Nick Spencer of Theos writes that most people do:
Trust in British institutions has plummeted since 1953. Parliament, church, law courts, police, media: all have been cut down by the scythe of public scepticism. The one exception – the clue was in the date – is the monarchy which, occasional wobbles aside, has maintained steadfast support over the decades.
The reason for this lies largely in the Queen herself who, it is widely recognised, is quietly but devoutly Christian. But this poses a question.
How is it that the Head of State in a now demonstrably religiously plural society – many Christians, many nonbelievers, many Muslims, and many more – can be so religiously, indeed denominationally, specific? Should the Head of State not be secular or multifaith for the sake of equality and fairness?
This is as much about the process that put the Queen in her place as the Queen herself. The think tank Theos recently commissioned ComRes to ask the British public what they thought about the next coronation. Given the state of 21st century UK, should it be Christian, secular or multifaith?
The results were clear: a majority of people (57%) wanted the next coronation to be Christian. By comparison, 19% wanted it to be multifaith and 23% secular.
This, note, was not Christian public opinion. When asked whether they thought that a Christian coronation would alienate them, only 22% of people from a religious minority said that it would, as did 18% of people of no religious faith. In other words, a Christian coronation was the preference not only among Christians but among religious minorities and non-believers.
Such data give the lie to the idea that the only ways you can legitimately manage religious diversity is through secularism – faith is kept silent to avoid any public bias – or through multifaithism – faith is apportioned ‘equally’ to avoid bias. A third way – a generous and inclusive religious settlement – is possible and, if public opinion on the coronation can be extrapolated, it is the currently preferred option.
But that, in its turn, places a big challenge before Christians, and in particular those Christians who affiliate with the established church. How far do they include rather than exclude? How far do they defend the religious freedom and rights of all, rather than just their own?
How far do they – how far do we – really serve, as opposed to expecting to be served?
Nick Spencer is Research Director at Theos
The report ‘Who wants a Christian Coronation?’ can be downloaded from here.