Monthly Archives: October 2010

Microsoft or Linux?

Burns wrote “O wad some Power the giftie gie us to see oursels as ithers see us!” Well his wish has been granted when it comes to evangelicals. In an article in the Guardian Alan Wilson has written of The evangelical identity crisis. When he isn’t writing for the Guardian Alan Wilson’s day job is CofE Bishop of Birmingham.

There is much which could be said about this short article. It is intriguing that Alan Wilson is obviously a mainstream figure in the CofE who presumably has pastoral oversight of a number of evangelical parishes in his diocese and yet he can still write, and presumably think, in terms of ‘them’  and ‘us.’ Evidently, in the gentlest possible mainstream Anglican manner, Wilson sees evangelicals as rather strange chaps on the fringes of the Church who have to be humoured, but not taken too seriously.

Perhaps the  good bishop draws in the skirts of his cassock because “Their leadership waxes and wanes in an emergent, not institutional, way.” The bishop may not recognise it but this flexible non-institutional attitude to leadership is one of the great strengths of inter-denominational evangelicalism.

Whilst leaders emerge who do fit the media stereotypes alluded to by the bishop it also allows for their rejection. Just try getting rid of an Anglican bishop who denies core beliefs of the 39 Articles to which he supposedly subscribes. Amongst evangelicals a leader is not someone who is imposed by a hierarchy, rather a leader is someone whom others follow. If their leadership is proved false or injurious, as some have, then people will eventually stop following them. If, as in the case of John Stott, their leadership is true and healthy then people will listen and follow.

The other great strength of non-institutional flexibility is that it allows the rise of men and women, ordained and non-ordained, on the basis of their gifts. Hierarchies inevitably place a high value on conformity, which can and does stifle and suppress. I can’t think of a mainstream denomination, including my own Church of Scotland, which is not priest ridden.

The emergent and flexible leadership amongst evangelicals is more in tune with the times than the rigid hierarchical leadership of the mainstream denominational structures. Just think of the impossibility the mainstream music companies face with P2P downloading. They muster their lawyers, have vastly expensive court cases, crush the upstarts, and another site springs up that afternoon. There is a vitality in the emergent and flexible which can never be matched by the weight of the institutional. They can’t be beaten because they can’t be pinned down.

Sure open source has its problems, but they are the problems of vitality and success. Take Wikipedia, despite the mainstream media’s demonising the vast majority of articles are accessible, accurate and informative; then think of the impossibility of changing an entry in Britannica. Above all Wikipedia engages people, involves them, gets some writing and researching who would never have done anything before. A bit like evangelicalism within the Church.

Flexibility frees, hierarchy controls and channels. I suppose it all depends on whether you are a Microsoft Christian or a Linux Christian.

Institutional versus Organic Church

“The Church should stay out of politics,” a statement frequently repeated by those who are strenuously attempting to change the social structures of the country, and a statement which I support. “It is the duty of the Church to influence policy in a biblical direction whenever it can,” is the response of committed Christians, and a statement which I support.

In Reformed theology we have traditionally spoken of the Church in terms of the Church visible and the Church invisible. This distinction has its uses, mostly psychological to reassure Christians that the antics of the Church and some of its members doesn’t invalidate the reality of the faith.

A more helpful way of looking at the Church is to make the distinction highlighted by Abraham Kuyper, one of the great Reformed theologians and political, cultural and social activists. As well as being an activist he was also that rarity, a successful Christian politician. Kuyper distinguished between the institutional Church and the organic Church.

The institutional Church is the denominational structure, the committees and courts, Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries and Assemblies and their equivalents. Then there is the organic Church, these are the Christians, living breathing people of God. It is the task of the institutional Church to support and enable the organic Church to be the Church.

The institutional Church exists for the sake of the organic Church. Today we have reversed that situation and the organic church seems to exist for the sake of the institution. The average Church member see him or herself having the task of keeping the Church going, a kind of pew fodder whose faithfulness keeps the institution going.

