You believe in One God,
Creator and Sustainer of the universe.

You follow Jesus of Nazareth,
crucified by the Romans around 30 AD
and revered by His disciples
as the Messiah and Son of God.

You celebrate Easter as the time
when Jesus was raised from the dead,
and you hope that one day
you will also be raised.

Your religious teachings derive mainly from the Bible,
both Old and New Testaments,
and have been expressed in ancient creeds.

Your fellow Christians live throughout the world,
practising their faith in many different ways,
worshipping in church, chapel,
meeting-house or home,
principally on a Sunday.

You believe that God's Spirit pervades the world,
and that forgiveness,
reconciliation and renewal
are possible even in the darkest times.

_Pic9The empty cross is a symbol reminding Christians of Jesus' death and resurrection, which together lie at the heart of Christianity. A crucifix by contrast shows Jesus hanging on the cross. When people become Christians and are baptised, the sign of the cross may be made on them. The sign of the cross is sometimes made with the hand to bless people in worship,

Taken from the Christian Faith Card in the Diversity Game

CHRISTIANS (general note)

The Christian faith is founded on the life and teaching of Jesus who lived 2000 years ago in what is modern day Israel /various Palestine. Christians believe in One God and worship him as Creator. "They believe that Jesus revealed the forgiving love of God for all people, and strive to lead an ethical life based on His message of love for all. rThe Holy Spirit is revered as the agent of God's activity in the world. Most Christians arc 'Trinitarian, but a considerable number are not. The Bible is treasured as a guide, inspiration and source of learning, but its interpretation varies. Some Christians take its teaching literally while others do not.

It may be helpful to note that in the early days of Christianity there was no formal structure or set pattern of belief or worship. (firer the first few centuries the churches were developing creeds, liturgies, a canon of scripture and a hierarchical form of leadership. At the same time the separation of the western churches from the eastern churches was becoming more defined. Some of the differences were theological and some were cultural. "The Reformation of the 16th century which lead to the emergence of the Protestant churches only affected the western church.

There are now numerous Christian groups within the community. Some are organised as formal churches and are part of a wider organisation; others are independent house churches which may be linked to a national or international network. "There are also individuals who come from churches in remote parts of the world who may have very different experiences of Christianity.

We have included detailed information about some traditional churches and other Christian denominations but we cannot claim to have covered every branch of Christianity.



1.  Why does faith in general have important and legitimate presence in the public sphere?

2.  What is the Christian perspective on the way that faith engages in the public sphere?

“Public Sphere” = not just in public, but public service in government, education, civil society, etc.

Why Faiths in the Public Sphere?

Faith for many people is an important and vital part of their lives; it is simply illiberal to exclude this from the public sphere.

Faith by its nature is communal; it actually needs to be public to be healthy; for in public, people of faith must give account for what they choose to believe in.

Faith is an important part of the development of human societies.  Often it has been people of faith who have had courage and vision and persistence to see through reform and to overcome vested interests.  It is a waste to exclude this vitality from the public sphere.

Some Common Confusions about Faith

1.  “Religion is essentially divisive”:  This simply isn’t true.  Most religion is basically peaceable and the problems only come when communities and cultures feel under threat.  Moreover several of the most destructive and vile regimes of 20th century were avowedly atheist.  The real problem is tribal behaviour generally in human societies.  This is a much wider problem than religion, and it is unfair to blame faith for it.

2.  “Religions are all basically the same”:  Again, this is simply not true.  There are important differences between faiths, which need to be honoured if faith to be properly understood.  However there a difference between good and bad religion (see Good and Bad Religion below).

3.  “Religion is the cause of lots of problems”:  Religion can certainly go wrong and cause problems like any other basically good thing can.  But this doesn’t mean faith is fundamentally dysfunctional (see The Freedom of Creation overleaf).

Good and Bad Religion

Religion is not all same and like many other things in life can have beneficial and malign expressions.  Jesus taught that you shall know them by their fruit.

One way of expressing this is that good religion:

promotes the genuine human flourishing of all

firmly rejects the divisiveness of tribalism

is willing constantly to seek the bigger picture rather remain in its own little world

Such faith should be welcomed in the public sphere and is no threat to anyone of good will.

Some reasons why people sometimes prefer to see faith as essentially private.

Faith is seen as irrational.

People of faith may lack confidence.

Faith is perceived as promoting illiberal and unjust social attitudes.

Faith is perceived as holding anti-scientific views of the natural world

Religion is perceived as divisive

Religions are seen to be forcing their views on others

Three Important Responses for People of Faith

Most of the above reasons are simply about disagreement and it is important that pluralist societies learn to deal openly with this.  However, when faith enters the public sphere, people of faith need to avoid three particular kinds of behaviour, which otherwise may be seen as normal within faith communities.

Avoid commending faith in authoritarian terms, it is better to contribute insight and wisdom confidently from your tradition.

Avoid seeking to control society, it is better accept that you are only one voice among many, contributing to truth, values and priorities.

Avoid seeking to recruit and proselytise in the public sphere, it is better to seek to serve.

How Christians are called to Engage with in the Public Sphere

It needs to be acknowledged that Christianity has often not got this right, and that in the unhappy history of humankind terrible things have sometimes been done in the name Christ.  But it is an important philosophical principle that just because something can go wrong, doesn’t mean there is nothing good about it in the first place.

The Freedom of Creation ….

means that all good things have the capacity to go wrong, and it is not right to make faith the scapegoat for this.

means good can become corrupted, but can then also be redeemed and restored.

             e.g.    just because some relationships become abusive, doesn’t mean marriage is a bad idea

                        just because some parents neglect their children, doesn’t mean families are a bad idea

means it is important learn the lessons; and People of Faith must do so too.

Christianity has a clear fundamental ethic for engaging in the Public Sphere

GENUINE LOVING SERVICE, not control, or self promotion, or seeking to gain advantage.  The trouble begins when Christianity loses this paradigm, and is captured by paradigm of control.

The paradigm of genuine loving service is not the soft option; opposing evil and injustice through loving service, seeking to change the world through loving service, can be hugely demanding, indeed many Christians have paid the ultimate price.

But why should Christians be trusted to deliver on this?

This goes to the heart of Christian faith, for Christians believe that self giving and loving service is THE essential characteristic of God, revealed in the life and death of Jesus Christ.  Christians believe that it is God’s purpose to transform his creation, not by domination and control, but by loving service, and calls he call us all to do the same.

This paradigm of loving service addresses fundamentally many of the worries that people may have about welcoming faith into public sphere.

One further reason why Faith should be welcomed into the Public Sphere.

The public sphere is the place of open debate.  In the private sphere, people can believe in almost anything however weird, destructive or abusive.  But in the public sphere people must give account for what they choose to believe in.

Because many people are naturally people of faith, society has a profound interest in encouraging good religion, which promotes genuine human flourishing for all, rather than dysfunctional religion which spreads division, intolerance and hatred.  For, as Jesus said, you shall know them by their fruit, and it is in the public sphere that faith can be really known and tested

The public sphere is one of the key places where good is discerned, known and lived.  Multifaith communities set in a secular state, engaging confidently in the public sphere, offer one of the best balances for human flourishing that there is on the planet.  We must all cherish it together.

Revd Canon Charles Jenkin,
Vicar of St Mary-le-Tower
SIFRE seminar at Endeavour House on 29th September 2010.