Nigel Biggar, Colonialism and moving to Wales

Thursday mornings are one of the high points of my week. Together with my partner Jim, I cycle down alongside the Taff to Cardiff University to our Welsh class. One of the things I love about it is its diversity. Twenty year olds to pensioners. A Muslim man, and the Dean of Landaff.

Welsh identity is fascinating. I have no Welsh genes, if such a thing exists. But I have been connected with Wales for over 20 years. One Welsh friend said “You’ve been Welsh for a long time.” It’s interesting, isn’t it, that Welshness is not based on genes? Which, in any case are a more messed up picture than we might like to imagine.

My former colleague and fellow Canon at Christ Church, Oxford, Nigel Biggar, has recently published a book, Colonialism. He had trouble getting a publisher. It is a good book. I don’t agree with everything he says and I don’t think he takes the actual experience of racism seriously. In my first sermon at Christ Church I preached about my time as Head of an almost all black school in Lewisham. He was puzzled by that. Racism is real.

However, Nigel has important points to make. I believe it is not a binary situation. This is the fundamental Christian position. The British Empire did terrible things. The British Empire did wonderful, liberating things. Both are true. I believe, as Nigel does, that liberal culture emerges from that Christian but imperialist world.

I don’t agree with Nigel’s phrase “Western Values”, I would prefer “Christian values”. My first degree is in world Religions. I love my fellow human beings who follow other religions, but I believe that Christianity is the truth, God is real; Jesus saves us. I would not expect them to think other of me.

Nigel says important things. He should be listened to even when I think he is wrong.