Meanwhile the institutional Church makes pronouncements on the environment, the economy and education etc. The General Assembly sees more posturing than a Milan catwalk, the usual suspects line up to give their opinion on every subject under the sun, and meanwhile the Church shrinks in numbers and influence.

Christians should be involved as Christians in politics, charities, pressure groups, every kind of legitimate social activity, that is their job as salt and light. The institution exists to enable the members to do that work, not to tell them what they should be doing or doing it for them.

If the teaching elders of the Church are not doing their work of equipping the people of God to be the people of God then the ministers are failing in their job. If the pronouncements of the courts of the Church have become a substitute for the action of the organic Church then they are failing in their job. It is the task of the institution to help the living Church, not substitute for it.

The sight of the Church of Scotland in one of its fits of activism making solemn resolutions on political matters is laughable. I say that deliberately because that is what the world does, it laughs. In 2005 the G8 met in Gleneagles, as did tens of thousands to protest against globalisation. At the same time the General Assembly was meeting and it was proposed and resolved that churches should ring their bells in their support. Here we had tens of thousands of mostly young people, deeply committed to their cause and willing in some cases to risk arrest for it, and what did the CofS do, we resolved to have a fit of guerrilla campanology. Laughable if it wasn’t so sad.

The Church should stay out of politics to allow the Church to be up to its neck in politics.

Fish Rot From The Head Down

Reports that the CofE diocese of Bradford, may disappear altogether because so few Christians are worshipping there have been dismissed by the diocese. Despite the denials it is evident that the diocese, like many others, is in big trouble with plummeting attendance at worship. This in a diocese which covers the city of Bradford, the western quarter of North Yorkshire and parts of East Lancashire, South-East Cumbria and Leeds.

It is possible to see this as a result of shifting demographic patterns.  One official said: ‘Some areas with a high concentration of Muslim migrants have experienced “white flight” and the Church is struggling to maintain a foothold.’ Some reckon that in this geographical area Christians are outnumbered two to one by Muslims.

It has been predicted by statisticians that within a decade there will be more Muslims in Britain’s mosques on Fridays than Anglicans in church on Sundays. In the face of this a CofE spokesmen lamely points out that Anglicans increasingly worship at other times of the week. Anyone who imagines that the churches of Bradford are filled with worshippers on Tuesday evenings had better lay off the communion wine.

If Muslims are going to outnumber Christians in Bradford or any other part of the UK it is nonsensical to blame the Muslims. If you have a notional diocese with a population of say 1,000,000 and there is an influx of 100,000 Muslims from Pakistan and flight of 100,000 indigenous Brits that leaves 900,000 non-Muslims. Even if the population were 2:1 that would still leave 333,000 non-Muslims to work with. Anyway, is it so wrong to share the gospel of Jesus with Muslims?

Bradford city alone has a population of roughly 300,000. Surely this is enough of a mission field for any church.

I doubt if the good people of Bradford diocese, or any other, have been swept away by neo-Darwinian theory, big bang theory or any other theory. Neither have they rejected the gospel. The crumbling of church membership throughout the UK is due overwhelmingly to a profound loss of spiritual purpose and moral nerve within the neo-Protestant hierarchy of the established churches.

There are millions in the UK today who have never actually heard the gospel. The general understanding of the message of the gospel is mediated through a filter of ecological grandstanding, trendy political posturing and social work priorities. Why should anyone be a Christian if it doesn’t have anything to offer they can’t already get through Greenpeace, the Lib Dems or the local council?

But then, just occasionally one gets a pleasant surprise. Sunday can have its tensions when a minister goes on holiday. You enter a strange church with an unknown minister not knowing what you are going to get. This Sunday we worshipped at Liddesdale CofS in Newcastleton in the Borders. The church was small, well kept, light and attractive. Being a holiday weekend half filled, but the hymns were well sung by a congregation with a wide age spread. The prayers were that rarity, I didn’t lose track, instead they focused what I was thinking and led me closer to God. The preaching was biblical, well structured, dealt with real life situations and didn’t dodge the difficult bits in the passage.

Reformation begins at the bottom, not at the top.

