In the leaflet, Lord Carey highlights the great benefit that the Christian Faith has brought to our nation over many years as well as the current challenges to that heritage. He urges readers to consider whether as a nation and as individuals we really want to turn our back on Jesus Christ.
The leaflet measures 14cm by 14cm and should be thin enough to fit inside most Christmas cards. There is space to stamp or stick contact details or information about Christmas services on the back.
I’m Not Ashamed
I don’t know about you but I am immensely proud of our country. I’m proud of our Parliamentary democracy under our Monarchy. I’m proud of the sense of fairness and fair play that runs throughout our nation. I am proud of our tradition of tolerance and our historic commitment to welcoming the stranger.
Yet what many people don’t realise is that it is the Christian Faith that underpins these great strengths and that has enriched our nation in so many other ways. Our laws, our democracy and our health, welfare and education provision all find their origin in Christian principles whilst the influence of Christianity on our language, literature and culture has been enormous, not least through giants such as Chaucer, Shakespeare, William Wilberforce, John Newton, TS Elliot, William Temple and CS Lewis.
However, this rich legacy is under attack. In spite of having contributed so much to our civilization and providing its foundation, the Christian Faith is in danger of being stealthily and subtly brushed aside. The evidence has been mounting in recent years. Teachers and council employees are suspended for offering to ‘say a prayer’. A devoted nurse is banned from wearing a cross, a British Airways worker told to remove hers. Roman Catholic adoption agencies are closed down under new laws. Christian marriage registrars who cannot, in good conscience, preside over civil partnership ceremonies are summarily dismissed.
This attempt to ‘air-brush’ the Christian Faith out of the picture is especially obvious as Christmas approaches. The cards that used to carry Christmas wishes now bear ‘Season’s greetings’. The local school nativity play is watered down or disappears altogether. The local council switches on ‘Winter lights’ in place of Christmas decorations. Even Christmas has become something of which some are ashamed.
So, it appears that flowing from a combination of well-meaning political correctness, multiculturalism and overt opposition to Christianity, a new climate, hostile to our country’s tradition and history, is developing.
Yet in the last census, 72% identified themselves as Christians. Millions continue to go to church regularly. Parents flock to church schools, knowing that their children are likely to get the best education in an environment with a caring, Christian ethos. Churches and Christian charities continue to provide desperately needed services in every community in the country.
The Church is far from dead but is definitely under attack.
This Christmas is an opportunity to slow down and think about the future of our nation. Do we really want to consign the Christian Faith and the churches to the sidelines when they continue to give so much to our society? Do we really want to rebrand Christmas, empty it of its meaning and ignore its significance for us today?
For Christmas is about more than eating, drinking, giving and receiving. The real reason for those things is the celebration of the powerful story of God breaking through human misery, poverty and sin to be with us. Yes, Jesus was born in an animal enclosure because there was no room at the inn. But as his subsequent life and the record of human history was to show, he was more than just a man. He was the one through whom God reached out to all people, offering freedom from our self-destructive behaviour, our sin and selfishness.
And the great symbol of the Cross, on which he died 2000 years ago, endures today because it reaches the human heart. It tells us that the answer to our failure, sin and shame is to be found in Jesus, who by dying on the cross took our immense guilt upon himself so that we might stand blameless before God when called to give account. And three days later he defeated death by rising to life.
That is why the Christian faith will always be relevant to human need and why Jesus still attracts millions to follow him.
As a teenager emerging from the horror of the war years, I discovered that it was through submitting to Jesus, trusting him and making him the model of my existence that meaning, hope and wonder were given back to me. I realised that I could explain Jesus only by recognising him as far more than an ordinary human being, indeed as the Christ, the Son of God and the Lord of all. I have never regretted giving my life to him and following him.
He is the only one who can bring lasting freedom to individuals from anxiety, despair, guilt, shame, alienation, loneliness and the grip of death itself. But he is also the only one who can provide a solid foundation for a society characterised by care and compassion, justice and morality, hospitality and kindness, genuine respect and appropriate toleration, peace and prosperity, co-operation and public service. Are we really ready to turn our back on all this? 2000 years ago Jesus began to turn the world upside down. He has continued to do so ever since.
So, let me be clear. There are aspects of Christianity of which I am ashamed. I am ashamed of the way in which the external form of religion has got in the way of real faith and I am ashamed of the timidity of much western Christianity. But I am not ashamed of Jesus and his teaching. I am not ashamed of his promise to bring life, hope and freedom to individuals, communities and nations.
So, if you are a Christian, may I invite you to wear your faith with pride this Christmas? When far too many people fear ridicule for admitting that they are Christians or are uncertain whether they can bring their faith to the workplace, we should all stand together to honour the One who has so significantly and valuably shaped our country. After all, there are more Christians in our land than those who seek to undermine the Christian Faith.
And if you are not yet a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, may I encourage you, this Christmas, to listen again to the Christmas story and to ask God to forgive you for the past, to be with you in the present, and to strengthen you to stand up as one of his followers, in the year ahead and for the rest of your life?
I am not ashamed of Jesus Christ. Are you?