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22 December 2011

‘Cameron’s Bible backing should encourage UK Christians’

The prime minister's recent remarks in support of religion in public life should spur Christians to action, according to the Evangelical Alliance's advocacy director.

In a speech to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible last week, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The Bible has helped to shape the values which define our country.

He made the statement in a speech to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. His commemoration of the text was an acknowledgement of the contribution it had made to both our language and our politics, and the prime minister also stated that "we are a Christian country". 

Speaking to an audience from the Church of England at Christ Church, Oxford, the prime minister surprised many with the strength of his support for not only the historical text but for the role of religion in public life. He said: "To me, Christianity, faith, religion, the Church and the Bible are all inherently involved in politics because so many political questions are moral questions."

Mr Cameron also tried to explain his own beliefs. He said: "I am a committed - but I have to say vaguely practising - Church of England Christian, who will stand up for the values and principles of my faith, but who is full of doubts and, like many, constantly grappling with the difficult questions when it comes to some of the big theological issues."

Citing the impact that the translation has had on contemporary English language and culture, the Prime Minister said: "What is clear is that 400 years on, this book is still absolutely pivotal to our language and culture ...Just as our language and culture is steeped in the Bible, so too is our politics. The Bible runs through our political history in a way that is often not properly recognised.

"From human rights and equality to our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy… from the role of the Church in the first forms of welfare provision, to the many modern day faith-led social action projects…the Bible has been a spur to action for people of faith throughout history, and it remains so today."

He added: "The future of our country is at a pivotal moment. The values we draw from the Bible go to the heart of what it means to belong in this country."

In response to the speech Dr David Landrum, director of advocacy for the Evangelical Alliance, said: "We've been celebrating the impact of the King James Bible all year, and it's about far more than just language and culture, it's about a living and breathing faith that affects all of life not just that bit we might tag religious. 

"It's really encouraging to hear the prime minister speak so confidently about the role of faith in politics, and we should welcome this acknowledgement that it is our beliefs that motivate us to act. His call to Christians to have confidence in their values and to stand up for those values should be a spur to Christians of all denominations to strongly oppose his plans to re-define marriage in 2012. If we are to truly value the role of Christianity in addressing what the prime minister observed as the 'moral collapse' of society, then supporting family life and marriage would be the ideal place to start."

Conservative peer Lord Edmiston responded to David Cameron's speech by saying: "In his speech, David Cameron tore up the political rule book that said politicians shouldn't talk about the importance of faith in society. We are primarily a Christian nation, and it is because of the Christian virtues of tolerance that other faiths are so free to flourish. At last the UK has a prime minister that is happy to raise this important debate."

A spokesperson for the Church of England commented on the prime minister's speech: "There is much to welcome in Mr Cameron's speech; the recognition of the role of the Church not only in the historic development of this country but also in contemporary debates; the recognition of the role Christianity has played in the ability of other faiths to flourish in this country; and the confirmation, for example, that one does not have to start from a position of neutrality in order to understand and support equality."