Brexit. More than three years of debate and discord and the trouble may only just be starting. It seems like the parliamentary logjam following the referendum has now brought the UK into a period of constitutional crisis.

Biologically, a constitution refers to the physical health and strength of a body. Similarly, a political constitution embodies the fundamental principles for government, and expresses the national identity. Unlike the US, the UK doesn’t have a written constitution. Ours is uncodified, a blend of law and convention that we have accumulated over centuries.

Historically, this framework for our state has proven to be a relatively successful formula, and its success has been largely attributed to its Christian foundations. This goes some way to explain why the words of Psalm 127, unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain,” are inscribed into the floor of the central lobby in the Palace of Westminster – the very heart of our constitution.

However, after a century of slow secularisation, the UK is experiencing what the former Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks has described as cultural climate change” – a wholesale shift away from Judaeo-Christian ethics but with no idea about what to replace them with. As this shift has progressed it has become clear that our constitution is not as solid as we once thought it was – that it is no longer sustainable.


This is because it all works well when you have a common spiritual rule book to guide politics, government and the law, and to temper the language of public debate. In the absence of such a moral roadmap, Brexit has exposed huge social and political divides in the UK. It has also given us a competing set of visions for our national identity – for who we are and what we value.

As the calls for constitutional reform grow, it is important that evangelicals take an interest. The shape and nature of a written constitution and an accompanying bill of rights would directly affect the civil liberties and human rights that we all enjoy. The advocacy team at the Evangelical Alliance will certainly be speaking into this debate.

Dual citizenship

But, wait a minute. Aren’t we a Christian country? Technically, with the Queen as both head of state and head of the established church, the UK is a Christian country. In reality though, most people have views, values and beliefs that are inconsistent with the faith that has traditionally provided the things that are taken for granted. Things such as the rule of law, justice, tolerance, equality, freedom, dignity, and a love of one’s neighbour.

People are living their lives as if God doesn’t exist, but still expecting to receive the benefits as if He does exist. As American theologian Tim Keller observed in his address to our parliamentarians last year: We [our secular culture] lack the resources for our high ideals”. In other words: people want the fruits of Christianity, but not the roots of Christianity. They want the good stuff, but not the God stuff.

As Christians, with a dual citizenship of heaven and of the UK, this situation brings both challenges and opportunities. The challenges relate to attempts by atheists to redefine our national identity and rewrite our history. The first being seen in the ongoing British values’ debate and the governments integration strategy which seeks to redefine who is to be included and excluded in British life, and who should be deemed an extremist’.

The second being expressed in a myriad of secular misrepresentations of history such as the Abolitionist, Magna Carta, Suffragettes and Chartists commemorations, in which the contribution of Christianity was either diminished or completely disregarded. Clearly, if you can redefine the past you can redirect the future. That’s why we have a battle raging today, about yesterday, for tomorrow.

The right response

We can meet these challenges by pointing out the glaring deficiencies of secularism – which is not hard to do – and the fact that there is no such thing as secular neutrality. That it is a myth, and while the vast majority of Christians would not support a theocracy, neither should they support a seculocracy. 

We can also advocate for a debate about virtues rather than values, and loudly affirm the Christian contribution to our national identity. However, we must always resist the temptation to be swept along by nationalism. In these polarised times, it is dangerous to confuse a love of country (patriotism) with a sense of national superiority. Not only is this an abuse of our primary identity in Christ, as history shows us, nationalism tends to end badly. Honouring Jesus must always come before honouring a flag, but this does not mean that nation-states are not important.

The Bible has a consistent focus on nation’ as a bounded identity that is subject to blessings and judgements, and indeed ultimate judgement before the throne of God. Empires etc. do also pepper scripture in the guise of powerful alliances, but in the final reckoning it is nations who are: deceived (Revelation 20); redeemed (chapter 21); and healed (chapter 22). 

So, moulding a national identity that honours the word of God is an important part of demonstrating the coming kingdom of Jesus. As Proverbs 14:34 says: Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin condemns any people.” This scripture was also written into the floor of the vote lobby in the House of Commons, but after being bombed during World War II it was never replaced. How tragic.

Today, the institutions of UK society are being shaken to the core and at the Evangelical Alliance we are discerning a fresh receptiveness to the gospel. It seems that hearts are being softened and minds are being focused by the crises that are unfolding. What a time to together make Jesus known. 

As we seize the opportunities to introduce people to the hope of the nations, it is vitally important that our image-bearing is distinctive. Rather than seek to be relevant or to conform to the pattern of this world, our engagement needs to be biblically rooted and Spirit-led. It needs to be Christian – unambiguously, unapologetically, confidently Christian! This is what it means to be salt and light.

At a time when our culture is warring with itself through victimhood and domination, we should resist choosing sides and instead present the world with a completely different, life-giving, hopeful vision of new life. And we should have faith that God can redeem our country. After all, He’s done it before.

We often romanticise that work of William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect – the renowned group of evangelicals who transformed our society. But we forget that they also lived in times of great shaking – times of extraordinary immorality, with poverty, crime and drunkenness at appalling levels, and times in which the nation was threatened with Napoleonic invasion. The response of evangelicals to this? It was actually quite simple. They just got on with the mission of the gospel, to see Jesus transform people and transform society.

Our attitude should be the same. As our country continues to shake under the weight of the manifold contradictions of secularism, the church should demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God” distinctively, in both words and deeds. Or to quote the words of the wartime poster that are now common on our fridge magnets and coffee mugs, we should Keep Calm and Carry On” with the rescue mission of God.