Bishop Davies: 'Bitter and intolerant' Britain needs light of Easter

  • Simon Caldwell

The British national character appears to be changing amid an atmosphere in public debate of "bitterness and intolerance", the Bishop of Shrewsbury will say in his Easter homily.

The Rt Rev Mark Davies will reflect on how legitimate differences of opinion were no longer being treated with tolerance and too often responded to with "anger, enmity, no- platforming, and even threats of violence and death".

The British people had long been known for their civility and tolerance, he will say in a homily at Shrewsbury Cathedral on Easter morning, April 21, but will suggest that recent trends in public debate indicated a change for the worse "in our national character".
The Bishop will say politicians have shown wisdom by pausing from "rancorous debates" during the Easter holiday, and will encourage everyone to regain a sense of perspective from the Easter celebration.

He will say that it is in the light of Christ that we see the enduring truth about the human person destined not for death but for eternal life and happiness.

The Bishop will appeal for a "return to the foundation that should always underpin our national debates" because the admired "gentle tolerance" of the British character has been largely formed by the truths of the Gospel.

Bishop Davies will say its breakdown was a consequence of losing sight "of the greater horizons which Easter celebrates".
In the truths which made our society and civilization possible we will surely find "the healing of our society and the recovery of our tolerance," the Bishop will say.

Bishop Davies will say: "The deepening bitterness and intolerance in British society must surely be of concern to us all. It might even mark a change in our national character as disagreement and difference too often leads to anger, enmity and even threats of violence and death to those in public life. How did a people once noted for their civility and tolerance, come to such a sorry state of affairs?"

"We might trace this breakdown in our civility and gentle tolerance to losing sight of the greater horizons which Easter itself celebrates. Within many western societies we can see a descent into an irrationalism where there can only be 'my truth' and 'your truth' and no hope of basing our lives and society on what is enduringly and always true."

The Bishop will say: "It is in Christ, the only person who said, 'I am the truth' that we find the enduring truth about the human person that has long formed the basis of our civility, human rights and a rule of law worth defending. Our political leaders could not have taken a better time to reflect than at Easter and so return to the foundation that should always underpin our national debates."

The homily of Bishop of Shrewsbury follows in full:

"This is the day made by the Lord in which we rejoice".[1] All of our Christian faith and the whole of Christian civilisation depends on this Day. Everything rests on the witness given by those who, on that first Easter morning, came to "see and believe";[2] on the witness of the Apostles and their Successors who stand with Peter in testimony that "God raised Jesus to life".[3] In Christ's Resurrection, we see how human life is no longer destined for death but for everlasting life and happiness. This is the joy of Easter that never fades.

Our political leaders surely made a wise decision to pause amid rancorous debate to take time over Easter to reflect. It is not the place of a bishop to make judgments on passing political questions. It is entirely healthy that Christians should reach differing opinions on complex political choices. And such choices ought not to concern us on this greatest day in the Christian Calendar. Yet, a deepening bitterness and intolerance in British society must surely be a concern for us all. It might even mark a change in our national character as disagreement and difference now too often leads to anger; enmity; no-platforming; and even threats of violence and death to those in public life. How did a people, once known for its civility and tolerance, come to such a sorry state of affairs?

We might trace this breakdown in our civility and gentle tolerance to the loss of the greater horizons which Easter celebrates. In many western societies, we see a descent into an irrationalism in which there is only 'my truth' and 'your truth', with no hope of basing our lives and society on what is enduringly and always true. Yet, passing questions of public policy must always be seen from the perspective of what is lasting. It was this conviction which gave rise to the tradition that parliamentary and council meetings begin in Christian prayer. During his 2010 visit to Britain, Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI addressed our parliamentarians in Westminster Hall. He observed that if the only thing underpinning our democracy is an ever-changing social consensus, then the real challenge to democracy and social cohesion lies in our losing hold of the very truths which made our civilisation and society possible.[4]

Is there an alternative? The Easter liturgy declares that the stone rejected by the builders has proved to be the cornerstone. It is in Christ - the only person ever to have said, "I am the truth"[5] - that we find the enduring truth about the human person which has long formed the basis of our civility, our understanding of human rights and of a rule of law worth defending.[6] Our political leaders could not have taken a better time than Easter to reflect on present questions and hopefully return to the foundations that should always underpin our national debates.

On this Easter Day, we hear Saint Paul urge the first believers to cast out everything that is malice and to seek "sincerity and truth".[7] This is surely the path we, too, should take for the healing of society and the recovery of our tolerance. In the Easter Gospel we see that the truth of Christ's Resurrection was not imposed by either threat or force; it was revealed and discovered in the emptiness of Christ's tomb. May the light of this Easter Day lead us gently as a nation to "see and believe" God's great purpose for us, and so to recognise anew the truth by which we and all of human society can be saved.



Tags: Bishop Mark Davies, Easter, Shrewsbury

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