If you missed this programme on the BBC last night I really recommend that you make time to watch it (you can do so on iPlayer). The programme questions whether or not Christians in Britain are being sidelined in favour of secularism and liberalism. Issues such as town councils renaming Christmas celebrations as Winter Festivals and people being disciplined or fired at work because they shared their faith in one way or another are considered, and people from many faith backgrounds give their opinions. The point is also made that some of the human rights, which we may consider to be essential in a liberal democracy such as Britain, infringe upon one another and decisions are being made about which rights have precedent over others – the argument being that the rights of the Christian are often the ones to fall by the wayside. This is an interesting, important and complicated discussion which I don’t think can be covered in an hour’s programme (or a short blog post for that matter), however it does provoke thought and discussion.
I think that a lot of Christian belief, about how prominent the religion should be in the life of society, stems from the role it has historically played. When Christendom arose in the 4th century, with Constantine’s legalisation of Christianity, church and state would be united in government and culture for the next 1500 years. In the majority of European countries, to be a citizen was to be a Christian and to be a member of the clergy (at any level) gave you a position of great authority. We see this still today in the way that 26 Church of England Bishops still have seats in the House of Lords. For about 1500 years, “Christians” had a privileged place in society which many have been unwilling to give up. The preference that is now given to liberal ideas and morals, the diminishing role of the church in community life, the lack of influence that Christian authorities have upon secular ones, can all be over-exaggerated by some as persecution.
I think Christians need to stop longing for those days of ease and accept that we now live in a very different world. A world where we do not have the upper hand but are the minority. We shouldn’t expect people to listen to us any more. We should expect to be put down and persecuted. I’m in favour of separation of church and state because it releases Christian’s to be who God calls them to be without worrying about being politically correct or morally right in the eyes of society. It allows society to do what it needs to do and for Christians to stand apart, shining as Christ’s light, like they’re meant to.
Matthew 5:10 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven
John 15:18-20 – If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.
2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
I understand what the programme says about different religions being tolerated in different ways and believe that if society is going to be intolerant it has to be fair about it’s intolerance. Christian’s, however, can no longer expect special treatment. Secular society has to do what secular society has to do; Christians have to do what Christians have to do. Let them make their laws of equality and we’ll continue to follow God’s. Let them tell us what they think we ought to do and we’ll continue to do what God says. Let them persecute us. They persecuted Him first.