When it comes to blogging, I am a bit of an oddity given what I blog about, but the good thing for any blogger is having the freedom to write about whatever catches one’s fancy and, given we live in a supposedly free society, it is possible to do so without reprisals or at least in my case being of an age and my circumstances are such that I don’t care if there are, knowing there is a significant silent cohort who will resonate with what I say and be glad that people like me raise their heads above the parapet, all too aware of what is at stake, not least the need to make people aware what that “at stake” is. It can come at a price though – like being shot at from all corners, but worth paying since those stakes are high and the issues are too important to ignore. Always one must keep a sense of balance, humility and perspective, not exercise delusions of grandeur and to grow a thick skin while continuing to maintain a sensitive heart.
While my blogging subjects reflect my manifold interests, ranging from politics to religion, social justice to cricket, etc., at the heart of my motivation to blog, besides being good retirement therapy, is the bible text that defined my becoming a full time community activist all those years ago: “Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach” Hebrews 13:13. I was mindful that while beholden to obedience to the gospel message, including preaching it, I needed to step outside my own comfort zone into a world that is hostile, beautiful, perplexing, needy, challenging, all at the same time. And while there is more than enough do gooding projects that need tackling, there is also a culture war raging to be fought that has serious consequences concerning the outcome, and one, sadly, many of my fellow Christians fail to understand this.
Going back a few years, it was 2009, a movement began in the USA that put together the “Manhattan declaration”. A year later something similar occurred in the UK, called the “Westminster declaration” and for a time attracted a good deal of attention. At the heart of these were three cardinal principles that signatories committed to stand by: traditional marriage i.e. one man and one woman for life, the right to life of the unborn and freedom of religion and conscience. While I still hear from the Manhattan project from time to time, it is a while since I have heard from the Westminster one, which I assume is no longer active. Organisations like the Christian Institute and Christian Concern have continued to champion these principles and from my weekly epost bag it is quite evident that there are numerous instances of these principles being violated. I have sometimes commented on one or other such “hot” item in the news. Before looking at each of these principles in turn, I should add that many of the concerns of the gay community over discrimination and acceptance are valid; while considering the rights of the unborn we should not ignore the needs of the woman; religious freedom should not be an excuse for breaking just laws.
It seems to me that always there is a need to maintain a right balance on this subject. After I epublished my book “The Gay Conundrum”, I was resolved that having offered my two penneth worth on the subject it would be best to move on to other subjects, partly out of fear of becoming or being seen to be a one trick pony that overlooks all sorts of vital issues Christians should be taking an interest in. However, new happenings along the lines of gay rights trumping religious rights were occurring all the time and where I thought I needed to comment. Besides gay marriage now being enshrined in UK law with all that implies there is the growing awareness of the issue of gender identity and dealing with those who do not identify as either strictly male or strictly female. The latest news item to come onto my radar is the Asher’s baker’s appeal. We still await the verdict. It could have all sorts of ramifications.
While many Christians have grown to accept that legalized murder of the unborn is something we live with, I for one can’t and won’t. It is disturbing, for example, to read that the number of abortions taking place is on the increase. A disturbing piece of news to hit us recently is the statement by those heading up the Royal College of Midwifes that have called upon the government to make abortions legal right up to birth. Having known a number of midwifes over the years, whose views were decidedly pro-life and who saw their main responsibility as protecting the unborn up the point and beyond when the fetus becomes a living being, I can only imagine their outrage at those who are purporting to speak on their behalf.
This can (and does) manifest itself in many ways. While it is right to clamp down on things like inciting toward hatred under the guise of religious freedom, the question is begged as to what the law should do and how this could curtail religious freedom. The latest news is that in this week’s Queens Speech the government has outlined plans to stop religious extremism, which manifest itself in all sorts of ways, like acts of terrorism. One way it proposes to do this is make any religious institution that teaches children, subject to certain caveats, liable to be inspected to check out whether they are promoting religious extremism. This seems to me a possible thin end of a wedge, such that we have seen in totalitarian societies where religious groups are only allowed to operate if agreeing to certain restrictions and external scrutiny. Because doing so often means having to making unacceptable compromises, many groups opt to go underground and thereby face persecution. The ironic thing about the government proposals are that extremist culprits are usually Islamic and the worst operate outside the law anyway.
As I reflect on the above, I am all too aware that I will have my detractors, not just from those who do not share my Christian beliefs but by those who do. While I believe the culture wars will be eventually won for the forces of right, when Jesus returns to the earth, in the meantime many things hang on which way the war is going, and which will affect us all, whether for good or ill. Where we stand often depends on our world view, and given the judaeo-christian one no longer holds sway the question is begged what will fill the gap? While I recognize that I need to focus on being a good husband, father, neighbor etc., stand up for social justice issues, especially siding with the poor and disadvantaged, and do all the normal things Christian ministers are expected to do, the matter of culture wars, as I have argued, continues to be a pressing one, upon which so much hinges, and I for one will be carrying on my fight.