O Britannia!

It’s one thing for the British government to eradicate every vestige of Christianity on the Scepter’d Isle. It’s another for it to demand that its territories do so as well.

The constitution of St Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha islands states that the British territory wishes to respect “Christian and family values”. And the constitution of the Cayman Islands declares that it is a “God-fearing country based on traditional Christian values”, where “religion finds its expression in moral living and social justice”.

Given the Cayman’s reputation as an off-shore financial centre, that last part might raise a few eyebrows. But what really bothers the British Foreign Office isn’t any possible inconsistency - it’s mentioning Christianity at all.

When St Helena was debating its new constitution, the British Foreign Office told its leaders that they should consider removing references to Christianity because “the UK was now multi-faith”.

Territorial leaders, including Governor Andrew Gurr, responded that “while the UK may well be multi-faith, Christianity is the dominant religion on the island”. So, they kept it in.

Well, as you probably guessed, it didn’t end there. A committee in Parliament raised the issue, and now the Foreign Office is giving “careful consideration” to ordering the territories to remove references to Christianity.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, I guess. A few months ago, a Foreign Office official called on the Red Cross to replace the red cross with an “alternate symbol”, such as a “red crystal”.

I’m not making this up. According to Foreign Office official Chris Bryant, the cross potentially “undermines” the work of the organization because of its “connection” to the Crusades. That the organisation wasn’t founded until 600 years after the Crusades, or that it was derived from the flag of Switzerland doesn’t matter. Some non-Christian somewhere might take offense, so it has to go.

The fear of giving offense is probably why Bryant’s boss, Dave Miliband, failed to send out Christmas and Easter greetings, but remembered Ramadan. One staffer called the oversight “depressingly predictable”.

But this is more than a misguided desire to avoid offense. Foreign Office officials have been instructed to “push gay rights” and “to support civil society work for [gay] rights”. This includes translating into local languages a document called “UK Guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People and Their Rights”.

These efforts prompted a protest from the Polish government after the British ambassador distributed a Polish-language version to gay activists in Warsaw.

Put it all together and it’s hard to disagree with the Anglican Archbishop of Winchester, who wrote that the Foreign Office is intent on “advancing a secularising agenda”. Likewise, one conservative member of Parliament is justified in seeing the attempt to remove references to Christianity as “proof positive that [the British] Government is anti-Christian”.

At the very least, the Foreign Office is intent on air-brushing Britain’s Christian heritage from the official record. Not so much because it offends non-Christians, but because it offends the post-Christians in charge.

Like the man said, “depressingly predictable”.

From BreakPoint, November 16, 2009, reprinted/posted with permission of Prison Fellowship, www.breakpoint.org.