‘We don’t do God’.
During a Press Conference in 2003, Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s Director of Communications, intervened to prevent the Prime Minister from answering a question on his Christian faith. During the 13 years New Labour was in power there was a total ban on mentioning ‘God’ to the point that Mr Blair was even prevented by his advisers from ending his address to the nation at the start of the Iraq war with the message ‘God bless you.’
But it could be that the Christian God is now making a comeback to the Governments in the UK, the West in general – and even, perhaps, in Russia.
After the surprise win for the Brexiteers last year and the not-so-surprising resignation of the pro-EU David Cameron, Theresa May was appointed as his replacement, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But Theresa May is the daughter of a Church of England vicar and life in a rural vicarage has had a profound impact on her life, so much so that she has no fear of speaking out about her Christian faith.
Shortly after her appointment, Theresa May acknowledged in Parliament that her faith in God is her driving force. But inevitably, after an interview in a November issue of the Independent, when she spoke about her religion, Theresa May was urged not to ‘abuse her position to promote Christianity’. However, the Prime Minister continued to describe how her faith in God makes her convinced she is ‘doing the right thing’. “I am a practising member of the Church of England and so forth, and that lies behind what I do.”
Theresa May has also said bluntly that ‘Our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of’. Which is something we have not heard from the Government or the media for a very long time.
And also in 2016 there was another unexpected election across the Pond, when Republican Donald Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Clinton to become the USA’s 45th President. He has confirmed that he is a Presbyterian who ‘goes to church on Sundays when he can, always at Christmas, Easter and on special occasions’.
But the current First Lady, Melania Trump, took her faith a little further than attending church services when she and her husband flew to Florida for a campaign rally in February. Having introduced the President, Melania Trump surprised the gathering by saying ‘Let us pray’, and then reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
As happened after Theresa May’s religious comments, Melania Trump was then reviled on the various media for doing so. But in both the UK and the US, Judeo-Christianity is the bedrock of our civilisation. Many people are still worshippers and even for those who are not, the basic teachings are still followed, even if unconsciously. A reminder of those teachings is important if other faiths or none are not to replace them.
During 2017 a number of elections are due to take place across Europe where presidents or prime ministers with Christian backgrounds are likely to either win or to push their governments in the right direction.
The Netherlands (Holland) will be holding a general election on 15th March, where it seems that Geert Wilders, the founder of the Party for Freedom, might do well. Although Wilders is said to be an agnostic, he has said that he feels the Dutch Christians “are my allies” and that “Our Judeo-Christian Western culture is far better and far superior to the Islamic culture, and we must be proud to say so!”
France will be holding the first round of its presidential election on 23rd April but should no candidate win a majority, a run-off election between the top two candidates will be held on 7th May. Marine Le Pen, who might well win at least the first round, is on record as saying that she and her party, the Front National, will defend France’s Christian roots. Francois Fillon of the right centrist Republican Party – who might still withdraw from the race due to a financial scandal – has said that he would continue to stress his Christian faith during campaigning despite criticism from opponents about the use of his religion. There is little known of the faith, if any, of Emmanuel Macron, the third and independent candidate, but he is a strong believer in the division of religion and state.
Germany will run regional elections in May followed by parliamentary elections in September. In Germany’s local elections in September 2016, the new right-wing party AfD (Alternative for Germany) did well and might do so again in the coming regional elections. The party chairwoman since 2015 is Frauke Petry, a member of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Saxony which is part of the Evangelical Church in Germany.
The Czech Republic is due to hold a general election in October. Bohuslav Sobotka is the Prime Minister and also leader of the Czech Social Democratic Party. Although not a lot is known of his personal faith, Prime Minister Sobotka has said that his country was happy to accept Christian refugees who had fled from areas controlled by the Islamic State.
Italy may be holding its next general election in 2017 rather in 2018 due to the early resignation of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi following a tumultuous political year. Italy’s two main political parties, Renzi’s Democratic Party and the anti-establishment Five Star Movement headed by Beppo Grillo, are calling for an early election although no date has been given as yet. Matteo Renzi and his family are Catholics while Beppo Grillo is said simply to be ‘a Christian’.
And then there is Russia.
As a child during the Communist era, President Putin naturally had a secular upbringing and as an adult rose through the KGB and the Communist Party. At this time religious practices were forbidden in the USSR but since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the various sects of the Christian religion, and in particular the Russian Orthodox Church, have re-emerged and have continued to grow. By the last count in 2008, 72% of the population identified themselves as being Orthodox and President Putin himself is said to be a member and ‘a bit of a zealot’.
One might question this, of course, especially since with the church and its patriotic members behind him, President Putin’s plans for Russia – whatever they are – may be more successful.
However, a few years ago, President Putin upbraided the Euro-Atlantic nations for abandoning their Christian roots and he is also quoted as having said that ‘First and foremost we should be governed by common sense [which] should be based on moral principles first. It is not possible today to have morality separated from religious values.’
So ‘let us pray’ that the governments and Christian clerics of the West rapidly regain their common sense and moral principles.