Predictably, given the time of year, complaints have gone out that Christians are being discriminated against. For example, Conservative MP, Mark Pritchard, claims that the "Christianophobia" of the "politically correct brigade" runs the risk of Christianity being hijacked by extremist parties.
In Westminster, on December 5th, Pritchard brought a parliamentary debate on Christianophobia, stating:
This debate is about the relentless assault, mostly by stealth, on this nation's much-loved Christian heritage and traditions. It is about how anti-Christian sentiment is increasing, not decreasing; why many Christians feel they are not getting a fair hearing when it comes to Christianity in the public square; and what many people of all faiths and no faith see as the increasing marginalisation of Britain's Christian history, heritage and traditions through the actions of Whitehall Departments, Government agencies, local authorities, the charity commissioners, or other sectors of society.
I guess I see things slightly differently. The myth of Christian Britain can only be substantiated with a very short-sighted glimpse at our history. Even then, if we read history from a critical position regarding the Church - State relationship, we will be less inclined to celebrate the imposition and oppression of religious cultures.
A recent survey in The Sunday Telegraph revealed that fewer and fewer schools are staging traditional Christmas nativity plays, supposedly through fear of offending people of other faiths and those with no faith. But what about the offence to Christians? And whatever happened to allowing children to explore?
This is a fair point. Having been dragged to my fair portion of Christmas plays, I can vouch that it is more and more common to see non-nativity plays at this time of year. Also, the nativity plays I have seen have erred on the non-traditional side, like my daughter's school's rendition of Baboushka this morning. Nevertheless, I haven't seen too many Muslim plays at my kid's schools.
Though I am not deaf to the concerns of those who sense anti-Christian prejudice (in, for example, certain circles of the BBC), I suspect they are blind to the reasons for it. What I see when I look back on our nation's recent past, is a history of Christian privilege:
- State Church
- Bishops in the House of Lords
- Churches automatically granted charitable status
Tithe laws Compulsory church attendance
- Blasphemy laws
- National holidays following the Church calendar (and vice-versa)
- Christian prayers/services intertwined with State events
- State-funded ‘faith’ schools (majority Anglican)
- Christian worship events in State schools
So, I find myself in agreement with the British Humanist Association, who responded to Pritchard's remarks by saying,
'What Mark Pritchard MP sees as ‘rising Christianophobia’ can actually be seen as a lessening of Christian privilege in society and a growth in equality for those with other religious and with non-religious beliefs, as well as for certain groups such as women and gay people. The Churches can no longer speak for Britain .'
In that case, it may be that the discrimination that we do (sometimes) see against Christianity is actually a response to the continuation of Christian prvilege. If that's true, then the petty whinings of folks like Christian Voice and Mark Pritchard actually serve to exaccerbate the very problem that they perceive themselves to be addressing.