Monday, March 29, 2010

Should Christians Become More Strident?

In her blog at The Daily Telegraph today, Christina Odone suggests that Christians ought not to be so passive in the face of increasing persecution for their faith. Her post is entitled: "In face of persecution from the chattering classes, Christians need to be as strident as Muslims."

"Afraid to be a Christian? Who can blame you? The authorities, the media and the chattering classes are forever trying to run you down. We don’t have to brave the Colosseum, with its rapacious lions; we don’t have to wear an identifying badge; or meet in secret – yet.

But there is no doubt that many are afraid to be Christian. They will watch anxiously today as Shirley Chaplin will fight the NHS in an employment tribunal. Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Trust has tried to ban Mrs Chaplin’s wearing a cross, claiming it was dangerous. (Who staffs this Trust? Vampires?) Mrs C refused to take off the cross and is now battling for her right to wear a symbol of her faith. Some of the highest ranking Christians in the land have come out in her favour – and widened the debate to the persecution of all Christians in this country.

High time, too. Prejudice against the majority faith is everywhere: from the BA check-in counter to the school, from the hospital ward to the Town Hall. In fact, it’s even in church. When I was invited to speak at St Martin in the Fields for a Christmas Carol Service two years ago, my speech was banned as deeply offensive. I had written about persecution, injustice and fear.

Had I been describing the suffering of blacks during segregation in America, or the unfair treatment of Indians under the Raj,or the plight of British Muslims after the Britain’s 7 July bombings I would have been welcome. But I was describing anti-Christian bias.

Our culture has grown increasingly hostile to God and his followers. Support for a minority faith – Judaism, say, or Islam – is justified when that faith is regarded as essential to ethnic identity. But when that faith is the majority faith, the faith, predominantly, of the white middle classes, then the standard reaction is of hostility.

The same liberal chattering classes who will spring to your support if you are campaigning on behalf of gays, Muslims or women will turn a deaf ear or worse, issue abuse, if you are agitating on behalf of Christian rights. This explains why even high-profile figures like Tony Blair and Jeremy Vine have admitted they were wary of coming out as Christians.

When even these people think twice before revealing their links, what hope is there for the rest of us ?

Perhaps there is a solution. We should be more like Muslims, who are self confident, strident and constantly haranguing authorities if they suspect an anti-Muslim bias. No one dares mess with them."

My question to, my readers, is this: "Do you agree or disagree with her?" Traffic to this blog has been increasing of late but very few people have been commenting (other than Peter Dunn, to whom I am grateful). So I'd like to hear from you. What do you think? Should we be marching in the streets? Should we be demanding that ordinary Christians be treated with respect and not marginalized?

The situation in the US is not as bad as that in the UK, but if you don't see warning signs I think you are naive. The situation in the UK is not as bad as it was in the old USSR, but things are heading south very quickly and appear to be slated to get worse before they get better. After all it is the leader of the Conservative Party in the UK who was recently banging on the Archbishop of Canterbury to make his Church more (ugly phrase warning!) "gay friendly." If those are the conservatives, you can see why the Socialists currently in power remind one of the third-century Roman emperors.

Anyway, what do you think? If it a matter of either marching and demanding or else going underground, which is best? Have you personally experienced persecution? Do you know anyone who has? How did you (or they) handle it?

Here is a story from the Telegraph entitled: "Senior bishops call for end to persecution of Christians in Britain." There are some notable names missing from this list of bishops.


Peter W. Dunn said...

Thanks Craig for the positive feedback on my sometimes strident comments (I'd heard of your appreciation already through the grapevine).

I wonder if conservative Christians are just too nice most of the time. For example, I am in a conflict with a well-established professor of theology regarding a discussion about affirmative action that started on his blog. He didn't like my comments, and so he made some ad hominem attacks against me, saying I was full of bitterness and rage, and then cut me off from the discussion. I had been admittedly cheeky towards him but no more disrespectful than he had been to me and one of the other participants in the discussion. So I've responded on my own blog, The Righteous Investor, but with great hesitation (I would really appreciate your feedback, perhaps offline). I fear that my stridency in reaction will just simply be interpreted as angry and divisive. I can just hear people telling me, "Peter, this is not the Christian way of dealing with conflict. This should be dealt with in private, quietly." Or even, "Just let it go and move on." And yet, the attack was made in light of day, in the "blogosphere", I wonder why my response should not also be public. It also concerns policy issues that I am concerned about, especially as it regards theological education.

