Prime minister: Britain a 'Christian country'

by Gregory Tomlin, |
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (3rd R) and wife Samantha (2nd R) react at the switch on of the Downing Street Christmas tree lights in London December 8, 2014. | REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

LONDON (Christian Examiner) – British Prime Minister David Cameron is under fire for delivering an overtly Christian Christmas address in which he referred to Britain as a 'Christian country.'

During the address, Cameron drew attention to the strife in the world and the absence of security for millions of families who "are spending this winter in refugee camps or makeshift shelters across Syria and the Middle East, driven from their homes by Daesh and Assad. Christians from Africa to Asia will go to church on Christmas morning full of joy, but many in fear of persecution. Throughout the United Kingdom, some will spend the festive period ill, homeless or alone."

Cameron praised doctors, nurses and caregivers who are helping the vulnerable, as well as the members of the country's armed forces who are fighting terrorists worldwide.

"It is because they face danger that we have peace. And that is what we mark today as we celebrate the birth of God's only son, Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. As a Christian country, we must remember what his birth represents: peace, mercy, goodwill and, above all, hope. I believe that we should also reflect on the fact that it is because of these important religious roots and Christian values that Britain has been such a successful home to people of all faiths and none," Cameron said.

In referencing Christian values as the seat of tolerance in a pluralistic society, Cameron was likely following the lead of Queen Elizabeth II, who is expected to deliver her most definitive statement ever on her Christian faith during her Christmas Day address.

Cameron's address, however, was widely panned by both newspapers and his political opponents as having the opposite effect of what he intended.

Stephen Evans, campaign manager for National Secular Society in Britain, said he was disappointed to again see Cameron "pushing the divisive rhetoric of Britain being a 'Christian country.'"

"Christianity is just one influence among many that shape our current ways of life and Mr Cameron would do well to remember that we also have enlightenment values and secularism to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today," Evans said. "David Cameron needs to appreciate that he isn't a leader of Christians, he's the prime minister of a diverse, multi-faith, and increasingly non-religious nation. We look to political leaders for leadership, not theology, and this kind of language reveals him to be less than statesmanlike."

The Sun tabloid lampooned Cameron's address, posting a Photoshopped picture of Cameron in priestly attire with the caption: "PM as we imagine him praising Christian values in Church."

Columnist Stephen Glover with the Daily Mail also called Cameron's speech "pious guff" that was neither honest, straightforward nor realistic.

Glover said if Cameron would have given an honest speech, he would have spoken about the growing power of the European Union – from which, he said, Britain should withdraw – and the fact that the bombing of Syria, though justified, will not make a difference in the long run.

"And I must say that in the short term our involvement in the war against Islamic State makes reprisals in this country more likely. I'm afraid I can't guarantee peace, and I would not be so presumptuous as to invoke the 'Prince of Peace,' whose birth I shall celebrate on Friday," Glover wrote, as if he was Prime Minister David Cameron.