Recently, the media devoted much of its news coverage to the call from the Prime Minister for the Anglican Church to take the initiative in restoring Christian values into our society, even though he regards himself as being a committed but “vaguely practising Christian”, whatever that actually means. For those who have already borne – or are about to bear – the brunt of his government’s cuts and changes to healthcare and welfare provision, perhaps Mr Cameron ought to take into account Jesus’ words on taking care of those least able to do so for themselves when formulating his policies.
Calling for a return to Christian values may play well with certain sections of British society – as a practising Christian myself I find it hard to disagree – but as it becomes even more secular in its outlook, following Jesus’ laudable example can very often result in clashes with the law. The following post was originally written and published in March 2010 in The Daily Satire and I have updated it below, to illustrate how being a Christian in Britain today can be a risky business, especially if your name was Jesus Christ.
No win no fee for the man from Nazareth?
As British society becomes even more secular in its outlook, it has also become fashionable to regard those with a strong Christian ethos with suspicion, and in some cases, outright hostility.
Nowadays the tabloid press is often full of reports that can be seen as further attacks upon those, who they believe, are of the view that lighting candles and kissing crucifixes, will qualify them for a free pass into the Kingdom of Disneyland Heaven.
Of late, numerous column inches were again devoted to the case of the Christian B&B owners, who by trying to prevent “Mr and Mr Smith” from sharing a double bedroom, fell foul of Harriet Harperson’s equality laws. Together with the seemingly endless litany of cover ups of abuse by senior Catholic clerics being exposed, have all been cited as examples of a real or perceived bias against the Christian faith. Of course, we must not also forget the recent decision of the Anglican Church to re-start the process that may eventually replace Archbishop Justin with an Archbishop Justine!
If we were to imagine that Jesus himself were to return to the Britain of today, with the law as it currently stands, any one of the following would likely earn him an appearance before the beak.
Firstly, healing the sick and raising the dead would see Jesus charged with practising medicine without a licence (although under the Health & Social Care Act he could become a qualified provider), with the resulting implications for Lazarus and the blind beggar. Feeding the 5,000 would probably incur a fine for operating an unlicensed fast food outlet; along with complaints from McDonalds, KFC, Pret A Manger, the Star of Bombay and the Oriental Palace, for muscling in on their territory. The turning of water into wine, would also likewise constitute a breach of the Trade Descriptions Act.
Even the Sermon on the Mount might be interpreted in some quarters as a form of sedition; for daring to suggest it will be the meek who shall inherit the earth, not the bankers and their multi-million pound bonuses. The Ascension into Heaven itself might also come to be regarded as the work of an unscrupulous illusionist. Were Jesus to repeat his act of walking on water, most likely he would be prosecuted not only for holding an unlicensed outdoor event, but for numerous other breaches of the health & safety laws too. Riding a donkey on the public highway would definitely incur the wrath of officialdom: from the RSPCA for animal cruelty, to the traffic police for not wearing a safety helmet.
And lastly, my own particular favourite. Driving the moneylenders from the Temple would nowadays be regarded as behaviour likely to cause bullying and harassment, as well as a claim by London Mayor, Boris Johnson, of an EU-sponsored attack on the City of London.
Perhaps under these circumstances, it might be best if Jesus weren’t British. For he would surely risk arrest, fines and possible imprisonment, living in a country where both anti-religious bias and phone hacking seems to have become the norm.
If the Scribes and Pharisees of two thousand years ago didn’t appreciate his efforts the first time round, it is highly unlikely that the secular PC brigade of today would do so either.