[ACNS, by Amelia Brown] The Archbishop of Canterbury’s newest book, Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, tackles the values that define the UK in a post industrial, post-Brexit landscape, and challenges the reader to consider a return to Judaeo-Christian values. The book, to be released early next month, is not a discussion of the place of church and state. Neither is it a critic of secular culture. Instead, it encourages the reader to redefine those values that we define ourselves by in favour of those that lift up society rather than drag it down.
These values which Archbishop Justin Welby addresses have historically defined British culture, and gone on to define a sense of right and wrong across the world. While he speaks to the need within the UK to re-examine what it defines itself by, he opens up the opportunity for cultures and churches across the world to re-examine their own values and place in society. As he says in his introduction: “In essence, it [this book] argues that a society that lives in love will flourish and develop, and it will liberate the vast majority of its members, whether or not they themselves accept the premises of the Christian faith.”
He outlines proposed values in three distinct groups: cohesion, courage, and sustainability. These themes and values, as Archbishop Justin said to journalists last week, are “drawn reasonably from our history and our Christian thinking.” He went on to explain them in terms of what brings us together, what drives us forward, and what keeps us going.
While the book, aptly named Reimaging Britain, focuses on the impact of values in British society and culture, the Archbishop did reflect on the place the Church may have in states beyond the UK. Recognising that the Church has a unique relationship with whatever state it finds itself, he summed up his thoughts on the matter: “I think it will be circumstance by circumstance. I mean there are places that are more or less similar to us, but even so they have very different cultures. There are parts of the world where the church is a very small minority, and may well be persecuted. In that case its challenge is to live well within itself, as an example to the society around it. Where it's in the majority, it must avoid the misuse of power, which has been the sin of churches in majorities and of other religious groups throughout history.”
Archbishop Justin emphasised the importance of redefining values for the UK, but the sentiment has relevance for nations around the world: “At a time when I think circumstances and history is driving us to reimagine our values, if we don't do it consciously then we’ll end up with bad ones [values]. And if we do it consciously there’s a chance that we’ll end up with rather good ones, as we’ve done in the past.
“But if you just let things happen, then the influence of everything from technology to culture to philosophy to a natural human instinct to selfishness and sin will prevail, and you end up with a very challenging and unpleasant society in which to live.”
“The best change comes from traditions that adapt, that improvise, but are founded in history.”
Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope is released on 8 March