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Meditation 263
The Meaning of "It's a Christian country."

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I was watching a movie[1] in which a police sergeant travels to a remote Scottish island in search of a missing girl. Encountering practices he disapproves of, Sergeant Howie responds on at least two occasion by stating emphatically: "It's a Christian country."

It occurred to me that I had encountered this same argument countless times, particularly in Letters to the Editor in various papers arguing for the retention or imposition of various Christian beliefs or practices on the rest of us. And in watching the movie, I reflected on how empty this argument is.

This is not about the legal aspects of the argument; many of our European readers are in countries with established churches[2], and are indeed Christian countries from that perspective.

But still, what does "This is a Christian country"[3] really say?

First of all, it indicates that the person making the claim does not have a better argument to support the particular position.

Secondly, it indicates that if it was not a Christian country, the alternative position would be acceptable.

Thirdly, it indicates that if it was a Jewish country, a Hindu country, an Islamic country, a pagan country it would be acceptable to impose Jewish, Hindu, Islamic, or pagan beliefs and practices upon a Christian who happened to visit. (Something that Sergeant Howie discovered to his dismay when he found he was most definitely not in a Christian country anymore)

Fourthly, and consistent with Reflection 28[4], it clearly identifies those who argue "It's a Christian country"[5] as moral relativists.

Footnotes:

  1. The Wicker Man, 1973
  2. For those unfamiliar with the term "established church," it refers to a church officially recognized by the government and supported as a national institution. (Websters) This is why England, possibly the most atheistic country in the world, is legally a Christian country.
  3. Just google that, complete with quotation marks, to get an idea of how many web sites make this claim.
  4. Reflection 28: Fundamentalists are the Real Moral Relativists
  5. And google this slight variation to find even more web sites that make this claim.