The BBC broadcaster JeremyVine complained last Sunday that it is now ‘almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God’. In an interview with Reform, a magazine published by the United Reformed Church, Mr Vine, an Anglican, said he believed that ‘Christ is who he said he was’, but that he wouldn’t say so on his Radio 2 show.
His fellow BBC broadcaster Ed Stourton, a Catholic, echoed Vine’s comments, saying active believers feel ‘ignored’ by society.
It is understandable that broadcasters on mainstream secular programmes should be chary of making explicit professions of faith on air. But in the context of Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor’s recent remark that Britain is now an ‘unfriendly’ place for religious people, and of the relentless tide of secularisation in the mainstream media, I think it is important that we shouldn’t leave religion entirely in the hands of the professionals – bishops, priests and other people of the cloth. Many people switch off or switch over at the sight of a dog-collar.
Across the Atlantic, as President Obama’s inauguration yesterday powerfully illustrated, it is entirely natural for politicians to weave explicit references to God into their public utterances. But historic as was the occasion, as a glorious culmination of the struggles of the civil rights movement, I could not help having mixed feelings when I reflected that for all his invocation of God’s blessings on the nation, Obama’s commitment to lifting a great many restrictions on abortion by passing the Freedom of Choice Act was a sad day for unborn children; particularly so given the fact that a disproportionate number of babies aborted in America are those of African-Americans. But having said that, I wish him well.
Here in Britain I think each of us laypeople in public life who do believe can make our own small contribution. Yes, we may be laughed at or dismissed as nutters by many, but over 70 per cent of people in the UK were still prepared to tick the ‘Christian’ box in the last census, and there are burgeoning shelves of New Age, occult and other vaguely ‘spiritual’ titles on sale in our bookshops. So it is clear that neither the vestiges of our Christian culture nor the human hunger for faith have yet quite vanished from these islands.
Yet even if they had, Christians would still have a duty to awaken and then satisfy that hunger by sharing their faith with their countrymen.
Recently I started a blog of my own on the spiritual life. Anyone interested can view it here Another Country