Christians are ‘openly derided’ and ‘coolly dismissed’, but their beliefs and work to help others are hugely valuable, Michael Gove has said.
The former Education Secretary said while British culture belittles Christianity on a daily basis, churchgoers’ demonstration of their love for Jesus through service to others is of incalculable importance.
Last month an equality watchdog found evidence of widespread discrimination against Christians.
Flawed and fallible
Writing in the Spectator magazine, Gove said: “Relativism is the orthodoxy of our age” so “to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity, condescension or cool dismissal”.
“But genuine Christian faith — far from making any individual more invincibly convinced of their own righteousness — makes us realise just how flawed and fallible we all are”, he wrote.
Gove added: “I am selfish, lazy, greedy, hypocritical, confused, self-deceiving, impatient and weak. And that’s just on a good day.
“As the Book of Common Prayer puts it, ‘We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts…And there is no health in us.'”
Gove said Christian charity is “seen by many as somehow suspect” because churchgoers’ faith is perceived as an “ulterior motive sullying their actions”.
“The suspicion was that Christians helped others because they wanted to look good in the eyes of their deity and earn the religious equivalent of Clubcard points securing entry to Heaven”, he commented.
He referred to “thousands of quiet kindnesses” in caring for the homeless, alcoholics, married couples and children, and said Christianity helps people “feel a sense of empathy rather than superiority”.
He continued: “In pre-Christian times, moral reasoning and full human potential were assumed to be restricted to an elite.
“Greek city states depended on a population of helots, the Roman Empire on the subjugation of slaves and barbarians, to sustain their rule. Their achievements were built on a foundation of radical inequality.
“Christianity, by contrast, like Judaism before it, gives every individual the dignity of a soul, the capacity to reason, the right to be heard and equality before the law.
“Because every individual is — in the image of God — capable of moral judgment, reflection and responsibility.”
Last month, following its largest ever consultation, the Equality and Human Rights Commission reported examples of Christians being marginalised.
It revealed churchgoers saying they have been mocked for their beliefs at work, passed over for promotion and under pressure to keep their faith quiet at work.