Why should Paxman embarrass Blair
by asking if he prayed with Bush?


Randall Hardy

In a previous article I argued that the entwining of faith and politics was rejected by Jesus Christ and the writers of the New Testament. However the history of Britain and Europe over two millennia seems to gainsay this truth. This is clearly illustrated by the once popular, but now discarded, name Christendom. The battle to free politics from religion has clearly not been motivated by a desire to be true to the teachings of Christ, so what are its objectives and will it be successful?

England - an example of confusion

The Christian gospel reached Britain well before Augustine landed in Kent in AD 597. By the time he arrived, politics and the name of Christianity had been bound together in the remains of the Roman Empire. Thus Augustine’s mission had no option but to suffer the confusion of roles that more recent missionaries have also faced - was it representative of the Gospel alone or did it bring with it a wider political message? Undoubtedly Augustine was the envoy of a Pope who claimed supremacy over all Christian kings. This confusion of the Gospel with politics prevailed in Europe for centuries. The Reformation (16th century) failed to address this problem, with many of its leaders believing that cities and states could be converted en bloc and a new form of Christianity enforced on their citizens by decree.

In England, Protestantism found an ally in a man who had earlier accepted the title of "Defender of the Faith" from Pope Leo X. This as a reward for attacks on Martin Luther’s teaching. Just 13 years later this man, Henry VIII, broke with Rome not because he now agreed with Luther, but because it suited his own desires. Henry took with him across this theological divide, his title of "Defender of the Faith" and the principle of the Divine Right of Kings. Whilst this doctrine was not fully formalised until 1673 by Bishop Bossuet of France, its roots can be traced back to a work by Augustine of Hippo, "The City of God" (413). Perhaps this work more than any other circumvented the New Testament teaching that Christianity was not about political power, and thus legitimised centuries of blending state and church together. It was this same principle which motivated Charles I during the English Civil War (1639-51). It is then surely ironic that Oliver Cromwell, who emerged as Charles’ chief opponent, also held to a cause which was inspired by his commitment to a different form of Christianity, Puritanism. Both Charles I and Cromwell demonstrate by their actions that, in the corridors of power they marched along, there had been a total failure to understand the teaching of Jesus that His Kingdom was not of this world. For, as Christ declared, those who seek political power have to engage in war.

Beyond Civil War

The battle over which form of Christianity was to dominate these islands continued after the end of the Civil War. Whilst there are many reasons to be thankful that it was the more Biblically based Protestantism which came to the fore after the Glorious Revolution of 1688, we must not overlook that even in these events the motivation was (as always) political control. Measures like the Tolerance Act, 1689, did provide space over coming years for free thought in all matters. Nonconformist Christianity was able to flourish and there was freedom for political debate which many lands still under the influence of the Papacy did not enjoy. However, the settlement accomplished at this time did not change the hearts of the people and make them model Christians. This, as the New Testament emphasises, can only be achieved by the work of the Holy Spirit as He speaks to individuals about their need for salvation. Without such revelation Christianity remains a religion, lacking the conversion to personal faith which, through the death of Jesus, restores men and women to fellowship with their Creator.

This religious shell of State Christianity has left the people of England to struggle with the tension between the expected righteousness and the strong current of selfishness which flows incessantly through human nature. This disparity has proved beneficial at times - laws based on the Old Testament Law have been approved; many "angels of mercy" have arisen from the resulting culture and these islands have been the home from which missionaries took the Christian gospel around the world. We must also appreciate though that the last three hundred years have had a dark side as well. Oppression and poverty, pride and prejudice, theft and violence have all continued, in spite of our reputation as "a Christian country". If this was not the case, then authors such as Austen, Dickens and Marx would have failed to find the material for their works on the street of London and Manchester as well as in the great houses of the countryside. King Solomon warned "Do not say, ‘Why were the former days better than these?’ For you do not inquire wisely concerning this." Thus as Cromwell said of himself, we must portray history "warts and all".

Wind of Change

From the days of King Ethelbert of Kent through to those of Queen Victoria, the rulers and the common people of England embraced some form of Christianity as part of their national identity. This is no longer the case and England is not alone in this. Secularism has taken root in the whole of Britain, throughout Europe and in every nation which sees itself as part of the western world. No longer do we want laws which reflect Biblical wisdom. The heir to the British throne has said he wants to be the "Defender of faiths" not of "the Faith"! The Established Church goes from one crisis to another as secular thinking dominates its agenda.

