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Simon Parke: Finding the British way of life

13 December 2006

WHEN it comes to defining Britishness, we appear to have found a strange saviour — Jesus Christ.

We’re struggling to find an identity for ourselves. This is hardly surprising. The workers in my shop come from Bangladesh, Cyprus, Ecuador, France, Ghana, India, Jamaica, Mauritius, Nigeria, and Pakistan. Of the 40-or-so staff, only five of us were born in this country. We stack shelves with very different histories. So can we share a future?

It is feared that the ethnic melting-pot has now melted everything, and people are starting to panic. In a strongly worded speech, the Prime Minister declares both for the right to be different, and the duty to integrate. It’s a good line. But it is hard to integrate into the British way of life, if there isn’t one.

Phone-in programmes dig deep into the bin of national identity looking for answers. Britishness is: walks in the rain; fish and chips; country pubs; Blue Peter; the Queen’s Speech; Trafalgar Square; curry and chips; Morecambe and Wise; and José Mourinho. But can the centre hold on such a base as this — especially as Morecambe and Wise aren’t doing their Christmas specials any more?

We need to be careful. We make the greatest fools of ourselves when we are insecure, and nations are the same. Fortunately, however, Jesus was British, and he is going to save us from our identity crisis. It may have taken The Sun and the Daily Mail a little while to realise, but they do now — and it’s a pleasure to have them on board.

Jesus is now at the forefront of their fight for British values, with the papers even applauding brave bishops who rally the troops around the tattered flag of Christian heritage. We can all join in the refrain: “Its political correctness gone mad!”

The Home Secretary, sensing the general mood of fear and anger, sings from the same shrill hymn sheet: “Like the vast majority of people, I’m sick and tired of this sort of mad political correctness that says you can’t wear a crucifix on British Airways, or you can’t put up decorations for Christmas.”

As a famous Sun columnist would have said: “You couldn’t make this up”. Suddenly, holding everything together is Jesus and our “Christian heritage”. Once a threat to Middle England, Jesus is now as cosy as a poor cricket performance against Australia. And did those feet in ancient times? Probably. So, will the C of E now market itself as “reassuringly veil-free”, with the eucharist as the new Great British Takeaway?

As far as I remember, however, Jesus was Jewish, and born and bred in the Middle East — not Middle England. Despite the tempting bandwagon, let the Church be careful how it uses his saving qualities. The only words Jesus has for Britain are the Beatitudes.

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