Glasgow, where else?

I am just about to go off-line for a week. In the meantime let me leave you with a few example of Glasgow’s way with words.

Doing a funeral visit recently I was assured by the grieving widow that “There were plenty of antidotes folk could tell about Jimmy.”

In our area funerals are often held up for post mortems, which in Scotland are authorised by the Procurator Fiscal. A friend has been assured that the family were waiting for “the Percolator Fiscal” and another for, and perhaps more accurately, the “Persecutor Fiscal.”

See you in a week.

Toleration

Tolerance: a term deployed by liberals when trying to promote acceptance of those whose politics, cultural norms, race, religion, nationality, etc., differ from the majority of Britons; a term not applicable to evangelical Christians, defence of marriage supporters, right to lifers, and generally anyone who disagrees with the political establishment and media elite.

Tolerance once meant you were willing to abide behaviours in others which you found objectionable. Then it came to mean not judging such behaviours at all. Then it moved on to respecting them. Now, it has come to mean celebrating them, often at the cost of what was once held to be central. If you refuse to celebrate that which you think is unhealthy or wrong then the proponents of toleration will do their level best to stifle your previously free expression of opinion.

One favourite tactic which social, political and religious liberals often use in order to suppress debate is to label opponents mentally unstable. If you are opposed to homosexual marriage you are labelled ‘homophobic’ or suffering from a psychological malady the symptoms of which are an unreasoning fear of homosexuals. If you speak out against the increasing influence of radical Islam amongst Muslims in the West you are labelled ‘Islamophobic,’ another psychological malady. The list is endless.

This tactic has it’s own perverted logic borrowed from the old USSR. There dissidents were routinely confined to mental institutions. After all, if you objected to the way the USSR was run you were obviously deranged, wasn’t it a paradise upon earth. In the West today if your opponent has a ‘phobia’ then there is no need to listen to them or consider their opinions. A very effective way of shutting off open debate and enforcing one limited viewpoint.

There is a simple response to accusations of Islamophobia or any other ‘phobia’ from the liberally intolerant. Simply ask: Who has an unreasoning fear of radical Islam, the person who speaks out openly concerning its dangers, or the person who is afraid to acknowledge those dangers? Who is afraid of radical Islam, the elderly Danish cartoonist who mocked Muhammad, or the Yale University Press which last year refused to publish the cartoons in a scholarly tome by professor Jytte Klausen devoted to the incident?

Specks of Dust and Planks

Anti-Semitism has a long history in Britain, unfortunately it is on the increase. This is not only due to the rise of radical Islamism, there is plenty of home-grown anti-Semitism. Normally we associate this with right-wing extremism. Anti-Semitism is just at home on the left, only more subtle.

Recently an alteration in the oath of loyalty sworn by new citizens in Israel was proposed. Those seeking to become naturalized citizens will take an oath of allegiance to Israel “as a Jewish and democratic state.” The oath doesn’t require the new Israeli citizen to be Jewish, but to acknowledge the essentially Jewish nature of the country. As well as being the only truly democratic country in the region Israel is also the most ethnically and religiously diverse nation in the Middle East.

The reaction from the liberal press in Britain is sadly predictable. Adrian Hamilton  in yesterday’s The Independent explodes that this, “is a case of racist discrimination on any interpretation. But it is more than that. At heart it reflects a push to make Israel into a mono-cultural, ethnically-homogenous nation which deliberately rejects other races or beliefs within it.”

Given the present political situation it is possible to describe the new oath as unwise politically, but to describe it as “racist” and an attempt to create an “ethnically-homogenous nation” deliberately rejecting anything non-Jewish verges on the hysterical.

Arabs make up 20% of the population of Israel and they have the same rights as Jewish and other non-Jewish citizens. Perhaps Mr Hamilton would care to comment on the position of Christians or Jews in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and most of the rest of the Middle East? Oppressed at best, persecuted at worse. If our liberal compatriots wish to fulminate against genuinely racist countries who are truly mono-cultural they need only look at the rest of the Middle East.