Is it possible to identify what has changed the corporate mind-set, the world view, of so many countries over the last 200 years? Why should people whose forebears sought to establish a land where religion and politics could work together now seek to ostracise faith entirely? Why is possible for journalists like Jeremy Paxman to embarrass the Prime Minister by asking him if he prays with the American President? Especially when we have in English history politicians like Thomas More who not only openly prayed, but were also willing to be killed rather than deny their religious convictions. It has not taken very long for the countries of the western world to abandon the influence of Christianity and embrace secularism as their first choice in State Religion.

Enlightened or Misled?

It is difficult in the space available to discuss which developments and trends in the had the greatest influence. However, perhaps one term more than any other sums up the change of thought during the 17th & 18th centuries - The Enlightenment. This was in part a rejection of the political "Christianity" which had dominated Europe for so long. The early philosophers of this period began a train of thought which is still running today. They began to put forward a natural view of life, defining the universe as rational and able to be understood through human effort with no reference at all to God. The failure of monarchs across the continent to have characters which reflected the character of the God they claimed to act and speak for, brought many to the place where they could not tolerate this form of injustice any longer. Revolution broke out in France and spread from there. The objective was not to return to the teaching of Christ, but to deny His authority completely.

By the 19th century the British monarchy was not all-powerful. However the Tory establishment, including the Church of England, still favoured the teaching that the king had absolute authority given to him directly by God. The Whigs, the reformers of the time, recognised that therefore their arguments needed to address religious as well as political thought. Well-known Whigs of the period included a lawyer, Charles Lyell, and a clergyman and botanist, Charles Darwin. Lyell’s "Principles of Geology" paved the way for Darwin’s "Origin of Species" . Darwin’s theory is today "the proof" against the existence of God held to by the majority in the West.

Darwinism (as I have argued previously) has become a great catalyst for moral as well as religious change. Whilst we cannot be sure how much politics motivated the search for a rational explanation of life at that time, its consequences have permeated far beyond the laboratory bench. This "enlightened" world view may not have removed the British monarchy at a stroke, but it has slowly gnawed away at both institution and people - the Royal Family of today is affected by family breakdown just as many other families are. It has to be recognised that, since 1688, the majority of monarchs have not lived up to their Coronation Oath. However, royal immorality and syncretism (Masonic membership) was kept from the public in the past. Today the pressure on the Queen to "go with" the prevailing wind of secularism and New Age environmentalism is as strong at home as it is at work. To stand against such a force requires far more than strength of character - only a deep friendship with the living Christ will suffice.

Secularism the Only Alternative?

In recognising the pressures exerted through modern ideology upon the Queen, I do not wish to give the impression that I believe that monarchy is a God-ordained institution. It is therefore worth restating my conviction that the mingling of Christianity with any political system is a mistake which has undermined the gospel. All systems of government need to be under constant review, but the mistake of the last three centuries has been to attack the God in whose name political power was being grasped, rather than believing His Son who preached a gospel which stood apart from all forms of earthly rule. It is true that the New Testament teaches obedience to governments, but this is not the same as providing Divine authority for a particular lineage or system of ruling. "The Divine Right of Kings" could have been rejected without embracing the concepts of the Enlightenment - rationalism, empirical science, naturalism and the ever-upward progress of mankind.

At the start of the 21st century the countries and federations of the West have travelled a good way along the road of secularism. But what lies ahead? Is there a pot of Utopian gold at the end of this rainbow or just further strife? The Christian Bible is explicit - as the rejection of the gospel becomes almost universal, so trouble will increase. This not by way of punishment, but as the consequences of our actions which The LORD no longer protects us from. This trouble will come in many forms - "natural" disasters, wars, social breakdown and political unrest. In the face of such hardships, people will look to political systems to bring global peace. The first such, the League of Nations, was proposed in the wake of the First World War. Another similarly idealistic venture is the European Union, built on the secular foundations of Enlightenment philosophy. Without a doubt someone in the European corridors of power understood the underlying message when they commissioned the design for the new headquarters of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. Its outline is intended to reflect the partially build Tower of Babel in Pieter Bruegel’s famous painting. The original Tower was designed to help preserve global unity. Instead, and because of it, The LORD divided mankind into separate nations to prevent the human race bringing further global judgements upon ourselves. In this contemporary building we see the arrogance of modern secularism, which thinks it can bring peace to the earth, portrayed in bricks and mortar.

