Striken, Smitten, and ElectedKasper James | May 6, 2015
Recently, a schoolmate of mine excitedly recommended that I take the time to watch Prime Minister David Cameron’s Easter video. I admit I was skeptical about the content of the video from the beginning. I do not want to assign motive to a situation of which I am largely ignorant, but Cameron’s message raised some questions and concerns in my mind.
My friend is right. The video message is strikingly Christian; almost jarringly so. To the American eye and ear Prime Minister Cameron’s message is as creedal a statement as one could expect to hear from a member of the government. But perhaps all is not as it seems upon first blush.
The first question that springs to mind is why has the Prime Minister chosen this Easter as a time to embrace the Faith whose tenet of Marriage he so conveniently set aside a couple of years ago? I have absolutely no desire to accuse the PM of using the Cross in a political ploy. I do want to say that it is possible that the PM found that such an Easter message as this could be a politically popular decision.
It is no secret that the Prime Minister has created a substantial deal of disunity in the Conservative party through some of his policies, case in point, the same-sex marriage question. Perhaps this message was partly an attempt to rally the party together. The approaching general election in the United Kingdom, I think, lends some credibility to this hypothesis.
However, questions of political expediency aside, there was a specific phrase Cameron said which caught my attention and raised concern in my mind. “And in the coming months,” the PM says, “we must continue to speak as one voice, for the freedom of belief.” Cameron’s use of the phrase “freedom of belief” seems innocuous. However, it reminded me of a subtle change in official parlance that was begun by the Administration of President Barack Obama, and the United States Department of State, under then-secretary Hillary Clinton. In that case, the phrase “freedom of worship” noticeably replaced “freedom of religion”. The State Department maintains that the two phrases are interchangeable. But, even a cursory examination reveals not-so-subtle differences. Freedom of worship, and especially Cameron’s phrase, freedom of belief, is inherently more individually based than “freedom of Religion”. Belief is conceived of as an individual decision or viewpoint, worship, is an individual’s response to the divine. Religion though, well religion carries the potential of reaching far outside the individual, changing families, societies, cultures, and I dare say nations.
Thus, while I, like my schoolmate, was pleasantly surprised and mildly encouraged by Prime Minister David Cameron’s Easter Message, I wonder if perhaps any excitement felt on the part of Christians on both sides of the pond should be tempered by pausing long enough to think critically about what is actually being said and why.
Featured Image is of The Tree of Life Mosaic under the Dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral.