Charles Moore Charles Moore

The Spectator’s Notes | 7 April 2012

It is interesting that David Cameron sends out an Easter message each year. Such a thing is a symptom of the decline of Christianity. When Britain was a Christian country, no prime minister would have thought it necessary (or proper) to speak urbi et orbi. Today, Easter takes its place alongside Eid, Diwali, Rosh Hashanah, Gay Pride etc as a day for which No. 10 issues public blessing. Mr Cameron is at pains, however, to speak of Christians as ‘we’ and to remind everyone that the nation has ‘an established faith [the more accurate word ‘Church’ is avoided] that together is most content when we are defined by what we are for, rather than defined by what we are against.’ This is an excellently Anglican way of looking at things, and I am sure Mr Cameron is sincere. But it is also his positioning for when he tries to introduce homosexual marriage — ‘I am for it,’ he is implying, ‘you are against it. Therefore my approach is more Christian than yours.’

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The Prime Minister is right that Christians should not waste all their energies opposing things, but he does not realise how difficult he is making it for them to follow his rule. Most past reforms in relation to homosexuality — decriminalisation, age of consent, even civil partnerships — may or not be opposed by Christians but they are not central to any religious understanding of society. Gay marriage is different, because it is not merely a matter of extending rights to minorities. It is the abolition of the idea — central to civilisation throughout history — that marriage is for a man and a woman. It is a profound redefinition for which there is no direct warrant in any mainstream religious teaching ever. Marriage is a social institution, not a private one, and so Christians cannot simply say, ‘You do what you like and we’ll do what we like’: their concept of marriage is inextricable from their view of society.

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