Do we live in a Christian society?

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We are always advised never to discuss politics or religion but since when do we sometimes heed advice. Recently Tony Blair was in the news for suggesting that the UK was a Christian country. This the media thought was not surprisingly an inappropriate view when the UK tries to promote its multicultural tolerance. I, probably like most, were not really that interested.

However, shortly afterwards I was listening to Radio 4 which had a piece about Russians who were choosing to live or at least have their children educated in the UK. Part of this programme talked about why these Russians wanted this association with UK. We were told, especially as regards the education of their children, that they were looking for them to be "westernised".

Initially l thought this slightly odd and failed to understand what was meant by this "westernisation". But on listening further to the discussion and opinions, it was that they wanted their children to grow up with western values ,which again as someone who has grown up in the UK I failed to initially grasp - mainly I suspect because there is a natural expectation that everyone has the same basic values. This it appears in Russian eyes is not the case and they crave the tolerance that they see within the Western world.

This is not something I had even considered, but a lawyer interview explained it that in the UK we have the law but in Russia you have rules. We have a system of tolerance and fluidity created by generations of legal process which to some degree shifts with public opinion, where as in Russia rules are imposed and transgression is not tolerated.

The Russians interviewed were hoping that their children educated in the West would take back to Russia with them the Western attitude to liberality and tolerance which might soften the Russian attitudes going forward.

This made me actually think about Tony Blair's comments and I understood that he was saying that the UK was a christian society not a Christian society. It is odd that even as I typed this, spellcheck wanted to put a capital C on christian. I have never studied religion, and have never had any desire to do so, believing that all religions must have the same basic foundations of tolerance towards others views and actions with just a limited core of unacceptable actions. I realise now that that premise is not entirely true, but I do see that what Tony Blair was referring to as a christian society is what the Russians see as Western values.

I have strayed into an unfamiliar area of religion for me and I will continue to think of myself as a Christian, but realise now that in part, I just have attitudes and standards not from Christian teachings but from the Western views of acceptance and tolerance of others. If it is this Western way of life that encourages tolerance, acceptance of contrary views and multiculturism, I'm going to cease saying I'm a Christian and remove the religious inference and just say I'm a westerner.

Jonathan Russell




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