David Cameron the Prime Minister of the UK, it must be noted, is first and foremost a politician. This means that his words generally mean more than, or less than they appear to mean but practically never mean what they appear to mean. So when he says-
"I believe we should be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations, and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith "
It is worth asking the question 'what meaning or meanings does this conceal?'
To my mind, such as it is, Mr Cameron has, no doubt intentionally, hopelessly confused three different strands of thought only one of which is unquestionably true. The fundamental ambiguity rests in his use of the word 'we.' To whom does it refer? The individual believer? The State? UK society at large?
What is true is that each Christian as an individual is called upon to bear witness to their faith. This is primarily expressed by the way they live their lives. The fruits of the transformative power of Christ should be manifest in the way that Christians are pure love to each person whom they encounter.
The first confusion lies in the use of the word 'evangelical.' By virtue of their vocation to the faith a believer is to be evangelical which is not the same thing as 'an evangelical.' Evangelicalism is a particular form of Christianity, it believes certain things and acts in certain ways which other parts of the Christian family have difficulty in accepting as authentic manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It is, however, a current of opinion which has sometimes been more or less easily co-opted by the political Right and I suspect that Mr Cameron used the word intending to defend it in the first sense but also to send a signal to Evangelicals that he is on their side if not in their tribe.
The second confusion and that liable to cause most offence is in the possible application of the 'we' to the State. The State has no business to be Evangelically Christian. Not because, or not just because, we are a multicultural, multi faith, diverse country. But because State functionaries are appointed on their ability to perform their statutory tasks and it would be absurd to apply a religious belief test in addition to a competence test in giving people these appointments. It would be still more absurd to expect non-believers to fulfil a Christianly evangelical role if they themselves are not believers. The best that the Christian Church or the ecclesial communities of the Reformation can expect from the State is a recognition of the special role they have played and continue to play in UK and European society.
David Cameron remains a politician. The debate he has stirred up really does nothing to help the Christian faith or to impress upon the minds of those who hear him the Good News about Jesus Christ. But it probably does help the Conservative Party bring on board Evangelicals and those for whom the words 'Christian values' is a shorthand way of saying 'everything was better in the 1950's'. And that is all he cares about.
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