Saturday, December 17, 2011

Christian country?

Apparently, Dave says we're a Christian country here in the UK, and shouldn't be ashamed to say so.  I struggle to know quite what to make of that; in fact, I find myself somewhat torn between Nietzsche and the Church of England - which is such an odd thing to say that I guess it needs some explaining.

On the C of E side, I can see the benefit to society of being grounded in an ethical framework, and I can see that the only viable framework within our culture is, for historical reasons, the Christian one.  I know people who are personally atheists, but made sure to send their children to a CofE school, because they perceived the importance of the broad Christian tradition in shaping British culture and values.  I think this is broadly what Dave is saying: that Britain has been historically shaped by Christianity, and that we're fools to completely turn our backs on this heritage.  Sure, I think.

On the Nietzsche side, I think there is something fundamentally ridiculous about trying to maintain some sort of 'Christian ethos' in the absence of faith in the Christian message and a life of discipleship.  Thus the crazed prophet himself:  "They are rid of God, and now believe all the more firmly that they must cling to Christian morality.  That is an English consistency... Christianity is a system, a whole view of things thought out together.  By breaking one main concept of it, the faith in God, one breaks the whole..."  Real Christian ethics is not a generic morality, but a life shaped by the gospel and the command of God.  How can it be applied in a sphere where the gospel is not trusted and the command is not heard?

There must be a better way to shape the values of public life within a broadly pluralistic society, other than building them out of the corpse of Christendom.

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