The Pax Borisannica
It was by no means clear back in 2006 when Boris Johnson's book The Dream of Rome was published that he would become the important British political leader that he now is. The book should be read by anyone concerned about the future governance of the United Kingdom because it provides an invaluable insight into how Mr Johnson thinks. He may claim that the book is descriptive of the enduring influence of Roman imperial governance on modern politics rather than prescriptive. But the lyrical tones in which he describes the unifying influence of the Roman empire by contrast with the British speak more eloquently of devotion than detached analysis:
The British approach was essentially communalistic: that is, to acknowledge the insurmountable barriers between the faith groups and to allow them to live in their own structures and with their own hierarchies...The Romans assimilated successfully and created a universal sense of Romanness: and for reasons of racism, religion and cultural prejudice on both sides, the British have failed to create anything like a comparable sense of Britishness, either abroad or, indeed, at home. Now we are dealing with the consequences, in Britain, of adopting that communalistic approach, as the children of our imperial possessions grow up, in our own cities, in a way that is often balkanised and alienated. It was the Roman genius for assimilation - making people want to be Roman - that did the trick for so many centuries (Harper Collins Publishers, London, pp51-52).That commitment to the Roman process of assimilation is the ideological explanation for Mr Johnson's decision to ban the advertisements on London buses promoting gay conversion. He was entirely sincere when he declared at a hustings before the mayoral election that the ads would be bad for the Christian community in London. He was sincere in that explanation because his worldview demands that the Christian community live in ordered assimilated harmony with the adherents of the other religions and ideologies proliferating in multi-cultural London. He genuinely recoils from the 'communalistic' approach that would allow Christian groups to preach gay conversion in contradiction to the message of inherent homosexuality in some individuals as preached by Stonewall.
The problem for Christians in Pax Borisannica is that the Gospel we proclaim can be socially divisive. It is not our desire that it should be. It is our desire that everyone to whom we preach the good news of the world's only Saviour Jesus Christ will embrace it and be converted. But the practical reality is that not everyone will. When the Gospel comes up against powerful vested interests, as happened when the Apostle Paul preached Christ's message in Ephesus (see Acts 19), social disorder can ensue. Paul's preaching provoked a riot caused by those Ephesians commercially committed to the idolatrous cult of Artemis.
Social disorder can be the price of the free proclamation of God's truth in a fallen world. Pax Borisannica believes that price is too high. That is the fundamental difference between Christianity and Johnsonism.
Julian Mann is vicar of the Parish Church of the Ascension, Oughtibridge, South Yorkshire.