The world's media will be taking a great interest in Scotland in 2014.
Will we vote to become 'independent' or are we 'better together'
in the United Kingdom?
Like most political issues there is no uniform
Christian answer to this – my own congregation has a former leader of
the Scottish National Party and several staunch Conservatives!
But one question is of great interest: if Scotland were to become
independent then should our new constitution specifically be a secular
one, ignoring any connection between Christianity and the State?
Scotland stays in the United Kingdom, a Kingdom united on the basis of
Christianity, should we be rejoicing as the tide of secularism pushes
the last vestiges of that public Christianity into the background?
Secularism is a good thing. It must be. Everyone decent says so. And
look at the alternative. Do we really want a religious state run by a
Presbyterian theocratic Taleban or a priestly Catholic mafia?
knows that religion is the primary cause of wars, child abuse, bad
schooling, sexual repression and Scottish dourness.
As the National Secular Society helpfully tells us, "Secularism is a
principle that involves two basic propositions. The first is the strict
separation of the state from religious institutions. The second is that
people of different religions and beliefs are equal before the law."
would not want that? Society run on the basic principles of justice,
equality, fairness and tolerance with the churches being free to run
themselves just like knitting clubs or Star Trek societies. This
progressive vision sounds like a secular Nirvana.
The trouble is that it is just a Utopian dream, without any backing
in historical fact or present day reality.
For centuries European
liberals have been doing their best to bring this secular nirvana into
existence. John Gray's stimulating and depressing Black Mass points out
how this search for a secular utopia has been even more damaging in the
20th Century, than any previous religious attempt.
Nazism and Communism
were the logical conclusions of elites who believed in the Enlightenment
doctrine of progress and were determined to use whatever means to get
Of course the more militant secularists don't want the kind of
Bismarkian secular society leading to Nazism, the Russian revolution of
1917 leading to communism, the modern Chinese secular
communist/capitalist marriage, nor the type of secular states associated
with the Arab dictators. But what is their realistic alternative?
Andrew Brown's marvellous book Fishing in Utopia shows us that
whilst Sweden is not the dysfunctional society of Scandinavian crime
fiction, neither is it the liberal paradise so beloved of British and
American liberals. It is a deeply conservative country, founded upon
Christian principles, governed by a liberal metro-elite.
The trouble is
that having rejected the roots of their Christian democracy, the Swedes
are beginning to see the fruits of that Christianity wither. Who would
have believed that this summer we would have had rioting in Utopia?
We want a society based on law. But whose law? Secularists speak as
though human rights were obvious and self-evident. That is dangerous
unthinking fundamentalism. Words like tolerance, fairness and equality
are just words. They need to have some definition and meaning. Who
determines the meaning? Who does the defining? The rich and powerful?
already have a society in which the government has told us it has the
power and right to redefine marriage. Why can't they redefine whatever
they want? There is a danger that we could be sleep walking into a
system that is run only by the wealthy, powerful and influential. In the
Brave New World of the new Secularism I suspect you will find that some
are more equal than others.
Our concern is that humanity has not done too well when it replaces
God with the State. So does that mean we are left with the impossible
dream of the secular utopia where things can only get better, or the
threat of religious theocracy? Not at all. There is another way – a
secular society based upon Christian principles. Secular in that the
church does not run the government and the government does not run the
But Christian in that the values of the society are based upon
the Word of God and the traditional Christian values of tolerance,
equality and education for all. The bottom line is that secular
democracies cease to be democracies without the foundation and cement of
Secularists do not like being called militant or fundamentalist
(neither do Christians!). But until they provide some substance to their
vision and stop speaking of those who disagree with them as some kind
of backward regressives, they have earned the label. There is no one
more fundamentalist than a person who thinks that their beliefs are so
self-evidently right, that they have ceased to be beliefs and are just
It would benefit the countries of the United Kingdom if the
secular elites learned to question their own fundamental beliefs and
started to think about what a post secular United (or dis-united)
Kingdom would really look like.