When I was in the RAF we used to have something called SSO’s or Station Standing Orders. These were the basic, unvarying rules which ran the camp, everyone was expected to comply with them no matter how time consuming, onerous or just plain irksome.
Like most Christians I find it a bit uncomfortable to follow the Church’s Standing Orders. The risen Christ told us to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation,” Mark 16:15. Most of us find this is a wee bit more difficult to obey than His instruction not to make an ostentatious show of our faith Matt 6:5-6.
When I witness tub thumping American evangelists on television I admit my no doubt repressed Scot’s Calvinist soul cringes. Many years ago I took my then 11 year old eldest son to a service in a well known charismatic church in Edinburgh. After the service I asked him what he thought of the service, “I don’t go to church to do aerobics,” was his immediate reply. Few want to make a public demonstration of our faith.
Perhaps the time for comfortable discretion has disappeared. Islamo-fascists and their progressive fellow travellers have taken the concept of western tolerance and used it to clear a space for their own brand of intolerance. Fundamentalist atheists and their progressive supporters have taken a stance on not only abusing Christianity but attempting to force it out of public discourse.
This is often done in the name of secular values, separation of church and state, or protests against ‘religion.’ We can be sure that they have little to do with the attempt to ensure that the state maintains a proper relationship with religion. This is clear when the moment the religion in question is Islam, at that point most of the anti-Christian voices change their tune.
If Christians were to call for the subjugation of women, for the stoning of homosexuals and for the murder of Jews our progressive brethren would be incensed. The Guardian and Independent would scream in outrage and Christians would be justly vilified. Yet Islamo-fascists in the UK have called for all these things, and many progressives have either excused them as cultural and religious practices with which we have no right to interfere, or just ignored them altogether.
When there is an instance of a Christian being suspended from work for displaying a cross or B&B owners being prosecuted for refusing to allow unmarried couples to sleep together in their house most Christians tend to quietly go about their business. After all if some PC councillor wants to call Christmas ‘Winterval’ or the First Minister of Scotland sends out Christmas cards marked ‘Season’s Greetings’ what’s all the fuss about, it’s no big deal.
It is, however, a big deal for society. Attacks on Christianity are a direct assault on the foundations of freedom and tolerance in our society. The only states which have ever been truly free or inclusive in any real sense of these words are those which have evolved from Judaism or Christianity. When that Judeo-Christian foundation crumbles the walls fall.
The outspoken faith of some Christians may make others of us uncomfortable, but they are living examples of a fact that progressive Christians often choose to forget, that Christ said He came not to bring peace, but a sword. That ‘sword’ sometimes has to be brandished in defence of the only faith on earth that has ever made men free.
We are assured by the progressive elites that Christianity is a dying cultural anachronism, a prop for the feeble minded and an obstacle to harmonious co-existence. We are supposedly living in a culture which, apart from a few vestigial holdouts, has transcended religious values and is a self-sustaining open society.
Aggressive secularism carries great risk. The core ideals upon which liberal societies are based are typically Judeo-Christian. The dignity and moral priority of the individual is based on our creation in the image of God. Our freedom is not a gift from the state but part of our relationship to God. The understanding that human beings are not perfect but have a responsibility to strive to better themselves and that the state is limited in its ability to make him virtuous is drawn on the truth of the Fall. Deny these truths and an open free society will collapse, we only need to look at Nazi Germany and Soviet Europe to find confirmation.
It is well worth reading Marcello Pera’s Why We should Call Ourselves Christians. Pera describes our post-religious West as an ethically neutral domain deprived of any substantive notion of the good, and does not hesitate to call this a moral and spiritual crisis of our civilization. He argues that Christianity and Western liberal democracy will stand or fall together, and that modern liberalism (which we term progressivism) has severed the historical and conceptual ties that once linked it to Christianity.
Pera writes: “The rights of human beings are to liberals as the laws of nature are to scientists: once discovered (not invented) by someone at a certain time and place, they are valid for all and forever. But just as the laws of nature refer to an order inscribed in the world, the rights of human beings refer to a God who has stamped His image upon man. And this is clearly the Christian vision of God, creator of the natural and moral world.” (p. 49)
Pera, a former president of the Italian Senate, is not a Christian but a secularist, yet he can see the importance of Christianity to freedom and has the intellectual honesty to proclaim it.
We should be unafraid to openly call ourselves Christians if we want to maintain our liberal freedoms. To face the challenges of our day it is imperative that we stress the historical and conceptual link between Christianity and free society.