In this new age of uncertainty, the Christian tradition must not be allowed to become the preserve of fundamentalists or the right.

It’s been a bleak year for Christians on all sorts of fronts. From Bethlehem to Damascus, the historic waymarks of the faith are scarred by an increasing intolerance that now threatens to deliver a final blow to Christian communities in the very region of Christianity’s birth. More than 90,000 Copts have reportedly fled Egypt since the revolution in March and, from Morocco to Baghdad, Christians go in fear.

In the west, there seems no end to revelations about the secret history of child abuse by Catholic clergy that has sapped the authority of the Vatican and scarred thousands of lives from Kansas to the Netherlands. And at the steps of St Paul’s in London, the Occupy protesters, pursuing an egalitarian justice Christ would have recognised, have exposed the distorted priorities of a hierarchical Anglican church. High time, it must seem to preachers penning their Christmas sermons, for the season’s promise of a new start. It may be on its way.

One of the defining movements of the past decade has been the search for a response to Islamic fundamentalism. It was one of the factors that pumped up evangelical Christianity to the point where it became a significant political influence in the US. It shaped the brief “Euston Manifesto” alliance between backers of the war in Iraq and some on the progressive left who saw the US, for all its weaknesses, as a bulwark against religious totalitarianism. But, quietly, there are signs that times are moving on.

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