Dot Branning, Trevor Phillips and how we should live….

A couple of stories hit my radar this week which give an idea of how Christianity is being seen in the UK.

Neither of them make particularly nice reading!

The first one was a report about the Church and Media conference (a conference bringing together church leaders and media professionals) last week which was reported in the Guardian

The controller of BBC1 has hailed chain-smoking EastEnders stalwart Dot Branning as an example of a Christian living out her faith in a “day to day way”.

Danny Cohen made the remarks after being challenged to provide instances of ordinary believers on television who were not “freaks, geeks or antiques”.

Now I don’t know about you but I’m not sure that I would wish to hold up Dot as a great example of Christian living. As the Guardian says:

The character is in her 70s and known for her devout Christian faith, chain-smoking, gossiping and hypochondria.

Trevor Phillips chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

Trevor Phillips chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The second article was in today’s Sunday Telegraph where the head of the equalities and human rights commission Trevor Phillips is interviewed.

He accused Christians, particularly evangelicals, of being more militant than Muslims in complaining about discrimination, arguing that many of the claims are motivated by a desire for greater political influence.

His aim here is that some Christians have been very vociferous about wanting to assert themselves and picture themselves as hard done by but the reality is that there is the law of the land that needs to be upheld. The article points out that

in the course of the last decade, the number of employment tribunal cases on religion or belief brought each year has risen from 70 to 1000 – although only a fraction of cases were upheld.

Both of these stories show that Christianity in the UK is fair game. Indeed Trevor Phillips admits as much:

“I understand why a lot of people in faith groups feel a bit under siege. They’re in a world where there are a lot of very clever people who have a lot of access to the airwaves and write endlessly in the newspapers knocking religion and mocking God. The people who want to drive religion underground are much more active, much more vocal.

There is no doubt there’s quite a lot of intolerance towards people of faith and towards belief.”

Now I think that Trevor Phillips has some good points to make.

I think that we need to take on board what some of the people talking to the church are saying.

It’s sad that the controller of BBC 1 believes that  good example of Christianity is Dot.

I think that it’s sad because I know so many interesting and different people who are Christian.

I can think of single parents struggling to bring up families as part of a loving caring community; I can think of people from all over the globe – refugees from Eritrea, Mongolia, Congo; I can think of people struggling with disabled children; I can think of people working hard to support causes and charities; I can think of people in business. All these people looking and learning and trying to work out what being a Christian and their faith means for them in their situation.

But merely moaning about the BBC’s biased view of Christians won’t change their view. What will change people’s perceptions? Starting to live like Christians ought to. Not afraid of being known as Christian. Caring for those in the community.We were called for the sake of the world.

That means that we need to stop worrying about our rights and becoming self-obsessed.

John Harris wrote an article in the Guardian last Monday titled “Could this be the church to calm our secularist outrage?” He wrote about Frontline church in Liverpool.

This is where he and his people direct their work, as evidenced by Streetwise, a weekly operation in which a handful of volunteers take food, tea and condoms to the city’s sex workers. I watch them spend three hours in the encroaching dark as women in various states of drug-related distress flit between their van and streets where money has to be snatched from the jaws of occasionally life-threatening danger. They sometimes quietly pray for those they help, but they don’t evangelise. “We’re not bible-bashing,” one of them tells me. “Whether these girls come to church or not, it makes no difference to how we treat them.”

He describes a church engaging with society around. From the point of view of an avowed secularist outraged at the position of the church.

He continues

The next day I meet a former sex worker, now apparently off drugs, set on somehow starting college and a regular Frontline worshipper. “I was a prostitute and a drug addict for 11, 12 years – maybe more,” she tells me. “God is so forgiving – he wants me to win.” Wider society, she says, is “too judgmental … it’s: ‘That’s a prostitute, that’s a drug addict.’ They don’t want to know.” And how has the church helped her? “Oh, it saved my life,” she shoots back. “I would be dead if it wasn’t for this church.”

A question soon pops into my head. How does a militant secularist weigh up the choice between a cleaned-up believer and an ungodly crack addict? Back at my hotel I search the atheistic postings on the original Comment is free thread for even the hint of an answer, but I can’t find one anywhere.

The Church exists not for itself rather it exists for the sake of the world.

That’s why Jesus came.

That’s why He called the Church into being.

And so when, out of our faith, we make a positive difference in someone’s life then the Kingdom of God draws near.


4 comments on “Dot Branning, Trevor Phillips and how we should live….

  1. Esther Somerson
    June 20, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    How odd – a vicar not blogging about Trinity Sunday – does your church celebrate this ? Was expecting some spectacular musings and theology re. I am searching for a piece of art described by my minister, which he used as an analogy for his sermon. He apologised that some might have found his sermon frightening. I thought it amazing and will be trying to get a copy of it if he’ll allow it. His analysis of Father, holding an orb which seems to be slipping out of His hands and a sword in the other. Jesus holding sword to prevent Father using it, Spirit in the space between this and Mary – also as woman, symbolic as bride of Christ and a group of bishops & cardinals peering over top of her robe- the arm of it was indeed profound. Am endeavouring to find the art now….

    • Will Cookson
      June 20, 2011 at 6:09 pm #


      I did think of doing a blog on the Trinity but actually it would have taken more time than I had to write – Trinity = not simple = mystery = amazing = above all and in all and through all = self-giving community of eternal love = oneness of God

      • Esther Somerson
        June 25, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

        1) AMEN

        .. as it is Saturday & I’m excruciatingly honest on Saturdays & hv been cooking with wine, etc.. ( Shabbat for many welcome break from work )… what a cop out.. Dot Cotton?… but yes 3 in 1.. never, ever,simple…although some might try to make out that it is.

        ..and as I watch the drops of rain, form their weary paths and die..( Paul Simon again..sorry..u prob’ly don’t know who he is..

        I see 3 young girls, about 14, from my window & as I type, young ladies, you look at them and you don’t know them nor they you, don’t know they’re being watched, more important being prayed for. They sit there on the vast expanse of green outside my window, one a little apart from her 2 friends, is she apart, are they apart.. God knows it is His business, not mine.. & you ask God to just bless them and if they don’t already know Him that one special day they really, really, will… and do His work as some of us leave…and one knows He will bless them..,prayers of a stranger. Like another Saturday, the little boy in a bright rainbow jumper on a bus about 2 yrs ago with his mum visiting a brother in prison ( a bus that visits a market town in beautiful scenery ( we were going shopping) and I watched his innocence and his love for his mum and prayed he would never, ever be a prisoner. Strangers praying for that a gift of God ? I feel so..and thank the Lord Jesus for all those strangers who once and still, hopefully do, pray for me as they see me go about my business, or sit on the grass and laugh and share.
        ‘ I know whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor taken from it; God has made it so, in order that men and women should fear before him’ Ecc 3; 14

  2. Tony Butler
    June 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm #

    Actually the Law of the Land, states the The Church of England will not be subject to the Government, and be free to uphold the faith.

    Trevor Phillips cannot impose a solitary thing upon the Church of England, send him a box of tissues.

    Source: Magna Carta Bill of Rights.

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