Saturday, 17 December 2011

The Prime Minister and the King James Bible

Updated Saturday night and Sunday night to add more responses

The Prime Minister gave a speech about the King James Bible in Christ Church Cathedral Oxford yesterday (Friday).

The Oxford diocesan website has this brief report: Prime Minister speaks to Oxford clergy.

Speaking to an audience of largely parish clergy at Christ Church Cathedral, David Cameron spoke strongly in defence of faith and the role of the Church in society.

Mr Cameron said that he was a committed but “vaguely practising” Church of England Christian who was “full of doubts” about big theological issues. But he stressed the importance of the Bible, and in particular the King James Bible, in shaping British culture, values and politics.

“We are a Christian country. And we should not be afraid to say so,” he said.

“Let me be clear: I am not in any way saying that to have another faith - or no faith - is somehow wrong.

“But what I am saying is that the Bible has helped to give Britain a set of values and morals which make Britain what it is today.

“Values and morals we should actively stand up and defend.

“The alternative of moral neutrality should not be an option.

“You can’t fight something with nothing. Because if we don’t stand for something, we can’t stand against anything.”

You can listen to the address in full here or read it here.

Here are some of the many press reports.

Riazat Butt in The Guardian: Cameron calls for return to Christian values as King James Bible turns 400

The Telegraph: David Cameron: the Church must shape our values

BBC: David Cameron says the UK is a Christian country

The Huffington Post: David Cameron Urges Britons To Stand Up And Defend Christian Values

Oliver Wright in The Independent: Cameron shows off his faith with a swipe at Archbishop

Kelvin Holdsworth has written this Response to the Prime Minister.

More responses

Nick Baines Words about Word

Laura Sykes Is David Cameron Representative of Many Members of the Church of England?

Will Cookson David Cameron and The failure of Christian vision

BBC David Cameron on Christianity - views

Melanie McDonagh in The Spectator Cameron’s missing the point: Christian values require Christianity

Jonathan Bartley at Ekklesia David Cameron’s Beatitudes

David Edgar in The Guardian We can’t allow the Bible to be hijacked for narrow and partisan politics

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 17 December 2011 at 10:12am GMT | TrackBack
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Comments

Rubbish. The Church Times today reports a survey from British Social Attitudes which shows that half the British public regard themselves as having 'no religion'. He's not talking about religion anyway, he's talking about morality and that's not the same thing at all. Being nice to people isn't necessarily a 'Christian' value.

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Saturday, 17 December 2011 at 10:20am GMT

" ... simply don’t understand that it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity." -- PM David Cameron

As Spock would say, "Fascinating!"
Were Roman Catholics free to practice their faith when the KJV was in its prime? Were Quakers, or the Anabaptists, or other non-established/unofficial (I forget the exact terminology of the era) Christians free to believe and practice? What about the Jews? Oliver Cromwell officially allowed them back in England, but it took 200 years before they started being given full and equal rights to participate in all spheres of society.
The KJV was used to establish the absolute primacy of the monarchy, and used to elevate Protestantism (as practiced by the CofE), and denigrate Roman Catholicism, and belittle and oppress Roman Catholics.
Contrary to PM Cameron, I would argue that -- just as in the USA -- in England, more and more different denominations of Christians, and Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths and no faith, were able to freely believe and practice their faith or beliefs PRECISELY because an increasingly secular society told the Church "This far and no further shall you proceed".
In a way, it's similar to the Roman Catholic Pope's power at the Vatican. Nowadays, numerous history-illiterate people talk about what a moral force for good the Pope has become. That's because modern, secular Europe has so curtailed the Pope's secular power, that with much more time on his hands, the papacy has suddenly re-discovered its moral voice.
Kevin Holdworth's comments are spot on!
The KJV is a tremendous achievement. It uses wonderful language that, along with Shakespeare, marked the maturation of the English language. But in wanting to give homage to The Old Gal, let us not over-state her charms.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 17 December 2011 at 4:59pm GMT

Over on the BBC website on Saturday night there was a page of 'reactions' to the speech. This gave prominence to the spokespeople of both the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association, but no reaction from any Christian organisation.

Posted by: Wilf on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at 3:54am GMT

Hard to know exactly what the phrase means, "A Christian Country." Beyond a dog-whistle call to moral conservatives, it seems to have little substantive meaning. Yes, we are historically and "culturally," and in some ways still institutionally "a Christian country," but then the same can be said of Spain, or Russia, or Australia, or Haiti. It doesn't seem to describe or distinguish Britain in any very meaningful way. Being "a Christian country" has never been a guarantee of Christian morals in public or private life.

I'm not such an unqualified admirer of secularism as Peter, however. Secularism is not simply a blank slate which allows all religions to flourish, but an ideology which is hostile to all public expressions of faith, as Nick Spencer observes in the Guardian. Ironically, it could be argued that the secularist ideology is in fact a product of "Christian values and morals" (or at least Protestant values and morals), and one of the areas where the influence of Christianity on British culture has been most strongly felt.

Posted by: rjb on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at 4:45am GMT

"...it is easier for people to believe and practise other faiths when Britain has confidence in its Christian identity..."

Doing perhaps a little mind-reading, I think what Cameron is getting at is that, if the majority of Britons are secure in their belief that the UK is a Christian nation, then they are less likely to make a fuss about accommodations made for other faiths.

I suspect he's wrong (based on what I see going on my side of the pond), but that is probably his point.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at 11:42am GMT

If Cameron belives in religion..it is as an instrument of social control. He wants traditional morality and gay marriage! But there again his family owe their position in society because one of his ancestors was a mistress to William the Fourth. There is nothing so two faced as the British Conservative party.

Posted by: Robert ian Williams on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at 3:55pm GMT

Governments usually fall flat on their faces when they start invoking morality or biblical values. Mr Cameron's own MPs include one who obvioulsy thinks it ok to be in the company of a stag party where guests dress up as storm troopers and drink toasts to Hitler (until he is found out of course). Biblical Values?

Posted by: Richard Ashby on Sunday, 18 December 2011 at 6:55pm GMT

How can Dave claim to be a committed member of the Church of England if he's only vaguely practising? We are a Church because we pray together - or put in a more fancy way, lex credendi, lex orandi.

Also, what does he mean by saying the Church should find its voice? He didn't seem so keen on the Archbishop's article in the New Statesman - in fact, elements of the Tory backbenches practically issued a fatwah against Lambeth Palace. If he wants the Church to find its voice, he has to accept its going to say some things he doesn't like. It's not all going to be moral platitudes of the type that please the Cornerstone group of MPs.

Which brings us to the real reason for the intervention - the internal politics of a fractious Party in a difficult coalition. The Cornerstone group is the section of the Tory Parliamentary Party most dissatisfied with the Coalition, most keen to walk away as quickly as possible, and with a huge capacity to cause trouble on issues like Europe. Cameron will really annoy these people when the Gay Marriage Act is passed next year or the year after. So he needs to show them that aborrhent as he may be to them, his government is still better than a snap election which might return Godless Labour to power. It's a bit of red meat for the bits of the base like Andrew Rosindell and Philip Davies. That's all it is. A bit of telling the Church to get on with the business of telling people to be good upright citizens. Politicians don't do saving souls any more in Britain.

Posted by: Gerry Lynch on Monday, 19 December 2011 at 12:07am GMT

David Cameron intends that 'the Church' should find his voice !

Posted by: Laurence Roberts on Monday, 19 December 2011 at 12:30pm GMT
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