The reaction of Syrian dynastic strongman Bashar Assad is unsurprising.  In his opinion the new oath is a “fascist” act that “proves” that Israel is a “racist country.” Perhaps Mr. Assad  should be asked about Article 1 of the Syrian constitution which declares that “the Syrian Arab region is a part of the Arab homeland” and its citizens are “part of the Arab nation.”

Hamas, who control the West Bank and which is constitutionally committed to the extinction of Israel decried the oath in similar terms. However, its own charter declares that “the Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine.” The Hamas slogan is “Allah is its goal, the Prophet its model, the Koran its Constitution, Jihad its path and death for the case of Allah its most sublime belief.” That falls a good sight short of liberal inclusiveness. If the peace process fails to yield results, it will be because of Islamist sentiments like these – not because of an Israeli citizenship oath that acknowledges the obvious.

Article 4 of the Palestinian Basic Law proclaims, “Islam is the official religion in Palestine” and “the principles of Islamic Sharia shall be the main source of legislation.” Article 116 states, “laws shall be promulgated in the name of the Palestinian Arab people.”

Our Lord spoke about noticing specks of dust in eyes of others and ignoring planks in our own. Mr Hamilton is entitled to share the fashionable view of Israel and having an anti-Israel bias is not the same as anti-Semitism. Hamilton, however, by couching his argument in terms of religion and a constant reiteration of the phrase ‘the Muslim majority Middle-East,’ like some other liberals, moves seamlessly from the one prejudice into the other.

The Structure Collapses

“If you go down to the woods today you…” may be in for a nasty surprise. But don’t tell the police.

A new 60 page Hate Crime Guidance Manual has been issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland. Police officers are warned that they must not ignore doggers being abused or verbally taunted in any way, as it can cause them to suffer from post traumatic stress.

According to our Scottish police chiefs although “outdoor sex is unlawful”, people who go to public places to have sex with complete strangers are “susceptible to hate crime” and can suffer “post traumatic stress and depression” if they are abused by the public.

The 60-page guide states: “Whilst complaints regarding consensual public sex must be considered and responded to, it must also be noted that people engaging in such activity are potential targets for hate crime perpetrators.”

It seems doggers can be “reluctant to report victimisation in outdoor sex environments” and says this is “due to a misconception that the police will primarily be interested in why they were there, as opposed to tackling hate or prejudice motivated crime.”

Heaven forbid that people should have the “misconception” that Scottish police might be interested in people committing the crime of public indecency.

In England and Wales the Association of Chief Police Officers have also rewritten their guidance regarding “public sex environments”, adding that the policy aims to “improve our effectiveness and the quality of service provided by the police service when policing public sex environments.”

The policy covers “any open space, public or private that is habitually used for the purpose of engaging in consensual same sex and opposite sex, sexual activity”, including public toilets.

Although it somewhat grudgingly notes that outdoor sex can have an “impact on the quality of life of people using these locations for leisure pursuits” – for example parents taking their young children for a walk, the rights of those cottaging, cruising or dogging must be taken into account by officers.

One dogger, dubbed ” Bob the Builder” as he wears nothing but a hard hat, is a familiar sight at the Hog’s Back lay-by in Puttenham, near Guildford in Surrey – a popular location for people to have outdoor sex, and 400 yards from a primary school.

 

It all looks a bit draughty to me

Puttenham looks a bit draughty to me

 

Earlier this year it was disclosed that Surrey police spent £124.93 on tea, coffee and biscuits for doggers at this site in order to “build up trust” and encourage them to report “hate crimes”.

Isn’t society improved now that the repressive influence of Christianity is dying in Britain? Without it’s moral restrictions we are truly on our way to an open, guilt free, liberated society where people can express themselves as they wish, when they wish, and where they wish.

There are a few holdouts still clinging to the burdensome ways  of the past. Never fear, if they raise their heads our leading policemen are prepared to stamp out their ‘hate crimes’ of actually objecting to the public expression of indiscriminate sexuality.

Undermine the foundations and the structure collapses.