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There is, of course, an intimate link between the continent and the island which goes well beyond the present European project and which will not be broken by Brexit. Being European does not necessarily mean being members of the European Union. It is important, however, to note the different ways in which the two areas have developed and this may well be crucial for the future as well. While the early architects of the European Economic Community worked with a Christian vision, it is worth remembering that the abortive “Constitution for Europe” refused to recognise the importance of the Judaeo-Christian contribution to European civilisation. Britain must not give in to this temptation, even if it is urged on by various sirens on left and right to do so.

Our national life has its origins in King Alfred the Great’s efforts in bringing together the diverse peoples in his nascent kingdom by taking account of their culture and customs but also by unifying them around the Christian faith and the values arising from it. His development of a common law for them was based on the Ten Commandments and Our Lord’s summary of them. This is recognised still at the highest levels in our judiciary. Values do not arise out of thin air. They are grounded in a world view and in our case, for better or for worse, this is the Judaeo-Christian world view. The inalienable dignity of the person, and the protection that comes from this recognition, arises from the biblical teaching that we are each made in God’s image. Equality of persons, similarly, is based on Jewish and Christian teaching about our common origins. Respect for conscience, the importance of consent and the rule of law for ruler and ruled alike have arisen from Christian reflection on the importance of being made in God’s image. Liberty and liberation are central themes in the Bible and have been reclaimed, time and again, after they have been negated by tyrants, both ecclesiastical and civil. The moderate Enlightenment (as opposed to the Terror of Robespierre) also based its view of the person on the Judaeo-Christian teaching of the imago dei. John Locke is a good English example of such thinking about persons and their inalienable rights, however mixed his actual record about the natural rights of native Americans in the colonies may have been. Even before him, the Puritans, who were victims of religious conformity, were arguing for religious freedom.

At this time of Brexit and an enhanced sense of nationhood, we should remember that our fundamental values are the result of a specific history which deserves recognition and celebration rather than neglect and embarrassment. Not every faith or philosophical tradition will produce the same values. Some will emphasise social solidarity over personal freedom, others may deny the very existence of the self rather than according it fundamental rights and yet others may value honour and saving face over service, selflessness and sacrifice.

One of our recent tragedies has been that Britain began to be more diverse at the very time when it was also losing its Christian discourse. This meant that instead of a Christian welcome, hospitality and engagement, we invented multiculturalism. Such a view was based on merely respecting difference and providing for it rather than seeking to integrate the diversity within a Christian framework to which everyone would have been welcome to contribute and to enrich. The result has been segregated communities and individuals who can be prey to radicalisation and extremism. We need now a clear commitment to nationhood which involves integration (but not assimilation), a lingua franca so we can communicate with one another and educational and social mobility to prevent ghettoisation.
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