Colin Brazier: Religious adherence in Britain is at a low-point

Long gone are the days when only vampires feared the crucifix.

Published Last updated

A few years ago the producers of the evergreen soap opera Coronation Street had a wedding to film. They chose a beautiful 14th century church in Cheshire for the ceremony.

Just one problem.

It had a cross right above the altar.

And, of course, somebody might find the sight of a cross…in a church…offensive.

So the producers hid the cross and carried on filming Molly and Tyrone’s big day.

Long gone are the days when only vampires feared the crucifix.

In China, now home to a fast-growing Christian community put at 100 million, they rip down crosses when they appear. But China is run by communists, for whom religion is the opium of the people and therefore to be purged.

What’s our excuse?

It’s a question at the heart of a case brought today against a London hospital that’s being sued for discrimination against a Christian nurse who wore a cross at work.

Mary Onu-oha is 61 and has spent the last 19 years working for the NHS at Croydon hospital. Mary claims she was treated like a criminal for wearing her small gold cross on a necklace. Repeatedly asked to remove it, while colleagues of other faiths were allowed to wear religious symbols.

This is far from being the first such case in Britain, and it may be that there are clinical reasons to do with infections and sterile areas that make NHS managers more nervous about a crucifix than, say, the hijab.

But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to suggest that the NHS, an organization which is undergoing a hiring frenzy of highly-paid diversity officers, might be institutionally wary of the Old Religion. The one spread by colonial missionaries to places like Nigeria, where Mary hails from.

Of course, what Woke Britain, from the TV producers at Corrie to the taxpayer-funded NHS managers in Croydon, fail to realise is that they are not Britain’s future, Mary is. If not Mary exactly, then people like her.

Religious adherence in Britain IS at a low-point. For God Botherers like me, the speed with which we’ve dumped fifteen hundred years of Christianity can be shocking. I remember watching a film with a relative of mine in which the central character says the Lord’s Prayer, words that every child learned by rote for centuries and which may just about be the most important words ever written in English. It wasn’t just that he didn’t know the words. He hadn’t heard of the prayer. He certainly would have no idea of how Christians brought Britain universities and hospitals. As the historian Tom Holland says in his recent book Dominion, Westerners have forgotten what Christianity displaced and how much of our world depends on its revelations.

But this religious illiteracy is a blip. Britain is increasingly populated by people OF faith. Mary’s birthplace. Nigeria, for instance, is currently home to 80 million Christians. And they are not Christians of the tepid sort. They are Christians of passionate intensity. Christians who will not suffer slights to their faith willingly. And as former Foreign Secretary William Hague wrote earlier this year Nigerians will change the face of Britain. By 2050, when Africa’s population will have tripled that of Europe’s, Nigeria is predicted to be more populous than the United States. Mary will not be the last Christian Nigerian to make a home in Britain.

Last week the historian David Starkey told me that Christianity in Britain had been supplanted by environmentalism. And you can see something of the religious martyr in those Insulate Britain protesters lying down in front of cars.

But something else is coming down the road, as England Africanizes. The restoration of a muscular type of Christianity that will not tolerate what it sees as persecution at the hands of those who get cross about the cross.