Monday 21 December 2009

What happens when Christians transition from the privileged to the equal and ordinary

‘Sapphire’, a writer living in Plymouth, has commented on the post " Christian Institute claims Christians are being marginalised by equality and diversity laws" His comments deserve a wider viewing and therefore a blog of their own. He writes:

The whole point of living in a society that is governed by rule of law is that individuals and groups give up some of their freedom in order to be protected from the results of unfettered action by all. Thomas Hobbes wrote "Leviathan" explaining just that concept noting that life otherwise would be "nasty, brutish and short."

The problem that Christians have is in making the transition from the privileged to the ordinary. Not so long ago the church could say pretty much what it liked about individuals and whole classes of people because it held the moral high ground. People, even if they didn't actually believe, nevertheless looked to the church for moral leadership.

That's changed. The church is only one among many claiming to have the answer to our moral dilemmas. In fact the church doesn't even have a single voice any more. There are many competing perspectives within Christianity. There are different views on what the Bible says and even on what it is.

Some Christians think they are marginalized. Perhaps they are but as Merseymike commented on the same blog, they have marginalized themselves if they think they still live in the world of privilege.

[Mike commented that what is notable is that it is only religious extremists who are in the least bothered about these laws - for everyone else they have caused no problem at all.]

Equality laws are tricky things and best avoided if there is another way of protecting minorities. I'm not convinced that this raft of regulations is the best way but we're stuck with it and we all need to try to make it work whenever we come into contact with it. Getting involved in a few doubtful cases and giving them a higher profile than they deserve is not going to help the legislation work, whoever is using the tactic. All it does is set up a "tit for tat" game that nobody can win but everybody loses.

Christians are not the "last to be protected". They have enjoyed positive discrimination for centuries. Not so long ago Islam, Judaism and the major Eastern religions were, if not illegal, unrecognised. They were not allowed to build their mosques and temples and no provision was made for observance of their traditions and ceremonies.

Christians, on the other hand had the Sunday trading laws and the Lord's Day Observance Act to make sure no one enjoyed themselves on a Sunday. I'm not ancient but I can remember when the swings in the park were chained up from Saturday evening until Monday morning. Blasphemy laws have only just been removed from the statue book yet anyone could say whatever they wished about Hindus, Sikhs or Moslems even calling their faiths Satanic if they so desired.

Mike Judge (spokesperson for the Christian Institute) and the others never mention one point. They could invoke the same legislation against their "persecutors" if they so wished.

One of the speakers at Spring Harvest this year advised Christians who felt marginalised to stop complaining and get on with the job of showing the love of God to those who need Him. And that means being genuine and knowing when to back off. The Christian Institute and others may like to get their noses out of their law books and start doing just that.

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