Senior church leaders have been known to make the claim that Britain's constitution has been shaped by Christian faith. But it is the statue of the goddess Justitia, not Jesus, who sits above the Old Bailey and in the ante-chamber to the House of Lords.
Based on a Greco-Roman idea, she depicts a model of justice whose primary concern is to weigh alleged law breakers in the balance, and then deliver the appropriate punishment.
The "Atonement", which Christians around the world are reflecting on this Easter, has tended to emphasise a different approach. It is primarily about making things right. There is a large place for relationship, reparations, forgiveness and grace – things that are ill suited to the cold, removed and impartial statue.
For early Christians the cross represented the oppression and injustice of the state. An innocent man, who had threatened the rule of law and the empire's authority and control, had been killed on one. And the resurrection demonstrated the belief that such evil would not in the end triumph.
Down the centuries, the theology that Christians have used to explain the bad events of "Good" Friday has changed. From the fourth century in western Europe, for example, it had to take account of its alignment with the same empire that did the crucifying. The shape of Christian ideas has always had a great deal to do with what has been going on around the churches socially and politically. It has also profoundly influenced how churches behave with regard to others.
An early atonement idea was ransom theory. It was suggested that in order to free people from the grip of satan, Jesus had to offer himself in exchange. The idea of "redeeming", or literally "buying back" fitted well with the ransoming of war captives from slavery which was a common practice at the time. Some early Christians were themselves slaves and could no doubt relate to the liberating concept.
There was also satisfaction theory, grounded in the emphasis on personal honour found during the Middle Ages under feudalism. This too carried with it the idea of making restitution and mending what had been broken. But it was also connected with the legal concept of balancing out an injustice based on the idea that God's honour had to be restored.
All theories have their overlaps, limitations and variations. But the model which dominates in much of evangelical Protestantism today is a relatively late arrival. Penal substitution emerged around the time of the Reformation. It suggests that justice demands God does some punishing. And it is Jesus who takes the rap.
In that respect it has a lot in common with Greco-Roman ideas of justice. And it is immediately evident how this might shape the socio-political views of some evangelicals today.
The final judgment is often seen as the time when the unrighteous get their "just" deserts. It is perhaps unsurprising that those who hold to penal substitution have also tended to have an "otherwordly" mentality. The earth, some believe, will be destroyed in an all-consuming fire, whilst the godly will be raptured to heaven. Clearly this has an impact on one's view of ecological justice. Care for the planet is unlikely to figure high in your priorities when you think "it's all gonna burn".
This contrasts starkly with different Christian conceptions of justice which see judgment primarily as making things right, and biblical imagery of swords being "beaten into ploughshares", lions lying down with lambs, and a universe brought back into harmony with its creator.
But perhaps the most significant feature is how understanding of the cross affects views of the past. A church in New Zealand this Easter has put up a billboard featuring a cartoon Jesus on the cross, saying: "Well this sucks. I wonder if they will remember anything I've said." As this suggests, ideas of Jesus's atonement even change how Christians interpret the life, example and teachings of Jesus himself.
Forgiveness becomes conditional on whether people understand the punishment they "deserve". "Love of enemies", turns into "I'll love you when you accept you are wrong". Grace is not unmerited favour, but conditional pardon.
This Easter, evangelical bishops in the Church of England are publicly protesting that one or two Christians aren't being allowed to wear their crosses visibly at work. If this is the kind of Christianity that the cross represents, then you can understand why people might take exception to it.
The real tragedy is that even when crosses are on show, the most hopeful and challenging message they can carry often remain covered up.
(c) Jonathan Bartley is co-director of Ekklesia. With colleague Simon Barrow he co-edited Consuming Passion: Why the killing of Jesus really matters (Darton, Longman and Todd, 2005) - available from Ekklesia Books here - http://books.ekklesia.co.uk/content/consuming-passion-why-killing-jesus-... 
This article is adapted, with acknowledgments, from one appearing on Guardian Comment-is-Free over Easter weekend 2010.