Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not ashamed to be not not ashamed

This week I have received a number of emails from various no doubt well-intentioned brothers and sisters who are urging me to take part in a public Christian prayer/demonstration this evening. It was quite difficult to work out who is behind this, but it appears to be a project of the organisation Christian Concern, and a continuation of a similar event on the same day last year.

No doubt many readers will be thinking this seems a good idea all round. So it is a bit sad to report that I am not supporting this, but at least I can explain why.

My problem is that I find the campaign, and the whole agenda of Christian Concern, to be based on dubious assumptions. It's not just the air of antagonism - my blogging friend Father David Cloake has already commented on the rather sinister hijacking of World Aids Day. Why pick this day of all the 365 days of the year? At best, it is poor taste, at worst, a nasty attempt to discredit World Aids Day as somehow anti-Christian. Nor is it the slightly odd way they go about things - although cynics might say that the campaigners' plan to evangelise the Occupy London Protest at St Paul's, and give every protester a booklet by George Carey will save the City a mint in legal costs by emptying the camp more effectively than any eviction proceedings. No, I have two more fundamental objections:

The first is the way in which this sort of thing tries to propagate the idea that Christians are a persecuted minority in this country. Others have written more eloquently on this in the past, but I want to agree with them. Occasionally falling foul of petty-minded officials who think that a crucifix breaches equality rules does not constitute persecution. It actually makes me angry when people claim this, because it trivialises the genuine suffering of our fellow Christians in countries where they face genuine persecution. Read Wilson's blog about Pakistani Christians and then tell me whether you are persecuted. We don't know the meaning of the word unless we put ourselves into the global Christian context.

And secondly, let us imagine just for a moment that the campaigners were right, and UK Christians were really faced with persecution. How would we respond? I'm not sure, but I don't think it would be by standing around saying "look, everybody, we're being persecuted". Consider last Sunday's Gospel reading: "you will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before Governors and Kings ... all will hate you because of me" (Mark 13). This is what Jesus predicted, according to Mark. It's odd to see an evangelical Christian group like Christian Concern complaining because they think a biblical prophecy is coming true.

The message of Mark 13 is that persecution is the normal state of Christianity, and that the proper response is not to whinge about it but to stand firm, and to witness (martyr in Greek) to your persecutors that Jesus is Lord. The early church didn't seek special protection, but just got on with living a Christian life. They were persecuted in huge numbers, but at the same time Christianity spread like wildfire.

It's great to say that you are not ashamed of your faith. It's courageous to wear a cross in public and to share your faith without fear of the consequences. But please don't do it to score some sort of political point. Do it because you are a disciple of Christ, and let that be enough.

6 comments:

Perpetua said...

Well said, Charlie. Whingeing is always unattractive, but whingeing by Christians who should at least try to be hopeful and joyful is totally off-putting and a very poor witness to the Jesus Christ I believe in and try to follow.

Stuart said...

I agree.

Do you remember last year, this came complete with its own song?

It was funny.

frdougal said...

Excellently put! Being comparitively ignored and marginalised is not the same as persecution. It may lower our self importence but that's probably no bad thing!

David Cloake said...

Amen and Amen

Suem said...

I really would be ashamed to go bleating on like they do. I think all Christian concern really want is to bully other people and insist on being allowed to propagate some pretty nasty views without a voice being raised against them. Tough!
(Yeah, I'm biased:))

Red said...

The thing that I really find difficult with this campaign, is that we shouldn't have to sign up to something or wear a badge to say 'I am not ashamed' of being a Christian, we should 'be Christ' to all around us every day, not just Dec 1st....