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Expert Comment: Religion and Public Life

0206 Prof Eric Saak Wednesday 25 April 2012

Prof. E.L. Saak, Head of the Department of Theology, Philosophy and Religious Studies at Liverpool Hope University

Should Europe in general and the UK in specific become more confident of its Christian heritage and tradition? Baroness Warsi recently argued strongly in the affirmative (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17021831). Somehow the sense that to argue against the role of religion in public life is rather like kicking puppies is rather common: it is the product of militant secularists who are undermining our values and beliefs, the very fabric of society and that which made us great and which sets us apart from the barbarism of godless regimes.

At least such seems to be the opinion of that great and insightful theologian David Cameron.  Perhaps the UK should follow the lead of the US and add 'In God we Trust' to the various pound notes we all carry around, just for a reminder of where we put our true values.

I wonder, though, what a 'Christian' UK would look like?  Would it give not only its shirt, but coat too when asked? Would it forgive its enemies? Would it turn the other cheek? Would it begin to care for the poor? Would it render unto Caesar's that which is Caesar's and unto God which is God's?  Oh yes, that might be difficult since the government needs indeed to render unto itself, and its bankers, as do all its tax payers.

What is government, argued St. Augustine, when true justice is removed except a band of thieves?  What, though, is true justice? Justitia, in Latin, can be translated either as 'justice' or as 'righteousness'. Let's pray in public, and have prayer in school, and flaunt our righteousness as much as possible, becoming ever more confident, forgetting Jesus's admonitions about the hypocrites. Let's go all the way and follow the U.S. model of civic religion, even when the US, theologically seen, is the most blasphemous, idolatrous nation in the world.  Perhaps we can top them at least in this.

And in this sense, perhaps we can then be not only more righteous, but more just as well.  Let's forget Jesus's impractical teachings, our kingdom is of this world.  Blind guides, blind fools...

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