England’s “Moral Majority”?

It appears to this outsider that England’s developing some themes we have witnessed over here — since the 70s and 80s — along the lines of the Moral Majority. I’m open to clarification… any thoughts?

Christians are being “vilified” by British courts and “driven underground”, Lord Carey, a former archbishop of Canterbury, has said.

In a written submission to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), he blames judges for treating some worshippers as “bigots”.

He also warns that believers are being sacked for expressing their faith.

The criticism is part of an appeal to Strasbourg judges to protect religious freedom ahead of a landmark case.

Lord Carey – who was archbishop from 1991 to 2002 – has voiced concern that a recent “secular conformity of belief and conduct” has meant that conduct in keeping with the Christian faith is effectively being “banned” in the public setting.

In his submission, he says the “the State and Courts… not parliament” are destroying the legal right to freedom of religion of “any substantive effect” by insisting on stringent readings of equality law.

He also argues that if rulings against wearing crosses and expressing Christian faith are not reversed it could lead to believers facing a “religious bar” to employment.

The former leader calls for the ECHR to safeguard religious values – something he accuses the British judiciary of failing to do in “case after case”.

A hearing at the court in Strasbourg on 4 September will consider the cases of British employees who claim they have been discriminated against due to their Christian beliefs.

The hearing will also deal with the case of a relationship counsellor who lost his job after refusing to give sex therapy to gay couples.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://radref.blogspot.co.uk/ Phil Wood

    Sometimes Christians are persecuted, but it’s a sad day when ‘persecution’ is manufactured. Carey and co make a virtue of Christendom nostalgia in an age which has had enough of Christian truimphalism. The world has changed. Sadly, not everyone has noticed.

  • http://radref.blogspot.co.uk/ Phil Wood

    I’m a Mennonite as it happens. It’s just that I don’t find Post-Christendom a problem.

  • phil_style

    Thanks Phil (not sure if JustSayin’ was referring to you – a strange comment for the JC blog indeed),

    I think Lord Carey needs to clearly identify what he considers to be “persecution” and to clearly provide case examples of this in action. What I fear we have here is slightly over zealous reporters and a rather soft target (Carey) giving the English media just what they want – some cheap soundbites that add up to manufactured controversy.

    The article says more about UK press than it does about life in the UK.
    I usually file this stuff under “ignore”.

  • mike h

    I suppose the question could be asked, do we expect the government to defend one religious expression over against others or public policy?

  • Luke

    There’s sure enough false claims of religious victimization in the States to make a person cynical. So I understand where Phil Wood is coming from. But it’s better not to be cynical if we can help it.

  • http://radref.blogspot.co.uk/ Phil Wood

    I do hope I’m not cynical. As to whether this article is best ignored I think the departure of Rowan Williams does make a difference. It’s quite likely that the next Archbishop of Canterbury will be more sympathetic to Carey’s point of view.

  • Richard C

    For me, secularisation in parts of the UK is providing a steep learning curve for a wide range of people. For many Christians it means learning to live without the assumed privileges of Christendom (Remember the UK is one of only two nation states in the world which has unelected religious leaders sitting in its legislative houses – Iran is their bedfellow in this regard). For many others it means coming to terms with the fact that a truly secular society gives a freedom to Christians which they may initially find uncomfortable. In the next few years the UK will come out of this steep learning curve a better place. There will still be enormous challenges but hopefully with less Christians claiming “persecution” when it is nothing of the sort (and thereby insulting those around the world who are experiencing it) and less people in power making silly decisions that have little resemblance to a secular ethic (such as the policemen who arrested and his seniors who charged a preacher for quoting particular passages of Scripture – he was found not guilty – lesson learned).
    By the way Scot why are you referring to “England” ? Lord Carey’s successor and the (for now) the most influential church leader in the UK is Welsh.

  • Nick

    This is one of those difficult issues whereby the spokesperson (in this case Lord Carey) is neither completely right or completely wrong.