A Different Opponent

Whilst The LORD is unlikely to honour the EU by treating the Strasbourg building as He did Babel, there are other icons of Western materialism which, as we all know, have already been devastated. September 11th 2001 is a date which will remain fixed in history. It was the day when secular ideology met religious fundamentalism head on. The world will never be the same again. Since then there have been repeated clashes between western and Muslim world views. National as well as international agendas are now being shaped by the impact. Is there anything we can learn for the future from current events?

Here in Britain, the clash between science and religion has until recently been seen as scholarship versus Christianity. There can be little doubt that it is the atheists who seem to have won the battle, with the majority of the church capitulating and accepting the authority of science over the Scriptures. However, in Spring 2002 the secularists attacked once again and (to the casual observer) it seemed that their opponents were as previously Bible-believing Christians - on this occasion those who dared sponsor a City Technology College which was producing some of the best results in the country. As their offensive continued, it became apparent that the real target was the government’s policy on "Faith Schools", including the Prime Minister’s personal commitment to them. Similarly, over recent years Prof. Richard Dawkins, evangelical atheist and Commander-in-Chief of secularists in Britain, has changed the focus of the rhetoric in his lectures and books. It is no longer Christian creationists who feel the sharp end of his words, but anyone with any religious commitment. He declares them unthinking and obstructive of progress (e.g. Lecture at Harvard University, 19/11/03). Perhaps this wider attack can be understood better with the help of a recent article in the Guardian (25/11/03) where one science teacher lamented that creationists outnumbered evolutionist in her classroom. What the article did not spell out was that the majority of creationists in British schools today are Muslims, not Christians. Could the clash between Islam and secularism, epitomised by 9-11, be challenging the very foundations of the brave new, post-Christian world built on Darwinian rationalism?

Headscarves and Turbans

In December 2003 the French president, Jacques Chirac, called for legislation to ban religious symbols in state schools. His underlying motivation was to outlaw Islamic headscarves, but political correctness means that Christian crosses, Jewish skullcaps, Sikh turbans, etc. will all have to be proscribed. Is this a signpost for the future? Islam is a religion with a political theology - its objective is to rule the world. By contrast western secularism believes it alone can provide international peace. It is inevitable that Islamists will reject any compromise imposed on them and, even if westernised Moslems go along with the "International Agenda", these radicals will not. Just as Dawkins and Chirac are aware that it is unwise to single out Islam for criticism, world leaders of the future will attempt to suppress people of all religions who refuse to recite the dogma of a secular agenda. Consequently Britain, as every other country, will witness a hardening in attitude against all who seek to hold to a personal faith which does not conform to State Controlled Philosophy. [1]

Perhaps we witnessed the first fruits of this aspect of secularisation when, in November 2003, the Chief Constable of Cheshire considered prosecuting the Bishop of Chester for comments he made concerning homosexuals. This episode demonstrates that it is the secular State which now considers itself the moral arbiter and that the Church is effectively sidelined. In or out of the European Union, Britain has voted with its feet and we have opted for secularism above faith in Christ. This is why, as Alistair Campbell famously said, the Prime Minister "does not do God!" I cannot predict the details of what is to come, but I am convinced that the dream of world peace treasured by so many, has turned into a long nightmare of one terror alert after another. Individually though we can still choose to consider again the teachings of Christ and not to reject Him, whilst pouring away the bath-water of power politics, scented with a perversion of Christian faith.

[1] Since this article was written the Danish Government announced that it intended to introduce restrict radical Muslim clerics from entering Denmark. This measure was presented to the Danish Parliament on February 20th 2004. However, as reported in The Times the previous day, the new law would not single out Islam, "The new legislation will apply to missionaries from all religions…". This is a further example of the trend predicted above.


This article was initially written for publication in The Christian Standard, the journal of the National Council for Christian Standards in Society. After the draft was circulated it became clear that the Trustees and some members of the editorial group, were reluctant to accept my conviction that the mingling of Christianity with any political system is a mistake which undermines the gospel. I therefore withdrew the article and have discontinued my involvement with the NCCSS.

This study is intended as a stimulus to personal bible study. Every effort has been made to be accurate, but the reader should test everything (Acts 17:11; 1 Thess 5:21). Please report errors and omissions, and queries unresolved after consulting The LORD to the writer. To send an email click here.

© Randall Hardy, February 2004. This paper may only be copied in its entirety for private non-commercial use. All other usage requires the written permission of the author.

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