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Commentary

Pregnant pause

Agnostics anonymous

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The proposed Dorries/Field amendments to the NHS bill are nothing to do with Christianity. We know this because Dorries herself insisted it was true. She is 'pro-woman', and those who perceive a religious agenda behind her actions are misrepresenting her. This sits uneasily with her statement in the Salvation Army paper that her stance was a compromise, serving the longer-term goal of reducing the number of abortions carried out in Britain by any achievable means. 'I am not an MP for any reason other than because God wants me to be', she has stated. To a disinterested observer, it's plainly religious faith that motivates her.

Whether or not all British Christians would identify with Dorries' version of Christianity, her coyness about her motivations does seem characteristically British. Christian Concern's 'Not Ashamed' project aimed to get British Christians to  'live out their faith in public' , but most seem more comfortable with it in light camouflage. Hence, Theos argue for Christian values on the grounds that they are necessary to maintain Enlightenment values, or that they 'make an appreciable and constructive contribution to our common life'. They do not openly argue that Christian values are Christian and therefore right, though this belief permeates every page of their reports. Similarly, you have to look hard to see Christianity mentioned on the website for the Greenbelt festival.

North Americans don't seem to suffer from the same reticence. The website for the US Wild Goose festival announces 'We are followers of Jesus creating a festival of justice, spirituality, music and the arts'. US believers are clearly 'not ashamed'. Similarly, it is hard to imagine that a US politician setting more obstacles in the path of abortion would be bashful about the motivational role of Jesus in his work.

Of course, it would be mendacious to pretend not to know why Dorries is reticent about the faith origins of her campaign; as mendacious as Dorries herself pretending not to know why pro-choice campaigners object to it. She isn't advertising her faith because the British public won't buy it. She admitted as much herself on Newsnight in June: 'The issues that I champion particularly ... if I were to approach any of them from a faith perspective I would lose before I've even begun'. The hope is that the Christian message pureed up with a blend of other fine sentiments will be rendered more palatable.

Christians in Britain often accuse secularists of having a covert anti-religious agenda. They might deplore the tactic but they seem willing to emulate it. As an agnostic I'm all for a straight debate: believers and nonbelievers should stop misrepresenting themselves.