

That this situation is now ending is to be welcomed. It has the potential to liberate both Church and State from one another, freeing the Church, for example, to engage more robustly with those actions of the state that it disagrees with. On the destruction of welfare and disregard for the poorest and most vulnerable in society, for example.

Discerning these endings is essential in understanding the way in which Church and State have in the past related to one another, and how they should do so in the future.

It is important to recognise that Prime Minister David Cameron is seeking to preserve an understanding of Christendom rather than Christianity, because connecting Church and State allows fuller control of both.

This is demonstrated by the fact that he was writing his article for the Church Times, while at the same time his constituency office was calling the police and refusing entrance to the Bishop of Oxford and the Rev Keith Hebden, an Ekklesia associate, who were challenging him, as a representative of the State, to do something for the poor (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-camerons-constituenc...).

That perfectly illustrates what it means to seek to preserve Christendom by pushing aside key elements within Christianity that critique or reject the top-down Christendom project.

* If Britain was 'Christian' we would stop the war on welfare, by Bernadette Meaden: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/20435

* More on post-Christendom from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/postchristendom


© Michael Marten is a lecturer in post-colonialism and religion at the University of Stirling (www.stir.ac.uk). He is an editor and coordinator for the Critical Religion Association (www.criticalreligion.org ), and is commenting here as an associate of the Christian political think-tank Ekklesia.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.