But conservatives are insufficiently political and activist in their orientation; we just want to lead quiet lives, working hard in our businesses, and we tend to abdicate education, church polity and government, leaving these things to the more strident liberals, even the liberals in our own midst. I learned at Anglican Essentials conference a few years back that that the radicals are far more savvy and ruthless in realm of church polity; as a result, they are able to win votes at Synod and rule the day. Your post correctly points out that Muslims have exploited every means possible to stifle free speech regarding Islam. When a Christian fights back however, it is characterized as rage and bitterness arising from a critical or partisan spirit (in the language of the charismatics).

I wonder if this causes Christians to be more passive aggressive and less openly critical in our everyday interactions with one another too. In public policy, we need to learn how to defend ourselves against persecution in manner that is hopefully winsome; even so it opens us to the capricious criticism of our adversaries (both Christian and non-Christian). We shouldn't back down in the face of this criticism.

Perhaps the second century apologists, such as Justin, are a worthwhile model for us today.

penny farthing said...

I don't think it's necessarily "strident" to stick up for yourself, especially if you do it by explaining the facts and pointing out the bias. The scary thing is, many people do not even realize they are anti-Christian. It's the knee-jerk reaction they have, because of the culture. I've experienced prejudice, and people tend to dismiss me and all my arguments (even the ones that nothing to do with religion) as soon as they find out I'm Catholic.

For example, on the site Harry Potter Alliance (don't laugh) I got into a month-long forum debate in order to back up my sister about the question of gay marriage. Many members of that oh-so-tolerant and all-embracing site had called her a bigot, hateful, threatening, and worse names, and dismissed all of her arguments as enforcing her religious beliefs on others (none of her arguments were based on religion - she knows better than to appeal to authority). I joined anonymously and made pretty much the same argument, carefully restricting my points to basic logic, philosophy, and legal/constitutional remarks, and was met with a lively debate, respectful disagreement, a few people dropping out because I requested that they find an argument other than appeal to authority and ad hominem, and finally the other side meeting me more than half way. Then I talked about my faith on another thread. People were a little confused and surprised, but they will still debate me politely, because I pointed out their prejudice and demonstrated my points well.

There have also been many times when people (including close friends) have thoughtlessly made anti-Christian remarks in my presence, or to me, All I did in response was ask them what, specifically, they were referring to, could they point to facts that support it, and if they realized their remark was prejudiced. They usually don't - it's a politically correct type of bigotry, like Bush-bashing and fat jokes. Then I correct their misconceptions about Christianity and history. Many of those people now come to me with questions about things they've heard.

The truth speaks for itself, but people won't listen if they feel they're being attacked.

So going underground is not the answer. Nor is being abrasive. But we must stand up for ourselves and our faith, every single time, even when it doesn't seem important, but do it with kindness and charity. And, if the audience is receptive, perhaps with sarcasm...

penny farthing said...

Oh, and Peter, you are absolutely right - you should debate him in the blogosphere, and in public. That's where the debate is. There's nothing unChristian about publicly dealing with conflict, and conservative/traditional Christians need to get out there and become savvy. Radicals/progressives/liberals, whatever you want to call them, are side-tracking the debate by being the only "Christians" who talk about policy. Look at liberation theology and stuff like that.

Peter W. Dunn said...

Penny: Thanks for this. Yet still I feel unsettled about the whole matter. The professor in question, as you know if you read my posts about it, teaches at my Alma Mater. My grievance thus puts me in an uncomfortable position with an institution that I love. But this isn't the first difficulty for me. I disagree vehemently with the liberation theology of one of the summer school teachers (for this July) and am in regular contact with one of the Master's students there who characterizes himself as a Christian anarchist who finds inspiration from both the Marxists and the actions of the Zealots. Is it not the duty of an alumnus of that institution to ask, hey what are you folks doing down there? Do you expect me to keep donating when this kind of stuff is promoted by the school?

I don't think the conflict with this professor is really about me at all, its about what agenda will ultimately control the institution when the old guard finally completely passes away. Will it be controlled by the new evangelicals on the left, who are truly intelligent ones, promoting wonderful peace and diversity, equality to women and homosexuals, fairness, and redistribution of wealth; or will the school be controlled by the old evangelicals who are angry, bitter, reactionary, capitalist, greedy, Sarah-Palin-loving conservatives?