Has the Church become a doormat to the temple of secularism?

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.”



Categories: Atheism, Faith in society, Human rights

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

10 replies

  1. Very good article. Interesting that a couple of weeks have passed and The Dawkins Foundation have not fully responded to my email questioning their interpretation of the Mori poll they commissioned. It feels like they only want a one way conversation which is worrying. Still BBC article is a good read that needs flagging up. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17174860 worth cutting and pasting into your internet explorer bar.

  2. What happened to being as cunning as hawks?

    I get the impression that a lot of campaigning is not fully thought through. Take Dorries bill for example. It requires abstinence education for girls only. Boys need to be told that abstinence is perfectly acceptable too. By missing this out, i’m sure the viewpoint has lost support, even from people who have no problem with telling teenagers that sex is not compulsory.

    Christmas being renamed as Winterval is a myth. Winterval was made up by Birmingham council as a festival of shopping during December.

    Seperation of church and state is a double edged sword. It could lead to the USA model as easily as the French model. There is no guarantee that it will weaken Christianity.

    Should we go on the offensive? Yes. We should be arguing for feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, clothing the naked, healing the sick, and looking after the poor and needy. So if you want an anti-Christian target to aim at, why not Westminster council. The move to ban soup kitchens (again) deliberately contradicts Jesus’ injunction to feed the hungry. Let’s get that changed.

    • Excellent point. Christians should be doing not just complaining. Jesus never said it was going to be easy, neither did he say we must force our faith, and its premises, on others.

      Christians should stop moaning about how secularism is marginalising it in the real world. Maybe the truth is that Christians have been seen to be as bad as the secularists in their past offenses against others, promoted by law.

      This is an excellent time to look at society and interact on a local level through helping those in need, making sure the places of Christian worship and teaching is not all about how good we are or better we are than other people. It is about showing another way. Christians believe it is the ONLY way, to live. Now that is what Jesus said, but did you notice he did not try to force the rulers to adapt to his way? Did he start bemoaning the legal system? No, he preached, taught and led by example.

      Christians might be feeling they are losing the power of political and legal influence over other peoples lives. Don’t be afraid. Look towards the unification of Christian ethics amongst Christians. Don’t get so worked up and concerned about the shoe now being on the other foot – Christians are no longer the leading enforcers of political and legal propositions. Don’t fight to get back in the rulers chair – fight to get back to what Jesus did.

      Yes Christians are called to spread the word, but not by forcing it in schools, places of work, public provision, in education nor through the legal system. Jesus gave people the option to listen, to learn, to believe, to repent and to change. He did not go running to the government saying, “It is so unfair”. No he did not and he would not do so now.

      Christians don’t need to have their faith given as an exception to the rules of society – however unfair or unjust that society is. The basics is simple, act through your faith through the law [however good or bad that law maybe], act out your faith in your homes, act out your faith through loving and not forcing your faith on others by aiming for legal application, act out your faith in a society where we are not all Christians, where we are not all religious, act out your faith in a society who has seen too much evil and seen to little godliness in the world. People don’t need Christians to say oh dear we are no longer the number one influence in society and are seen as trying to become number one influences, by law or legal means, again. People need to see Christian people living out their faith, without legal use of enforcement against others, not just talking out their faith.

      The law might be seen as unfair or unjust – there will always be those who see part of the law being unfair or unjust to them. That is life. We can look to ways to improve equality and equity of choice of faith or none. But not through saying we are being persecuted. We are not, in the UK we are not, we are not being allowed to have our faith to be the axiom of life in legal matters, and that might be a good thing. A wake up call for local and physical acting out of our faith to show what being a Christian is all about – it is not about legal traditions being set in stone – it is about reaching out and living as a community of believers as did the early Christians. Of course they would have loved the laws to be on their side – as Constantine declared it to become and then others demolished its privilege. We have, in the UK, had a Christian influence, we have taken that for granted as our right and that our morals and ethics and traditions of our faith should be law to be enforced upon others. Not a good thing in my opinion.

      Christianity has a chance here to look deeper at its roots. Yes we can fight injustice and say a legal act is unfair if it imposes a private obligation upon society, rather than a public obligation, public being all people have access to a service or commodity. We offer public services as business people to others. It is wrong to say this service is not for the other who does not abide by Christian faith or rules of conduct. It is no better than the “No Jews or Blacks” signs that were once familiar in the states. These signs were not of course based on religious premises of thought, though they were in some cases, but they were based on the right of preference of who could enter an establishment. Let us not get caught up in the who can or who can not legally do this that or other or go here or there. It could lead to the obnoxious situation where signs of “No Jews, Blacks, Same-Sex Couples, or Christians Welcome” become the norm. Let us instead look at our own community of Christians and open our doors and in doing so show the reason for our Christian life.

    • Christians have never been particularly good at promoting themselves when it comes to the good work they do for society. Maybe this is to do with the who issue of humbleness and not being proud that the Bible talks about. However it does talk a lot about preaching the gospel and taking God’s good news to the world. I think we have got these confused. If the world can’t see the way Christianity is a positive influence, then what hope is there? Your point about Westminster council and soup kitchens is absolutely spot on. Thre are some battles to be fought. When it involves true injustice then we should be going on the offensive.

