Why shouldn’t Christians be able to express a view on human sexuality they believe to be traditional and Biblical?
Why shouldn’t they be able to say they think the best environment for bringing up children is usually with a mum and a dad?
And why shouldn’t they be able to decline a request to bake a cake with a message supporting gay marriage?
What’s your opinion? (on second thoughts keep it to yourself)
Whatever your thoughts on any of these issues, (see news links below) we now live in a society where it is unacceptable to voice opinions that are traditional and Biblical. Views which just 20 years ago were regarded as normal are now abnormal. Moreover, you might lose your job or end up in court for expressing these views publicly.
Tim Farron has resigned from his very public role as leader of the UK Liberal Democrats. He makes the point that his Christian faith is in direct conflict with his role as a political leader in modern-day Britain. During our election campaign Tim Farron was repeatedly asked by journalists:
Is gay sex a sin?
Now “sin” is a word that has lost its meaning in society so the question is dubious. The idea of original sin or everyone being a sinner is absurd to the vast majority of people. So, the journalist asking the question was almost certainly - and successfully - using “sin” as a blunt instrument to generate headlines, rather than a serious question about faith or sexuality, or life in modern society.
And of course the irony here is that Tim Farron is far from a fundamentalist or even conservative Christian. He supports same sex marriage and his views are (unsurprisingly) liberal. Even so Farron felt forced to say:
“I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society.”
Are we kidding ourselves? (isn’t this just a bit of “PC”)
Secular commentators like to point out that faith presents a dangerous threat to an open liberal society. “Faith” may be tolerable at times of national ceremony (a royal wedding) or personal ceremony (births, deaths, marriages) but otherwise needs to be kept locked away from real-life. It’s something you choose to do if you feel like it but in private please. They make the point that public faith is not only irrelevant but it is dangerous and intolerant. But they fail to see that their position is itself an intolerant faith position. It is a worldview, and it does not tolerate any other worldview. Some have remarked this is not so much secularism as “theophobia”.
Secularism has become an intolerant faith position
A recent episode of the Premier Radio show Unbelievable featured a stormy debate between Canadian theologian Joe Boot and President of the National Secular Society, Terry Sanderson. With great insight and passion Boot reviews several recent cases where Christian opinion has been suppressed including those mentioned in this blog. Additionally, he describes the case of an (atheist!) Canadian academic being hounded for his refusal to use gender neutral pronouns such as Zir, Zim or Ne instead of the traditional him, her etc. Whereas we should honour the way people view their identity, the refusal to use these words doesn’t make you some kind of bigot.
Boot goes on to conclude:
- Christians championing traditional Biblical views are now effectively regarded by society as heretics. They are stating views which do not conform to the politically correct agenda and they cannot be tolerated.
- This criticism is directed at Christians who are regarded as “soft targets”. There do not appear to be similar complaints made against Muslims for example. Boot believes this is down to personal fear. Demanding that a Muslim baker bake a cake with a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed could put you in fear of your life.
Christians with traditional Biblical views are now effectively regarded as heretics
How do we face the future? (rather than bemoaning a fading past)
We seem to be at a tipping point in public dialogue. Interestingly Tim Farron’s resignation may even help to alert our media and general public to this fact. In the meantime, a few remarks to end on:
- Christians are in a minority and the church is on the margins of society. Get used to that. But it is not all negative. People are just as interested in “spirituality” as they ever were. They just don’t see that the church has relevant answers – and that’s down to us.
- As Christians we need to learn to express our values and beliefs in ways that do not appear openly and overtly religious. With some humility, “more testimonial than dictatorial”.
- And we need to defend the right of people of any faith and no faith to express their views sensitively, but without fear of immediate censure, in a climate of extreme political correctness.
Cases referred to in this article: Ashers Bakery lose appeal; Christian parents told they are unsuitable because of views on parenting; and Tim Farron resigns.
If you enjoyed reading this, try Powers, Principalities, and the Internet.
This article also appears on The Baptist Times (edited) and Premier Christianity (edited) with feedback and comments.
Ashers Bakery – a quick summary
The Ashers are Christians and run a bakery in Northern Ireland. After consideration, they refused to fulfil an order from Gareth Lee. Lee is a member of Queerspace gay rights group and requested a cake with the slogan “Support Gay Marriage”. The Ashers stated it was incompatible with their religious beliefs. They were found by a court to have acted unlawfully and to have discriminated against Mr Lee. The case is currently in appeal.
Of course the Ashers would have taken the same decision had a heterosexual requested this cake. Freedom of conscience – the right to politely refuse something that is against our conscience - must come into this at some point.