A Mixed Up Minister?
What insights does the book of Jonah have for ministers today?
Led by The Revd Tom Stuckey, a former President of the Methodist Church.
The Religious Hatred Bill failed in Parliament, so why now review this book? After reading it, I realized that the implications of the Bill are only a small part of the erosion of Christian freedoms: ‘Churches and Christian organizations are increasingly falling foul of secularist “politically correct” agendas that aim to attack and undermine religious liberty and freedom of conscience’. Edited by Rob Frost, there are ten contributions by people involved in public life – in education, law, politics and the church – and analytical reflections on legal history, mission and philosophy. Three strong impressions remain.
First, simply and briefly, beware of politically correct ‘tolerance’ – it may easily become compromise. It was referred to as the ‘tyranny of tolerance’ and the point emerges very strongly in several places.
Second, some contributors were so concerned about the problems they were prepared make surprisingly robust assertions. A barrister wrote of an elderly preacher attacked by 30 or 40 young people. The victim was arrested on the premise that he had ‘incited’ the attack because his banner read ‘Stop immorality, stop homosexuality, stop lesbianism. Turn to Jesus’. The court ruled the banner was neither threatening nor abusive, but insulting, resulting in his conviction, £300 fine and £395 costs. His attackers remain free to assault anyone expressing similar Christian ethics. By contrast, Peter Tatchell read a homoerotic poem through a bullhorn, and despite complaints the police defended his right to freedom of speech. The Barrister’s unexpectedly strong comment was that the police ‘understand that certain “hate-speech” (that is, if it is anti-Jewish or anti-Christian in tone) is approved and other “hate-speech” is impermissible’.
Third, Christians can complacently believe we enjoy a privileged position, so all will be well. One worker with Youth for Christ rather resignedly remarked ‘We seem to have sussed the God of all comfort, love and joy, but what about the God who judges humanity, the God to be feared, the Jesus who turned over tables – have we lost sight of that aspect of his character? There is so much anti-Christian talk, but we sit back and do nothing about it. The flow of hostile words and actions towards us continues … yet few Christians seem to argue with any conviction'.
Ram Gidoomal, who stood for London Mayor on a Christian Party platform, discovered that ‘While the Christian establishment hesitated to lend its support, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs backed my campaign with more than words. They were absolutely delighted to see a political party openly speaking up for pro-life issues, family life and so on’. A contributor concerned for the persecuted church ended by warning ‘As we continue to support and pray for persecuted Christians around the world, let us also be vigilant in our own nation and community. History has shown that the progression from disinformation through discrimination to violence can be surprisingly rapid’.
I finished the book on the 11th, when Headline readers are asked to pray for our MPs. Perhaps we should consider buying ours a copy!
Reviewed by Ken F Bowden, a Methodist Local Preacher and retired librarian.
Freedom fighters are usually regarded as rebels who by force of arms seek to amend or overthrow governments and policies that annoy them. There is, however, another way of being freedom fighters and Rob Frost has edited a timely, if disconcerting collection of ten different perspectives on various aspects of the current threats and challenges.
Charles Foster, a legal historian, contributes the longest (at 25 pages) and arguably the most important chapter. He argues that anti-discriminatory legislation is basically good, while tolerance is usually morally right and politically necessary. But when does ‘political correctness’ become ‘intolerable’?
Ram Gidoomal contributes a gripping and highly instructive piece, whilst the testimony of Pastor Hezekiel Shoorosh of Lahore is a pertinent modern example of the power of God’s love in a generally anti-Christian age.
This book is timely as there are continuing examples of the issues it raises. It leaves readers in no doubt that, amid the clamour for ‘equality’ and ‘tolerance’, anything that smacks of ‘intolerance’ risks being condemned out of hand. It may be a candidate European Commissioner being rejected because he aligned himself with traditional church teaching on homosexuality, or a retired west Lancashire couple visited by the (thought?) police and harassed simply because they voiced their personal objection to a local authority’s apparent promotion of homosexuality. To say nothing of Sir Iqbal Sacranie’s being investigated for simply asserting the traditional Islamic view that homosexuality is harmful.
Rob Frost is a good choice for editor of this compilation. He is on record as fearing that Christian freedom in the United Kingdom is eroding so rapidly that, unless British Christians get their united act together, we will be facing persecution before long; that the emphasis on ‘rights’ and ‘equality’ is posing a more insidious threat than ever before.
Read the book, be challenged, be amazed. And pray that the current anti-Christian trends may at least be curtailed if not drastically altered. Miracles still happen!
Readers concerned about these issues may be interested to read the latest Cambridge Paper, Victim Chic - The rhetoric of victimhood, a free download from www.jubilee-centre.org/cambridge_papers