I was delighted to hear of Boris Johnson swimming against the tide during the G7 summit in Cornwall by confirming his belief in God.
ITV’s Robert Peston put it to him that Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer had openly declared his atheism, so what did the Prime Minister think?
I don’t suppose Robert (or anyone else, including Sir Keir) was ready for the answer ‘Bojo’ gave by quoting the Bible: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’.” (Psalm 14:1)
As I have said elsewhere, our words are extremely important, and this is a clear declaration of belief in God, neatly following his Easter comment in which he quoted Jesus as being “the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6).
All this interest in the PM’s religion follows his switch to Catholicism in advance of his marriage to Carrie Symonds, making him the first ever Catholic serving Prime Minister.
But it is encouraging to reflect that, so close to the venue of a terrible massacre of Christians said to have taken place in 460 AD, the death of those martyrs will not have been in vain – even in the midst of talk of a new world order in which the spiritual dimension is likely to have been absent.
According to Brenda Taylor, of Cornwall-based Dovetail Shalom Ministries, who has researched these things, Cornwall’s King Teuder (or possibly Teucer) apparently mistook Irish missionaries for an invading army and ordered their killing, leaving 777 mercilessly struck down on Gwithian Beach, not far from Carbis Bay, where the G7 met last week.
I have also learnt, with some astonishment, that Ireland’s patron saint, St Patrick, was probably Jewish, and that Cornish Christians had risked their lives by continuing to celebrate Passover instead of Easter. This apparently went on for 500 years after the Church broke away from its Hebrew roots in the fourth century, and was reportedly punishable by death. I had known that 1,000 Christians in medieval North Wales had been massacred on this pretext.
The potential ramifications of St Patrick (385-461 AD) having been Jewish are far-reaching, particularly in light of the recent rise in antisemitic feeling being witnessed in the Republic of Ireland.
Though highly debated, Brenda informs me that St Patrick was born in England of Jewish parents and kept all the feasts. After becoming a follower of Jesus, he taught his Irish disciples to do likewise. Furthermore, he encouraged constant worship and trained both men and women “to preach the word, heal the sick and deliver the bound”. As many as 33 people were reported to have been raised from the dead and, in time, 75% of Ireland’s population were following Christ.
Unfortunately, the king’s marriage to a Catholic spelt trouble, with Christmas and Easter replacing the Jewish feasts, causing many to flee to the extremities of the British Isles such as Cornwall, Wales and Lindisfarne. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that St Patrick was never actually canonised by the Catholic Church.
Following Jesus, the Jew, has always provoked fury among many of those in authority, but if only they knew what would bring them peace, as our Lord himself put it when he grieved over Jerusalem for rejecting him (Luke 19:42). But in Bojo’s beachfront response, we have a glimmer of hope on the horizon.
Oh, the complexities of politics and history! On successive nights, I have watched hour-long TV documentaries, first on Ireland from Peter Taylor and then on South Africa from Fergal Keane, who also happens to be Irish.
Both programmes were excellent, if somewhat gory and stomach-turning, but neither mentioned the answer to such seemingly intractable problems, potentially leaving you with a feeling of hopelessness.
There was, however, a hint of a clue in one of Keane’s closing remarks when he marvelled at the fact that, after 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela manifested not a trace of bitterness. But he failed to elaborate on this. Why? Perhaps he simply couldn’t understand it, or is it because the mainstream media doesn’t really want us to know the truth?
Mandela was brought up – and educated – by Methodist missionaries from whom he learnt of the power of forgiveness and reconciliation through the cross of Jesus Christ. I am reliably informed that later, on Robben Island, he turned to Christ for his personal salvation.
And the same thing happened to F W de Klerk, the white Afrikaner leader with whom Mandela helped steer South Africa to a new day of peace. And they were backed up by an army of prayer warriors who were ultimately responsible for preventing the long-prophesied bloodbath.
Though much corruption and heartache has sadly since re-visited the nation, it remains the case that the way to peace was originally paved by praying Christians.
The way forward for true peace in Ireland, South Africa, Israel and elsewhere is not a man-made attempt to enforce unity and conformity, but the cross of Calvary, which alone is able to break down the dividing wall between hostile groups, creating “one new man” out of the two, thus making peace (Eph 2:14-16).