Archive | December, 2015

Don’t worry, Church – secularism has your back!

22 Dec

Does the church really need society to be secular to ensure religious freedom?

A commentator on this blog post helped to crystallise a few thoughts which have been circulating in my addled brain recently on the subject of secularism’s claim to be interested in religious freedom.

What the lady said was: “…the purpose of a secular society… is not to restrict, destroy or ban your right to believe, but to protect it. And not just for you, or for other Christians, but for everyone.” She’s by no means unique in this view; it has been on my mind for a while just how the secular lobby seems to see itself as the referee in matters of religious rights, apparently ensuring that all the believers from different religions play safely in an arena run by non-believers for the benefit of all.

How cute, I thought as I read her comments. And how naive.

It’s cute, because I’m delighted that the church, after struggling for 2,000 years to make headway in the world, finally has a bunch of unbelievers who are willing to look out for it.

I hope my sarcasm is shining through.

And it’s naive, because anyone who thinks that the agenda of the secular lobby is to protect, ensure, or otherwise facilitate the exercise of religion, is living in cloud-cuckoo land.

The truth of the matter is that not only has the church been quite able to take care of its own freedoms, thank you very much, but it has also been unique in its tolerance of other religions.

Okay, so strongly Christian local councils in western democracies may not be rushing to grant planning permission for new mosques, but look on the flip side: Christians in Muslim lands are routinely arrested and imprisoned for their faith, with some facing the death penalty.

As a religion of state, Christianity grants unparalleled freedoms to those of other religions, while other national religions (with the honourable exception of Judaism – could there be a connection?) are openly and obviously hostile to anything that smacks of apostasy or competition. In countries where religions other than Christianity dominate, life can be anything but safe for those who possess a Bible or who assemble to worship God in the person of Jesus Christ. And it is often unsafe for followers of other religions not sanctioned by the state as well.

Christian missionary organisation Open Doors has a watchlist of countries in which Christians are persecuted for their faith. Most of the Islamic Middle East is on it, along with North Africa, China and parts of Asia.

In the vast majority of Christian lands, however, anybody of another religion has the right to worship Allah, Buddha or Krishna (or the deities of a myriad of other religions) without fearing a knock on the door, imprisonment or deprivation of normal human rights. If there is a Christian nation whose government imprisons non-Christians for being non-Christian, I’m hard pressed to think of it.

So why does secularism offer itself as the guarantor of religious freedom and so glibly imply that Christianity is not up to the job? It is breathtakingly arrogant on the part of secular people – the kind of breathtaking arrogance of which secularists normally accuse Christians when they state that Jesus is the only way to God – to suggest that they are best placed to have religious people’s interests at heart. I’m pretty sure my Muslim, Hindu and other religious counterparts would agree on this point. “Thanks for the offer of help, but really, no thanks,” I imagine them saying.

Why can’t religions be their own advocates, without secularists meddling? While it’s true that secularists and Christians are standing together to preserve freedom of speech in the face of parliamentary bills that could criminalise street preachers, coming together in that fashion to protect a right from which so many movements can benefit is a bit different from asserting that the church can only thrive if secularism is there to protect it. Most religions seem to be perfectly at home with arguing their own case. Since no actual oppression of other religions by Christianity is taking place, why get involved? Obstacles to the building of mosques don’t really count – it is hardly persecution, and if Christian faith is to be both recognised as a good thing and if its tenets are to be properly observed (one of which happens to be exclusivity as regards what is divine), it does not seem right to pour resources into promoting other religions. They have the right to make their own way, free from persecution.

What secularists really believe, of course, is that religion is of no significance. With that established, it naturally makes sense that no religious person should be allowed to advocate for religious freedom, lest they foul it up for everyone by, y’know, actually taking their beliefs seriously.

And why should we let secularists impose any form of control on religion, even in the name of religious freedom? A quick feel of the pulse locates the secularist in one of two views. In one view, all religion is dangerous and should be eradicated. This is the view of Richard Dawkins and a great many others. The other view has religions back-to-front: when you hear a secularist (and indeed some “spiritual” or superficially religious people) saying “Islam is a religion of peace” and then blaming Christianity for the Crusades and virtually every other war or tribal conflict since, you know that (a.) that person hasn’t bothered to study either, and (b.) they intend to use this obfuscation to undermine Christian belief and practice, since that is the real target of their obvious misrepresentations.

Neither of these views offers much comfort for the religious people whom the secularists purport to serve. At least the National Secular Society and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are honest about their goals, but the “we’re here to ensure freedom for all” brand of secularism is disingenuous.

If Dawkins-style hostile atheism is a frontal assault on Christian belief, the supposedly supportive version of secularism is an attempt to render Christianity ineffective by making it as bland as possible – with the help of a smiley, faux-concerned appeal to our desire for religious survival.

As the Proverbs put it, “Whoever flatters his neighbour is spreading a net for his feet.” (Prov. 29:5)

So let us not be impressed by the claims of secularists to represent religious freedom. The very name “secular” indicates quite clearly how many figs they actually give for God, Jesus, the Bible, or the values Christians should be standing for. And let us, as this blogger argues, stand up for Christianity in the public space.

Because atheists and secularists sure as hell aren’t going to do it for us.

Solomon’s Wisdom and Gun Control

22 Dec

We celebrate the wisdom of ancient Israel’s king, Solomon, even today. He is known for one judgment in particular, in which he settled a dispute between two prostitutes by having a sword brought to cut a child in two. (SPOILER ALERT: The child lived. See the full story below.)

The Second Amendment Lobby tells us we all need guns for our protection, and that More Guns Equals Less Crime.

But do we? Do they? And does the NRA stand in the place of Solomon?

All I see when we talk about the right to bear arms is a bunch of dead kids.

*******

A Wise Ruling (1 Kings 3:16-28, NIV)

Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him.
One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me.
The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.
“During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him.
So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast.
The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”
The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.” But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.” And so they argued before the king.
The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ”
Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king.
He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.”
The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”
Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”
When all Israel heard the verdict the king had given, they held the king in awe, because they saw that he had wisdom from God to administer justice.

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