This post is by Graham Goldsmith, a regular contributor to this site:
‘Awake O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’ (Ephesians 5;14)
In 2007 I read the now very well known book. ‘The God Delusion’ by Professor Richard Dawkins.
Barely a page was turned without feeling a mixture of irritation and recognition. I had been an Atheist most of my life but this book reflected like a mirror and I did not particularly enjoy the image; bleak, cynical, nihilistic and shrill.
Shortly after the last page I started attending church and it was not long before I committed my life to Jesus. A little over four years later God sent me to Coventry Cathedral to attend the Awake Arise conference, ‘Equipping the Church to engage in society’, one of a series organised around the country by Christian Concern.
Having had a lifelong interest in politics and because I am a late-starting Christian, I am acutely aware of the negative forces of secularism, which I now view anew through the lens of my born again life in Jesus. Avoiding the Human distress and spiritual death secularism can cause now seems imperative.
Christian Concern is an organisation speaking out courageously for the values of Gods kingdom in a world of manmade popular morality. The conference was centred around four speakers. C.E.O. Andrea Williams gave a ‘State of the nation’ speech, Bishop Michael Nazir Ali addressed how we can engage with society and the principles we can use to effect change and Alan Craig of the Christian People’s Alliance facilitated creative ways we can deliver the Christian message. The day ended with a dramatic and powerful testimony given by the ex Gangster now evangelist Rob Joy. The subtext of his testimony was that if God has the power to change me he can certainly change society.
Andrea in a passionate and emotional speech called for a spiritual and moral revival. The church needs to ‘Awake Arise’ from its slumber and deliver an awareness of the political changes taking place in our society which are changing the landscape from the traditional church values of God’s kingdom to secular materialism which requires the marginalisation of Christianity to further its aims.
A state enforced morality is being propagated under a programme of political correctness which ironically uses buzzwords such as Equality and Diversity whilst also creating a hierarchy of rights which relegates Christian identity in relation to others such as sexual or workplace rights. The Christian Legal Centre has advised and represented countless Christians in the workplace who have been censored by their employers and others in public places having been cautioned, arrested or charged, often for quite moderate expressions of faith but also on matters of conscientious objection. Christians have been sacked, suspended, disciplined, forced to resign or have had to defend their faith in court.
By these methods Christian expression is being inhibited with some including the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (E.H.R.C) suggesting that it should be relegated to the private sphere or limited to church buildings. This of course conflicts with Jesus’ great commission to spread the Gospel. The Bible is ceasing to be the bedrock of English common law with recent summing ups reflecting humanist rather than biblical principles. High court judges have in recent times described rights on religious grounds as irrational, subjective, divisive, capricious, arbitrary and capable of infecting or harming children. Further attacks are being made on Christian concepts around marital union, beginning and end of life issues, freedom of speech as well as other social and ethical issues. Christians have for years been put on the defensive responding to the agenda rather than setting it, but the time has come to oppose secularising legislation through the political process.
Permissive legislation through successive acts of parliament in regard to abortion, fertility and embryology, euthanasia, marriage, sex education and equality, and. a whole raft of equality and diversity legislation have all put up safeguards which have either been broken or led to unforeseen social problems elsewhere.
There are other manifestations of trying to cut Christianity out of public life. These have included trying to stop or limit Religious Education, stopping nativity plays and scenes in schools and in public places, renaming Christmas as ‘Winter Festival’, stopping state funding of hospital chaplains. calls to stop Christian parliamentary representation including the separation of Church from state to name but a few
The outworking of liberal, secular humanism has led to censorship, and oppression and this process continues insidiously.
Christian Concern want to mobilise a strong network of Christians who are prepared to put pressure on the Government not least because the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society are far more politically engaged.
The Awake Arise conferences are part of the campaign of awareness, along with the Not Ashamed campaign and the formation of the Wilberforce academy which is aiming to raise a new generation of Christian leaders
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali calls for us to rally around the concept of ”Reasonable accommodation” to allow for conscientious objection as currently exists with regard to the 1967 Abortion act, but which also ensures that all people receive the civic services to which they are entitled. This would ensure a more equitable distribution of rights and it is on this basis that the Christian Legal Centre will be arguing on behalf of those Christians whose cases are soon to be heard in the European court. Unsurprisingly the E.H.R.C., because they claim it would open the door to Sharia law oppose it. This is an enormous red herring simply because Sharia law cannot be accommodated in any reasonable way.
I believe that Christian Concern is the most effective organisation standing for Christian values and freedom of religious expression in the U.K. today. Some Christians may not agree with all their campaigns but at least they provide a rallying point, a clear coherent Christian voice and a platform for political activity in what is at the end of the day a spiritual battle.
Although the National Secular Society has a membership of around 7,000 people, (less than the Sausage Appreciation Society I am told) its campaigning is having significant impact as seen in the recent Bideford Council prayers High Court case. Why is such a tiny tail wagging an enormous dog? In a recent email exchange with the British Humanist Association I was amazed to learn of the vast number of allied political organisations opposed to the recent Nadine Dorres Sex education bill. Truth is they network very well and form strong alliances whilst Christians often appear fragmented, and too nice to be involved in that coarse vulgar corrupt ”of the world” thing called politics.
In my own small way this week I will personally write to the E.H.R.C., My local MP, The East.Anglian.Daily.Times and Tesco with a Christian viewpoint, in an effort to raise awareness, and to help maintain freedom and the expression of God’s kingdom. Judging by the question time panel last Thursday night, the politicians are well behind the curve on the issue of religious liberty. It is not deemed important right now. Some though are beginning to take it seriously (thank you Baroness Warsi), but is the Church?
I leave you with two quotes I heard recently:
“Hell is nothing but the truth learned too late” and “He who wants to win the world for Christ must first come into conflict with it.”