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Laura Perrins: Forget about “British values”. Go back to basics with St Paul and Love


The debate about British values rumbles on. It should come as no surprise that very few agree on what they are. Michael Gove offered: tolerance and fairness. But then what Western democracy says it is intolerant and unfair?

David Cameron suggested: “freedom, tolerance, respect for the rule of law, belief in personal and social responsibility and respect for British institutions.”

The Daily Telegraph at least gave quite a full list, including personal freedom and a presumption against state coercion; free speech and freedom of expression, including an unfettered, vibrant and pluralistic media and a belief in private property.

The principle of Parliamentary sovereignty is offered by many, but even this is no longer accurate as long as Britain remains in the European Union and the majority of its laws are set there.

In fact, most of the ‘values’ offered are personal rights of the person against the State outlawing undue interference with the individual and civil duties owed by the person to the State, such as being familiar with the civil and criminal law.

These are extremely important but they are not values to live your life by. They are rights the person has against the State so that individuals have the space and freedom to live their lives according to their own values.

Take the right to own private property, as articulated by the Telegraph. This just tells us the State cannot interfere unduly (see tax and planning law) with private property. But it tells us nothing about how much private property we should in fact accumulate in our lives.

The idea that the State could attempt to inculcate a person with values it believes would contribute to a good and worthwhile life is in fact anti-liberal and anti-democratic and would probably infringe some of the ‘values’ set out above. In fact, I dread to think what our modern State would offer.

There are principles and values out there, however, that have been around for a long time and many people live or at least try to live their life by them.

They are Christian values and were so imbued within British culture that, up until very, very recently, they could be called British values, without the equality and diversity police being called.

There are eight fundamental Christian values: grace, hope, faith, love, justice, joy, service and peace. St Paul is well-known for identifying faith, hope and love as Christian values, and he identified love, as the ‘greatest’.

So important was the value of love that St Paul articulated the following:

“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not love, I am nothing.”

So one might be very smart or even have ‘all knowledge’ but if you are without love you are nothing.

The Qualities of Love are identified as:

Love suffers long, and is kind; love does not envy; love vaunts not itself, is not puffed up, it does not behave itself rudely, seeks not her own, is not easily provoked, keeps no record of evil; it rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love is a true value. It is what inspires people to get you out of bed every morning and put one foot in front of the other.

So, if our political leaders, atheists and secularists can come up with something better, call me. Until then I’ll stick with this.

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