Christianity in Public Life

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:31 pm on 11th March 2009.

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Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning) 3:31 pm, 11th March 2009

I accept my hon. Friend's point about Christian values. If I have time I will return to that point.

Within Christian groups—I see it most clearly in the Catholic tradition—there are different views about how we should engage with politics and with the world. That depends a little on how people read the different traditions of Aquinas or Augustine. People may prefer Augustine's model of two cities, with a real disjunction between the world and the kingdom in heaven or they may take a more positive view, from the Thomist tradition, about engagement with politics and politics being part of the good life. Those two disjunctions exist and they follow right through all the different Christian modes of thought. I see that, in the Catholic tradition, in the changes apparent between one pope and another in terms of the type of language used and whether they are particularly anti-modernity or more focused on negotiation and dialogue. We need to be aware of that, rather than grouping all Christians into the same group.

I am uncomfortable with the idea that Christians are, in some way, discriminated against or persecuted in the United Kingdom. There is a long tradition of martyrdom in Christian thinking that we tend to take upon ourselves with great ease. I wonder, when reading the Daily Mail, whether it would draw the wounds on itself if such an image were not too Catholic for most of middle England. I accept that Christianity and faith are often misunderstood—the Von Hügel Institute said that in its report, "Moral, But No Compass—Government, Church, and the Future of Welfare"—but whether that always equates with discrimination is a moot point.