Theresa May does a decent job of saying that Christianity is at the
heart of our shared values. It’s a difficult thing to say without sounding disparaging of non-Christians, but I think it’s something worth saying.
Some will say that the Prime Minister should stick to politics, especially when there’s so much politics to do, and stay away from religion. If she wants to give us a headmistressy pep-talk, fine, but keep it strictly secular. I don’t agree. It’s for each prime minister to decide whether to veer into religious territory. (There’s no constitutional bar to him or her getting all happy-clappy – not a danger with this glumly cautious Anglo-Catholic.) And there’s no clear border between politics and religion. Part of political leadership is articulating our shared values, especially in times of mild crisis. Brexit is a mild crisis (whether you’re for or against) in which it’s necessary to step back and remember what we have in common.
Do we have Christianity in common? Not exactly, but it is an important part of our shared values, of ‘compassion, community, citizenship’ – largely because of its role in shaping those values, in their British form. To speak about these values in a purely secular way would ring false, for it would imply that they can and should be separated from religion. Day-to-day politics normally does tend in this direction, so it’s healthy for the other perspective to be voiced now and then.
To my slight embarrassment it is clear to me that Mrs May has already read my new book, God Created Humanism, which traces the Christian roots of our secular humanist values. It’s good to see that Brexit has not entirely narrowed her focus, but it’s probably time she got her head down.