Rabbi Dr. Jonathan Romain of Maidenhead Synagogue responds to David Cameron’s comments on the importance of Christianity for Britain in a piece which appeared in The Times’ online Article of Faith blog.
It might be thought that the many non-Christian faiths in Britain would be rather miffed at David Cameron’s strong assertion that this is a Christian country.
If a map of Britain were to be shaded according the different faiths that are present, the one from the 1951 would be largely monochrone, whereas that of 2011 is a rainbow of colours.
Yet Cameron is right. Britain may have a multi-faith presence, but the underlying culture is still Christian. It is not just a matter of past history or passive surrounding such as art and architecture, but of living realities.
Every year a Sikh friend and I exchange Christmas cards – members of two faiths communicating through a third. The synagogue at which the Chief Rabbi is based is called the St John’s Wood Synagogue – a Jewish place of worship named after a saint.
The lack of objection is also based on the perception that Britain being a Christian country is not a threat to those of other faiths.
That would be the case if the State was persecuting minority faiths, or seeking to convert them to Christianity.
Instead, the opposite is true and much more positive: having an established religion that is based on ethical monotheism means there is a shared moral code, with Jews and others having common values with Christians.
We may differ in ceremonials, or in the name we give to the deity, but in the fundamental character of religion – which is not about what happens on holy days but about how we behave and interact on the vast majority of ordinary days at work or in the high street – we are singing from exactly the same hymn sheet.
Moreover, Cameron was not imposing his God on others, but praising religious values. If bankers and the summer rioters, invasive journalists and thieving MPs, had adhered to the command to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ there would have been less greed and less violence, and Britain would be much healthier and happier today.
Tony Blair famously declared that ‘we don’t do God’. It might be irritating if Cameron did God all the time, but as so much of religion is about helping others and improving society, there is no reason why a Prime Minister should not highlight the morals which religion has to offer to a country that has sometimes suffered from the lack of them.