Tim Dieppe, our Head of Public Policy, assesses what it means for Britain to have its first Hindu Prime Minister.
The appointment of Britain’s first Hindu Prime Minister is a historic moment in the history of Great Britain. Is this something to celebrate or lament?
A Christian country?
There can be no doubt that the concept of a Hindu Prime Minister of Great Britain would have shocked earlier generations of Christians in this country. Britain has historically strongly self-identified as Christian country, with laws and morality derived from the Bible. Debates in parliament historically and frequently referred to Christian values. No previous prime minister has openly said that they follow a religion other than Christianity.
As recently as 2016, then Prime Minister David Cameron said “we are a Christian country and proud of it.” In 2019, then Education Secretary Damian Hinds said “this is a Christian country… it still has, at the core of its institutions, traditions which are rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition.”
A sign of the times
Having a Hindu Prime Minister is a sign of the times. Britain, whilst still retaining some of the historic characteristics of being a Christian nation, is now very much multicultural. Most people do not believe Christianity is true or any better than other religions or worldviews. Cultural and religious relativism is widely accepted. This is to be lamented. Back in 2018 I wrote an article: What’s wrong with multiculturalism? Ultimately, multiculturalism is opposed to Christianity since it relativises all faith claims.
Hinduism is a false religion
The fact is that Hinduism is a false religion. It is opposed to worship of the true God. It promotes the discriminatory caste system which oppresses millions of people in India and Nepal. Some 200 million people in India are Dalit and therefore oppressed by this system. Rishi Sunak himself married a Brahmin – the highest and most privileged caste. His own caste is unknown.
Hindus worship animals, and even rats. Feeding and providing for rats in a country where famine and disease are a common feature of life is abhorrent to Christian thinking. The first Christian missionaries campaigned against the Hindu practice of Sati whereby widows were burnt alive on their husband’s funeral pyre. This cruel practice brutally killed sometimes several women from a polygamous marriage, and left the children orphaned. These campaigns eventually led to the practice being outlawed under British rule.
Sunak’s Hindu faith
Sunak is a practising Hindu. He has said: “My religious and cultural heritage is Indian. I proudly say that I am a Hindu and my identity is also Hindu.” He took his oath of allegiance as an MP on the Bhagavad Gita. Speaking to the BBC, Sunak said: “Faith is important to me, I’m a practising Hindu, I pray with my kids, visit the temple when I can – at the moment rather less so because I’m busy.” He also lit candles outside 11 Downing Street in 2020 to mark Diwali.
Sunak has also described the UK as a secular country, much to the delight of Humanists UK. He may therefore be the first Prime Minister not to recognise the UK as a Christian country. This is surely something to be lamented?
Can a nation change its gods?
The prophet Jeremiah addressed the nation of Israel and in chapter two he laments how Israel had turned away from following the Lord. He asks:
“Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.” (Jeremiah 2:11)
Having a Hindu Prime Minister who has described the UK as “a secular country” is surely a landmark moment marking how far this nation has gone in turning away from the true God.
We may lament the fact that Sunak is not a Christian, and that he fails to recognise the significant role that Christianity has played and continues to play in this nation, but we can and should still respect him as a leader. Sunak does appear to be a person of integrity – something that is admirable and required for good leadership. Boris Johnson described himself as a “very, very bad Christian.” He may be culturally Christian, but he has committed adultery and been shown to lack integrity. In terms of character alone, from what we know, Sunak is to be preferred over Johnson.
While Sunak may be the first Hindu Prime Minister, he is not the first Prime Minister who does not profess to have a personal faith in Christ. We can hope that since Sunak is a person of faith, he might be sympathetic to people of other faiths, and respect the importance of freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.
Pray for those in authority
We are instructed in the Bible to obey the governing authorities, whether they are Christian or not (Romans 13:1-7). We are also instructed to pray for our rulers (1 Timothy 2: 1-4). These instructions, in context, were written to Christians in times of persecution with rulers who were often actively opposing Christianity. We may be grateful that we do not live in such a time in this nation, though many others do across the world. We should certainly pray for Sunak that he would lead well with wisdom and integrity in the face of many pressures. We should also pray for stability in the leadership of the nation after a period of intense instability. We know from many stories in the Bible that God can and often does use rulers who do not acknowledge Him to achieve His purposes.
As Christians, while we lament the Prime Minister not being Christian, we also honour and respect him, and pray for him. In an ideal world we would love to see a professing Christian as Prime Minister. Someone who will unashamedly point to Jesus as the risen saviour and the Lord of all. Someone who will seek to persuade the nation to follow biblical morality in family life, in sexual morals, abortion, and many other areas. We do not have this now, but we can pray for God to raise up someone into this position, and other positions of leadership.
We can and should also pray for this nation to turn back to the living Lord. Great Britain was very explicitly and self-consciously a Christian nation. In recent decades we have turned our back on God and turned to other gods and sources of morality. We are starting to reap the consequences. For as long as we continue to turn our backs on God, we can expect ever increasing problems in society. God’s ways are best for the nation and its people.
So, we lament and pray. We pray for conviction for the church. We pray for boldness in evangelism. We pray for God’s standards to be held up as the model of righteousness. We pray for God to guide and lead Rishi Sunak and others in authority. And we pray for God to be glorified in all this. Please join us in praying for Rishi Sunak and the nation in these troubled times.