King's Evangelical Divinity School

24 December 2009

Christmas and Christianity in the British Press

In an article written for the Evangelical Review of Society and Politics several years ago I noted how  Christianity and religious issues in general were fairly rarely discussed in the British press some years back. In short, religion was firmly relegated to the private sphere, a situation which existed throughout much of the twentieth century. However, with 9/11, the London and Madrid bombings, an aggresive new form of secularism, and responses to the anti-Judaeo-Christian legislation introduced during the the Blair (and now Brown) years, religion is making a major comeback in current affairs. So while a couple of decades ago you'd be hard-pressed to find a Christmas news story or comment in the press reflecting on the religious significance of season, today it is quite a different story. For example, just this morning as I flicked through the various British newspaper sites I came across numerous items of interest actually combining Christmas with faith (rather than Santa Claus, drink, gifts, travel, cooking or sport). Anyway, thought they might interest you so here they are...

  • The Guardian has a piece by the Bishop of London Richard Chartres who seeks to marry the Christmas message with the need to fight climate change. (Actually, in the lead-up to Christmas the Guardian seemed to have been the most reticent of all the British papers to print on the religious nature of Christmas, and this comment only seems to have made it in because Chartres refers to one of the paper's pet subjects, climate change.)

  • In the Times the Archbishop of York compares Joseph and Mary with asylum seekers today.

  • The Scotsman reports on how one church is meeting in a pub, including serving its very own ale, to get people back to church this Christmas.

  • The Telegraph reports how Midnight Mass services are being held earlier in the day this Christmas Eve to accommodate families and encourage them to come to church.

  • Also in the Telegraph Alastair Sooke seeks to move beyond the secularisation of Christmas, particularly the person of Father Christmas, and looks at his progenitor St Nicholas.

  • The Times looks at the Passion play which has been staged in Oberammergau, Germany, every ten years since the 17th century.

  • Vincent Nicholls explores art and faith in the Telegraph, focusing on a particular painting of the Nativity. In his comment he expresses the view that society often draws on art and faith to refresh itself. 

  • A piece in the Independent explores how the Nazis sought to remove all traces of Jewishness from the Christmas story.

  • Former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken (who was imprisoned and consequently returned to faith, and who has close ties with Alpha's Gumbel) also notes how Christianity is making a comeback in British society in this comment published by the Daily Mail.

  • Finally, Dominic Lawson (son of former Cabinet minister Nigel Lawson and brother to that most expert of cooks Nigella Lawson, a well-known Jewish family here in the UK) comments on the Jewishness of Christmas, which I referred to earlier in the day.

I hope you found these interesting. In the meantime, as you prepare to spend quality time with your familes over the next couple of days, I trust you will have a blessed Christmas at that time of the year when we reflect upon and celebrate that most theologically incredible story which is the Incarnation, the result of which is the good news of Jesus Christ. Merry Christmas!

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