  3. Thankyou all for your comments. I agree Miss N that the Nadine Dorres bill was flawed in that it excuses boys of any responsibility in the area of abstinence and like you i am not sure that seperation of Church and state would make much difference. You both (efgd also ) make the very valid point that our witness should be primarily around care and compassion for others, that is leading by example and i think the ones like me who are concerned about the marginalisation of our faith ( i agree persecution is an inappropriate term ) also try with Gods help to live that way. The work of Christian concern also highlights areas where secularisation does harm to individuals in our society but the individual court cases of course gain far more publicity because the media will feed off any conflict. As i said in my piece not all christians will agree with the wisdom of highlighting some of the cases but i am convinced that they have brought the wider problem to the attention of the political establishment which is now being considered through the ”clearing the ground” report. I don’t get the sense that Christian concern desire any kind of power or influence for themselves or Christians in general. Its not about forcing our values on others or making our faith values preeminent because i agree that Jesus wants us all to exercise our free will. But we must maintain the space to teach and preach and serve that has in recent times existed. If we had just shrugged our shoulders and accepted changes in society without reference to our faith conscience would persecution rather than marginalisation result in the future.? I am at present organising a charity outreach stall, would i be able to do this in ten years time if i am required to practice my faith only behind the church door ? The work we are required to do for the Lord i beleive cannot be seperated from the freedom to express ourselves and reach out. If we lose expression we cannot be as effective in practice besides Should we not feel as much compassion for the Christian who unjustly loses his job and the effect it has on his family as the millions of others across the country. He may be Christian but he is human too. I dont think we are required to be masochists even though jesus warned that we might suffer, nor do i think we should wallow in victimhood. But the freedom and space to speak the Gospel must be protected and the principle of ”reasonable accommodation” would be a great way of putting conflicting rights on a more equal footing though i agree that we can never demand absolute rights when providing services in a pluralist society.

    • “But we must maintain the space to teach and preach and serve that has in recent times existed. If we had just shrugged our shoulders and accepted changes in society without reference to our faith conscience would persecution rather than marginalisation result in the future.?”

      #The space to preach can come under the free speech premise in law.

      #The place to teach is defined by where and by whom. The organisation in charge of the teaching curriculum, state, faith, private, has the final say – as it should.

      #The notion that faith has to be practised behind a place of worship door or at home is in relation to enforcing people to accept you because of your faith and accommodating you in any way they can. Like disabled access, I think it is a fair request that all belief systems be accommodated. But how reasonable is it to expect all businesses to have to ensure a faith based person, as faith is based on choice disability is not, is accommodated to the liking of the believer?

      “The work we are required to do for the Lord i beleive cannot be seperated from the freedom to express ourselves and reach out. If we lose expression we cannot be as effective in practice”.

      #We have the freedom to express ourselves, but not the freedom to enforce our expression and our religious tradition on others. We can express ourselves at work – we can also be told that they do not want to know and would we please be quite or go talk to another worker. Of course common sense and respect from both sides is paramount – the fear of the politically correct agenda repercussions is what motivates people now. Plus pettiness of the other.

      #We can reach out but we do not have the right to enforce our ethics or morals and views. And we have to accept that there are places where it is more applicable to be more modest with our rhetoric and actions.

      #We have the right to express our concerns about our ethics and morals as Christians. But we do not have the right to discriminate against others because we disagree with the new laws giving such others civic and civil rights.

      #Of course in an ideal world all people with such Christian sensibilities should be allowed to not take on a case load that would mean they would have to deal with the other people – the Civil Partnership situation for instance whereby a Christian registrar does not want to register such a partnership because it goes against her faith.

      #In and ideal world people in business with such Christian sensibilities should have right to discern as to who enters their premise and who has access to their product. The right to refuse entry and service.

      #In an ideal world all faith and non-faiths should be able to discriminate according to their faith regarding who they employ, who they do business with and who they offer their service to. The state should just let us all get on with living our lives as we see fit according to our faith or non-faith.

      #In an ideal world people of all faith should be able to hold public meetings and rallies and say what their Scriptures say regardless as to whom it offends. And all people of faith should therefore be responsible for the outcome their rhetoric causes.

      “But the freedom and space to speak the Gospel must be protected and the principle of ”reasonable accommodation” would be a great way of putting conflicting rights on a more equal footing though i agree that we can never demand absolute rights when providing services in a pluralist society”.

      #The term “reasonable” is laden on the user of the term. What is reasonable to me might be unreasonable to you. That does not mean we do not try to make an agreement. Christians Concerned takes on the legal cases that to be fair are part of the wider understanding of civic and civil rights. These change in so much as a law should be as applicable to all rather than to a few. The few of course will be miffed at such a situation if it differs from their faith base premise as to who can do what.

