If Christianity is not persecuted in the West, why do many evangelicals feel more scared of coming out than some homosexuals today? Following on from what my protagonist called the “Tweet off“, James has posted the following,
“With the greatest respect to Adrian, I do not believe it is remotely plausible to maintain that Christians are persecuted, far less hated in the UK. Let’s look at the gross facts: Christianity is the state religion and the head of state is the head of the Church; Christians can freely practice and promote their faith, in churches and in public; Christians hold numerous respected positions in public and political life – the Prime Minister is a Christian, as are many members of the government, of Parliament, leaders of industry and the arts etc; Christianity still has massive cultural power, and the history of the UK is inextricable from the influence of Christianity . . .”
It’s a compelling narrative. Why then, am I still afraid to tell people I meet that I am a practicing Christian? Why do I feel like an alien in a hostile place sometimes? Here is what I wrote as a comment on his site, which I think justifies its own post over here:
Thanks for this interaction, James. The UK is a very complicated place. Nominally we are a Christian nation, but as I said, people are strongly encouraged to keep their faith out of their workplaces and out of the public square. If you are an evangelical it is very hard to get public office as I know from a personal friend of mine who found herself at the center of a vilification campaign.
I think we are at a tipping point, or possibly beyond it on both sides of the Atlantic, where what was once the majority perspective and unfortunately did oppress others, is no longer in that privileged position. For sure nominal Christianity may still be privileged, but if you dare to put your head above the parapet these days you will be admonished pretty quickly.
It does seem likely to me that unless we can somehow get to the point where we can all get along without forcing people to agree, then the group that once did the oppressing, will itself be genuinely oppressed. You are quite right that there is a massive challenge for us all in figuring out what is reasonable accommodation for those of religious perspectives.
When the Abortion law was passed, for example, it was made clear than nobody should be forced to participate in Abortion as part of their job. As a Junior Doctor I took advantage of that “conscientious objection” clause as many have. There have been moves recently in the UK to look at whether that concession should be removed. If so, evangelicals like me will be left with a choice: violate your own conscience or don’t work as a doctor. To me that is a fairly stark choice.
Every Christian will draw the line in a different place as to what they feel they cannot do. Some will have no problems with participating in a lot of things that violate their own personal convictions. But surely whether someone is a Muslim or Christian we have to ensure that in the future world of “tolerance for all” they can fulfill an active full role in society.
These questions are complex and difficult to answer. Should for example the Government have allowed the Catholic Church to continue to screen married couples to adopt children, while perhaps funding other agencies to screen homosexuals? Were they right to say to the Catholic Church, thanks for your help all these years in adoption, but we don’t want you any more. And before you too quickly jump to say they were right, sadly since the Catholic Church has stopped being involved in this process the numbers of adoptions in the UK has plummeted.
I don’t claim to have all the answers. But I can tell you this, as an evangelical in the UK today, despite this somewhat prominent blog, I tend not to “out” myself in the workplace. Ironically someone I knew in a work context once came out to me as homosexual, and I am glad to say that things have moved on so much in the last 50 years that neither he nor I felt awkward as far as I could tell. It really wasn’t an issue. I didn’t feel I could come out to him as an evangelical, however, so did not share that. I know that part of the reason for that I was concerned about some of the “baggage” I might carry with me. How he would react to me as an Evangelical is of course at least in part because of the unfortunate way many of my tribe have vilified yours in the past. I do hope that there is some way that we can all figure out of getting along together, as the trend to me at least does not look that way.
I should really have pointed to another previous post of mine about how in the UK church groups have been banned from saying God can heal today. In the meantime, James has posted a further robust rebuttal which is worth every Evangelical reading. The only response to that which I would like to make to what he says is to affirm that I wholeheartedly deplore and reject the forms of discrimination and violence he talks about in that post. But I do not believe that simply because they are less severe, other forms of hate are acceptable. I long for a day when Evangelical and Homosexual alike can live unmolested in our societies, and both be accepted as fully functioning members of that society. How can we all live together in this world of ours without compromising our individual beliefs is the vital question of our day.