    Here in the UK we Christians do have a lot of privilege and freedom and we need to realise that and be thankful for it, whilst also realising that Christendom is a long way into its death-throes (if not dead) and many of the privileges we once had, particularly us Anglicans, are fading. Whether that’s a good or bad thing and whether we should fight it or not is another debate (on that subject I think I definitely differ with Carey and others who might be identified as ‘moral majority’).

    However there have been some recent cases whereby judges, employers, councils (local government in the UK), funding agencies, and above all the media have made decisions or rulings or truly awful reporting against Christian groups which have been over-the-top or just plain foolish. There was a recent report conducted by the Evangelical Alliance (an organisation which sits fairly central and is quite broad) and Christians in Parliament (an all party forum for Christians involved in government) which concluded that some judges, councils, etc were making mistakes and taking overly excessive actions and being generally unbalanced due to ‘religious illiteracy’ and fear (the link to the report can be found here: http://www.eauk.org/current-affairs/politics/clearing-the-ground-launched.cfm)

    Thus whilst Carey can be a bit overzealous, outspoken and a bit too wedded to Christendom he does have a point, even if I (as an Evangelical Anglican) feel he goes a bit far or misses the mark.

  • Joel

    I don’t know much about what goes on in the UK – is Carey accurately representing a “ban on Christians wearing crosses”?

  • TriciaM

    Here’s how it was reported originally. I’ve never understood the claim of persecution.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/12/christian-british-airways-worker-cross

    “The airline scrapped a high-necked uniform and introduced a new one in 2004 which could be open neck and prohibited the wearing of any visible item of adornment around the neck.”

    “(Lord Justice Sedley) said Eweida’s objection was purely personal – ‘neither arising from any doctrine of her faith nor interfering with her observance of it and never raised by any other employee’.”

  • Chip

    It’s also noteworthy — and sad — that Church of England evangelicals apparently are losing/have lost a good amount of unity with the decline and passing of John Stott. The divisions between the more Reformed batch of British evangelicals and Fulcrum seem to be milder than, but somewhat similar to, the young Calvinist/emerging church divide over here.

    That said, even Rowan Williams has been one to warn about, and deliver substantive sermons against, secularism in England.

  • Chip

    Also, I think “Moral Majority” is a bit overstating the case. George Carey is no Jerry Falwell by any means, and a very good evangelical theologian.

  • Joshua

    I think “Moral Minority” would be more appropriate.

  • Luke

    @Phil Wood

    Sorry I shouldn’t have accused you of cynicism. That was out of line.

  • Ben Thorp

    I think that there is probably a thread of truth in what Lord Carey says. The problem is not necessarily one of trying to cling onto Christendom, but rather preventing a society that is “tolerant” of all religions bar Christianity. The case in BA was a bit of a stupid one – they had a blanket ban on any jewellery. But there are cases where people have been asked to remove crosses specifically because they are regarded as religious, but those rules don’t apply across the board to other religions.

    Equally there are other cases which seem to indicate an increasing intolerance towards Christian beliefs specifically, although it’s usually when it comes down to clashing with another belief that is regarded as “trumping” religious freedom, frequently homosexuality in recent cases.

    The final third of cases seem to revolve around situations where someone “well meaning” has filed a complaint because they’re worried that other people might be offended, like the case of the nurse who had offered to pray for someone.

    It’s by no means a clear situation, and while Lord Carey may be making a bit of a fuss, it’s also not just about people trying to cling onto Christendom.

  • David Morris

    I think that Christian political efforts may end up being charicatured as a culture war type endeavour. This has been going on in the Grauniad for years, as some of the hacks there seem to think that evangelicalism in the UK is the same as the USA, which a moments familiarity with evangelicalism in the UK would reveal as false (not that evangelicalism in the USA is monolithic either). Carey is reacting to a series of small cases that are somewhat disturbing, but complaining too loudly about them may not be the best approach.

    See the recent bus ad controversy in London, or the recent government inspections of abortion clinics for more background, e.g.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/12/conservative-christians-confident-political-arena?INTCMP=ILCNETTXT3487


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