      #The point about feeling sorry for those Christians in civic and civil employment, and those providing a product for the public and or employed by a secular organisation in the case of counselling, health. education, social care, registrars for instance, who have lost their jobs or been suspended or who have been sued for discrimination against another because the behaviour of the other offends their faith is a fair point.

      #We should feel sad for those whose belief has been usurped because of either the civic and civil right of others has been asserted or receded by law. The choice should not be so stark as to be sacked or disqualified. Surely an alternative accommodation could be reached as in the Christian being diverted to a different aspect of that job or released from dealing with others that they see as morally and ethically wrong and can’t abide the notion of these others assessing the same civic and or civil rights as those who are agreed with by the Christian employee in conjunction with their faith.

      #The acceptance that a business has the right to refuse entry regardless would save the term reasonable to be maligned. That of course would mean changing the law as it stands now. Which brings me back to the “No Jews, Blacks, Gays, Christians, Muslims”, signs. As there will always be others who want reasonable accommodation to act out their faith and or belief – political, secular or religious. I think there should be such accommodation.

      #OR you make it applicable that everyone has to abide by the law except on grounds of faith. As in the exemption for turban-wearing Sikhs from any requirements to wear safety or crash helmets.

  4. efgd-  I agree with a great deal of what you are saying particularly about showing respect and being sensitive to the feelings of others. I think it is impossible to enforce ethics or morals on anybody but i observe that sometimes just talking about Jesus or Christian ethics people feel that they are having it ”shoved down their throat” which they maybe don’t feel if its another type of viewpoint. . I agree It is the ”taking issue ” which narrows the space. Discussing an issue is not the same as forcing an issue Whilst the law must be upheld we do have the right to contribute in the political arena to say maintain and shape religious education in schools ( a local school recently suspended ”open the book” after pressure from a secularist who termed it indoctrination)  We also have the right to contribute to discussion on discrimination and equality law and how it effects us and others and laws do sometimes accommodate the few and can be changed for the good through democratic debate. We are not obliged to be passive or accepting. The term ”reasonable” as you rightly say can be open to individual interpretation. It would no doubt be played out in law but might say things like ”service users must receive services”  ”have all flexible working practices been explored”  ”is any accommodation financially neutral for the organisation”  ”is offence caused the same as being offensive” ” has the level of tolerance shown been high or low” ” should individuals be able to apply moral standards in their own home” it does require as you say that accommodation will not always be to the liking of the beleiver. The difficult area may be in the definition of what a religion is and that conscientious objection is not an exclusively Christian thing. A secularist B&B owner might bar a christian because he objects to prayer on his premises. I understand that this is your ”signs up” anxiety and that you probably prefer us to leave people to choose their own moral compass even when we are implicit in it. I think that is quite a hard thing to ask of a Christian conscience. We are between a rock and a hard place for sure but i think i prefer the accommodation both ways because it is at least plural. I no more want to live in a  theocracy than an atheocracy. I would rather there be love tolerance and grace but Should we tolerate everything and anything.

    • “…you probably prefer us to leave people to choose their own moral compass even when we are implicit in it. I think that is quite a hard thing to ask of a Christian conscience. We are between a rock and a hard place for sure but i think i prefer the accommodation both ways because it is at least plural. I no more want to live in a theocracy than an atheocracy. I would rather there be love tolerance and grace but Should we tolerate everything and anything”.

      Yes I would prefer people to have a choice as to how they live their life and who with. A moral compass that is defined through our choices of action is where I see Christians having to make a sacrifice for their faith, to be of this world but not in it.

      It would be nice to have our moral sensibilities catered for. But governments have to benefit all in society, and according to the Bible the government has been accommodated to exist by God. I personally would like to see a deregulation of political correctness rules as these are the more obtuse regulations within anti discrimination law. That does not means that there should be no discussion within an organisation or institution. But, and here is the rub, if the organisation or institution is not founded on Christian morals as its reason for being then it is unlikely to wish to change its employee contract – though they might accommodate such an employee in a different capacity or allow for a stand in to do their job in a particular instance. Can you see the difficulty this could create for a business?

      At the end of the day, and since the Bible tells us that there will be persecution of Christians, which we are not in the UK, it seems like we have to make sacrifices for our faith when a legal human rights act for others counters our moral compass.

      I look forward to reading the “Clearing The Ground Report” in full. One point in the report I must comment on is that illiteracy about the Christian faith, and the challenge therefore to make people more literate about it, will make people more sympathetic or desire more to accommodate it, can have the unwanted opposite undesired effect of people saying “So What?”. It would be nice to think more people will see Christian ethics and morals as an important issues for those of the Christian faith, but it would also be good for those of the Christian faith to see where they really stand as far as having to be implicit in relation to such changes in society that challenge their morals if not their ethics.

      On a personal note, I think all should be able to live as they chose, employ who they chose and cater for who they chose because there is a wide enough spectrum for all to be catered for without the need of a legal angle to insist that “All caters for all”. That’s idyllically Utopian an a bit obtuse.

      Thank you for taking the time to discus these very important issues with me.

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