LAST week I held my fourth annual Easter reception in Downing
Street. Not for the first time, my
comments about my faith and the importance of Christianity in
our country were widely reported.
Some people feel that in this ever more secular age we shouldn't
talk about these things. I completely disagree. I believe we should
be more confident about our status as a Christian country, more
ambitious about expanding the role of faith-based organisations,
and, frankly, more evangelical about a faith that compels us to get
out there and make a difference to people's lives.
First, being more confident about our status as a Christian
country does not somehow involve doing down other faiths or passing
judgement on those with no faith at all. Many people tell me it is
easier to be Jewish or Muslim in Britain than in a secular country
precisely because the tolerance that Christianity demands of our
society provides greater space for other religious faiths, too.
Crucially, the Christian values of responsibility, hard work,
charity, compassion, humility, and love are shared by people of
every faith and none - and we should be confident in standing up to
People who, instead, advocate some sort of secular neutrality
fail to grasp the consequences of that neutrality, or the role that
faith can play in helping people to have a moral code. Of course,
faith is neither necessary nor sufficient for morality.
Many atheists and agnostics live by a moral code - and there are
Christians who don't. But for people who do have a faith, that
faith can be a guide or a helpful prod in the right direction -
and, whether inspired by faith or not, that direction or moral code
SECOND, as Christians we know how powerful faith can be in the
toughest of times. I have known this in my own life. From giving
great counsel to being the driving force behind some of the most
inspiring social-action projects in our country, our faith-based
organisations play a fundamental role in our society. So, in being
confident about our Christianity, we should also be ambitious in
supporting faith-based organisations to do even more.
That is why we are not just investing £20 million in repairing
our great cathedrals, but also giving £8 million to the Near
Neighbours programme, which brings faith communities together in
supporting local projects. I welcome the efforts of all those who
help to feed, clothe, and house the poorest in our society. For
generations, much of this work has been done by Christians, and I
am proud to support the continuation of this great philanthropic
heritage in our society today.
THIRD, greater confidence in our Christianity can also inspire a
stronger belief that we can get out there and actually change
people's lives, and improve both the spiritual, physical, and moral
state of our country, and even the world.
I am a member of the Church of England, and, I suspect, a rather
classic one: not that regular in attendance, and a bit vague on
some of the more difficult parts of the faith.
But that doesn't mean the Church of England doesn't matter to me
or people like me: it really does. I like its openness, I deeply
respect its national role, and I appreciate its liturgy, and the
architecture and cultural heritage of its churches. My parents
spent countless hours helping to support and maintain the village
church that I grew up next to, and my Oxfordshire constituency has
churches - including some medieval masterpieces - that take your
breath away with their beauty, simplicity, and serenity. They are a
vital part of Britain's living history.
I have felt at first hand the healing power of the Church's
pastoral care, and my children benefit from the work of a superb
team in an excellent Church of England school.
Some fault the Church of England for perceived woolliness when
it comes to belief. I am not one for doctrinal purity, and I don't
believe it is essential for evangelism about the Church's role in
our society or its importance. It is important - and, as I have
said, I would like it to do more, not less, in terms of action to
improve our society and the education of our children.
THE fact that, at a time of great economic difficulty, the UK
has met the 0.7 per-cent target of Gross National Income on aid
should be a source of national pride. Other countries have dropped
that target, or failed to meet it. But every few seconds a child is
being vaccinated against a disease because of the decision we have
made in this country to keep our promises to the poorest people in
The same is true of our Bill to outlaw the despicable practice
of modern slavery. It is happening because we are actively working
to bring all the legislation together, to toughen the penalties,
and drive out this scourge that is still all too present in our
Some issues such as welfare are more controversial. I sometimes
feel not enough is made of our efforts to tackle poverty. Of
course, we have been through some tough economic times in turning
our country around over the past few years. But it is through the
dignity of work, the reforms to welfare that make work pay, and our
efforts to deliver the best schools and skills for young people,
that our long-term economic plan can best help people to a more
secure future. And that is why today there are 1.6 million new
private-sector jobs, unemployment is at its lowest level in half a
decade, and there are more than 500,000 fewer people on out-of-work
So, I hope that, even when people disagree with specific
policies, they can share in the belief of trying to lift people up
rather than count people out. I welcome the debate with church
leaders and faith communities about some of these issues, because
in the end I think we all believe in many of the same principles.
Whether it is the support people want to give their families, or
the determination not to write anyone off, I believe these values
and ideals are really important to all of us.
As politicians, I hope we can draw on these values to infuse
politics with a greater sense of evangelism about some of the
things we are trying to change. We see our churches as vital
partners. If we pull together, we can change the world and make it
a better place. That to me is what a lot of the Christian message
is about - and it is a confidence in our Christianity that we can
all reflect on this Easter.