I have worked for a number of years with persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, especially in the Middle East and South Asia.Sometimes I am asked about those who feel they are ‘persecuted’ nearer home, in the UK.At one level the comparison is only superficial; Christian faith in the UK does not usually mean putting your life or liberty at risk.
I find, though, that persecution begins with exclusion and discrimination. What is being dismissed from your post for your Christian views on marriage if not persecution? Or being refused as an applicant for adopting or fostering children if not persecution? Or being suspended as a teacher because of your Christian beliefs? Or losing your job for praying with a patient, if not persecution? So many examples can be given.
The family has been under sustained attack in this country for the last 50years. The family is the basis of a stable society.Yet our country has just abandoned the biblical teaching of marriage in public law.These attacks will not stop there.
First, divorce is becoming ever easier with further proposals for no-fault divorce. Marriage is no longer a covenant or contract.There is no accountability for people who abandon a marriage for no good reason.Family patterns are being reinvented and we are being told that fathers are not necessary. Yet all the research shows that fathers are very important for the proper maturing of children.
Second, a person’s birth sex is being disconnected from their gender in society.Yet research at John Hopkins University demonstrates that there is no such thing as a man trapped in a woman’s body or a woman trapped in a man’s body.
Evidence-based studies have also shown the harm of intervention in the bodies of children experiencing identity issues. People, including children, who experience gender dysphoria certainly deserve compassion and help but the evidence is that this does not lie in surgical and other reassignment procedures. This agenda is building on sand. Rather, we should explore counselling and other expert assistance.
Thirdly, a culture of death surrounds us. Eight million aborted foetuses does not include the destruction of embryos: in developing artificial fertility treatments, a large number of these are being destroyed in the name of scientific progress and research.
Fourthly, whileParliament regularly rejects bills advocating euthanasia, they keep being brought back. And this is when, through the hospice movement, pain can now be effectively managed. False prophets argue for a quick death. The TV programme that followed a man to Dignitas in Switzerland noted that his wife was most upset about his action. Personhood does not arise out of an appeal to individual and autonomous rights but out of a relationship.
What is being attacked at root is the freedom to manifest what we believe in the public space.We are not free to speak on these issues.Peter Hitchens in [i] Rage against God noted no tradition of free speech in any secular polity.Freedom of speech has arisen from the example of Jesus and, therefore, from Christian faith.
What should we do?We should strengthen our churches and enable believers to be faithful.But the Bible also calls us to witness for the good of society.We cannot abandon this call and withdraw into a holy huddle.We must maintain our public witness in the media and the corridors of power.
We will be mocked, ridiculed, insulted and even expelled from the public square. But that is where we need to be. The Church needs to speak to society as to its own people.We cannot retreat.