If it were not for the possible ordination of women bishops and active homosexuals the media would entirely ignore the church. It would seem from a cursory glance at the output of television, radio or newspapers that the church in its various guises is utterly obsessed with matters which even on the most charitable view are hardly central to the faith or the spread of the gospel. Or perhaps it is just the media who see these issues as being of fundamental importance to their progressive agenda.
But that is too easy an out, unfortunately the media representation is broadly accurate. Mainstream Christianity in its official bodies and pronouncements seems determined to retreat to the periphery of Western life. An obsession with marginal matters whilst ignoring more pressing issues is the sign of an enervated organisation intent on oblivion.
There are a couple of possible reasons for this. It could be that the church in the West is so strong and securely in place at the heart of our social culture that we can confidently afford to indulge ourselves by focussing on the peripheral. Or it could be that we are afraid of proclaiming the faith clearly in case we are mocked by that same media which castigates us for being hung up on homosexuality or the female episcopate.
We can be glad that we are not bishops in Nigeria They have to cope with bearing witness to the gospel in a country where half the nation lives under sharia and Muslims are only too eager to burn their churches and kill their parishioners. Meanwhile they get the impression from the Western church that the church is supposed to be a focus group for elite sodomites and ambitious position-hungry women.
In the northern Nigerian city of Maiduguri over 30 churches have been closed and more than 20,000 Christians have fled the city in recent months. Boko Haram have mounted 170 attacks in the last three years killing nearly 1,000 people, mostly Christians, but including Muslims who are not sufficiently militant and government officials.
Last weekend Boko Haram entered the village of Chibok in Borno state and murdered ten Christians by slitting their throats. Three churches were also burnt down elsewhere.
On 25th November at least 15 people, including two pastors, were murdered in the suicide bombing of a church in Jaji in Kaduna state.
On 28th October a suicide bomber rammed St Rita’s Catholic church in Kaduna in his SUV. In the ensuing explosion ten Christians died and 145 were injured.
The response from mainstream British churches? Silence.
That the US State Department refuses to recognise Boko Haram as a FTO or Foreign Terrorist Organisation is understandable given the US government’s overall refusal to even recognise the existence of Islamic terrorism. The Fort Hood massacre in which Major Hasan slaughtered 13 American service personnel and wounded 29 others whilst yelling “Allah Akbar” was not, according to official sources, Islamic terrorism, rather it was classified as an instance of ‘workplace violence.’
Britain is no better. The UK has close ties to Nigeria, it is part of the Commonwealth and the Department for International Development boasts that we are committed to giving Nigeria an average of £250,000,000 in aid each year until 2015. We still wait for the British government to tackle the Nigerian government over the widespread corruption in the country and the equally widespread persecution of Christians in the north of Nigeria. Our government’s “quiet diplomacy” is so quiet it is inaudible.
That mainstream Christian churches are not raising their voices with regard to the slaughter of fellow Christians is less understandable. We are told that there is no wish to harm inter-faith relations with Muslims in Britain and that if we protested it would drive a wedge between Christians and mainstream moderate Muslims. It is a doubtful Christian morality which is prepared to sacrifice the lives of African Christians in order to preserve the sensitivities of British Muslims.
Meanwhile mainstream Muslims in Britain are not outspokenly disassociating themselves from the totalitarian actions of their co-religionists elsewhere. There is not a Muslim dominated country where Christians, and other religions, are not persecuted. We are told that moderate British Muslims do not wish to criticise Islamic regimes because that would make them appear weak and lose them influence in their community and their ability to confront the more radical Muslims.
If a ‘moderate’ is afraid to speak out against injustice because it might look weak to the extremists who support and practice injustice then what is the use of supposed moderates? Is there any practical difference between an extremist who wishes to see Christians driven from the public square everywhere and a moderate who stands by and remains silent allowing it to happen?
That there is Muslim solidarity is understandable, less understandable is that there is not Christian solidarity.