Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally

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As even Nick Clegg says, it is “flamingly obvious” Britain is a Christian country

David Cameron visits the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in March this year

David Cameron visits the Church of the Nativity in the West Bank town of Bethlehem in March this year

The Prime Minister just before Easter dared to state the United Kingdom was a Christian country and the backlash from the atheists and secularists was immediate and lengthy, culminating in the arch-Atheist, Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Yellow Peril Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg, calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

All very predictable. But the large numbers of people in the UK stating they consider themselves Christians (59% at the last UK Census in 2012) and even a momentary glance outside of our personal lives into the civic world of Great Britain suggests the atheists and secularists are wrong. Even Nick Clegg had to admit earlier in the week it was “flamingly obvious” the country is founded on Christian values.

Former Arch-Leftist Bishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams popped up today to announce Britain was “post-Christian”, which followed earlier in the week current Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby stating the country was not a Christian country – judging by the numbers in the pews. The Church of England really is a funny institution: they are either so divided to the extent they might as well consider tabling a motion in Synod stating believing in God is optional or their high command is going out of its way to describe its irrelevance entirely. Oh dear oh dear.

It is clear why we focus on the Church of England when it comes to judging the popularity of Christianity: it is the Established Church and our Head of State is the Defender of The Faith. But let’s not be blinkered. Pop down to a Roman Catholic Church on a Sunday in any reasonably populated area (any ordinary provincial town will do) and the pews are overflowing. Join the faithful on an Easter service (e.g. Good Friday) and it is literally standing room only.

David Cameron knew what he was doing by igniting this debate. I do not doubt his sincerity when he describes moments where the “healing power” of faith has affected his life. But he didn’t become Prime Minister by not understanding what to say and when to say it. He knows he needs to win back his base before the General Election and knows policies like gay marriage haven’t helped. So he has calculated it’s time to ramp up the Christian and religious rhetoric. This is good as it reminds us we are, despite the best efforts of the Anglican Church, still a Christian country with all the values and tolerance which comes with that. The atheists and secularists who wrote to the Daily Telegraph denouncing the PM’s article in Church Times accused Mr Cameron of “fostering division”. Really? We are a Christian country, which welcomes and tolerates all faiths and none. I’d say by emphasising that he was doing quite the opposite.

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Pope draws in three million people to celebrate Mass on Copacabana Beach

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in front of 3 million pilgrims on Copacabana Beach

Pope Francis celebrates Mass in front of 3 million pilgrims on Copacabana Beach

As Europe turns it’s back on religion the rest of the world are looking in the other direction.

Pope Francis I completed a week of events in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Youth Day with a celebration of Mass on Rio’s famous Copacabana Beach. Three million people attended.

Rock stars and even the President of the USA could only dream of such adoring supporters at their concerts and rallies.

Pope Francis on flight back from Brazil_29_7_13

Pope Francis answering questions from journalists on papal flight back to Rome

Pope Francis I is very charismatic and reminds many Catholics of Blessed John Paul II, the former pontiff who is set to be canonised (to be made a Saint) next year. The Pope is also an excellent communicator speaking plainly and not hiding behind ecclesiastical rhetoric, which Benedict XVI as an academic was prone to do. On the way back from Brazil, Pope Francis held a press conference at the back of the papal plane for nearly an hour and a half. When asked by journalists about rumours of a “gay lobby” in the Vatican, the Pope made headlines around the world when he said: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”. The Roman Catholic leader continued: “The catechism of the Church explains this very beautifully”. He added: “We shouldn’t marginalise people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

This Papal words on homosexuality is a break from the hard-line rhetoric of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XIV, which I welcome, and is a signal from the current pontiff he knows there are gay priests but as long as they remain celibate it doesn’t bother him.

The Pope may well be the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics but he is also a sharp political operator, which you would expect from a Head of State, and, along with leading the faithful, his mission is to shake up one of the oldest institutions on Earth. His papacy should be very interesting indeed.