Who’s a Christian?

The media has given quite a bit of attention to David Cameron’s recent comments on England being a Christian Country.  This was immediately attacked by those who declared otherwise and also thought his comments were likely to be divisive.  Just last weekend the Archbishop of Canterbury Emeritus made his contribution calling this country as post-Christian by which he explained that

“It means the cultural memory is still quite strongly Christian.”

He added: “But [Britain is] post-Christian in the sense that habitual practice for most of the population is not taken for granted.

“A Christian nation can sound like a nation of committed believers and we are not that. Equally, we are not a nation of dedicated secularists.

But it is interesting that at a recent survey 56% of the people said they were Christian.

Well the argument on this can go on and on but it does look to me as if many people are equating Christianity with a certain moral standard as if that was the prerogative of Christians.  Surely Christianity is more about a way of seeing the world as transmitted by the teaching of Jesus in the Christian Scriptures and to be found in the explicit community of faith believers?

But I want to put my own thoughts on this as its seems to me that all of them are addressing this in an outdated way of seeing religion and faith systems.  It seems to me that the last century has witnessed a gradual but profound transformation of the West’s religious landscape.  The ability to travel, immigration, interfaith dialogue, women doing theology and being taken seriously, an growing interest in contemplative prayer and meditation and advances in technology and the findings of modern science  have all played their part to the extent that we are no longer confronted with just one religious option – in this country; Christianity.   Today we are exposed to many different religious faiths and practices.  The result this is that more and more people are being touched by more than one religion.  There have long been religiously plural societies in  Asia.  so it will surely come as no surprise that the phenomenon of multireligious identity is to be found here in the West as a whole and including in  the United Kingdom .  This has been well documented in a book by Catherine Cornille.   I personally feel very much part of this expansion of this multireligious identity as a Roman catholic priest rooted deeply in my Catholic Christian identity I am also an accredited Zen teacher in the Buddhist tradition to which I owe a great deal of my enrichment.   These day I am working with many who will identify themselves as both Christian and Buddhist.  Clearly this may seem rather strange to many but it is a growing phenomenon.  I have personal contact with over 100 here in the UK that would accept their practice as both Christian and Buddhist.  Now this is not the place to explore this in any detail but Shirley du Boulay’s recent book “A Silent Melody” is her own personal testimony ti such a n experience.  There is also a Doctoral dissertation on the practice by Dr. Rose Drew  published as “Buddhist and Christian? An exploration of dual belonging”.  One final item of interest is a DVD  by Fr. Robert Kennedy SJ , Sr. Chung Hyun Kyung and Dr. Paul Knitter called Jesus and Buddha: Practicing across Traditions”.