Speaking at the Edinburgh Book Festival recently Dr Rowan Williams, one-time archbishop of Canterbury, told us that Christians ‘ought to grow up’. He was of course right when he said that ‘not being taken seriously’ or ‘being made fun of’ in the UK and other Western countries cannot be compared to the levels of persecution Christians face elsewhere. We in the West are not persecuted in any meaningful sense.
There is hardly a Muslim majority country where Christians are not discriminated against; at best second class citizens, at worst the subject of murderous attacks. This is a bit more serious than being suspended from work in the UK for wearing a cross. That churches in the UK are largely silent concerning the sufferings of our brothers and sisters in other countries is to our shame. Those of us who are free have a duty to raise our voices in their defence.
That does not mean, however, that we should be silent about what is happening in the West. Christians are not persecuted here, but we are discriminated against, and that discrimination is growing. Dr Williams may blithely say that ‘I don’t lose a lot of sleep over it’. Perhaps he should. What starts out small and is ignored tends to grow.
In the USA Chai Feldblum, a lesbian proponent of ‘plural marriage’ and the head of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, has described the clash between religious freedom and sexual liberty as ‘a zero sum game’ meaning that there is going to be a winner and a loser. Guess who is going to be the loser in the EEOC? She quite frankly admits that she and other liberal progressives wish to ‘revolutionise society’s sexual norms’. Ms Feldblum ‘has a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win’.
There is a current case in the USA which exemplifies this attitude. Earlier this year a young lady went with her mother to a bakery in Oregon and requested a wedding cake. Upon being asked for the names of the bride and groom she responded that there were two brides, Rachel and Laurel. Aaron Klein the owner replied that he would be unable to supply a cake for such an event due to his religious beliefs. ‘Obviously, with my Christian values, I believe marriage is between a man and a woman’, he said later. ‘I take it to be a religious event… God ordained it.’
Instead of going down the street and finding a baker willing to accommodate their sexual ethics a complaint was made and duly investigated by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries civil rights division. Labor commissioner Brad Avakian found that Mr Klein had discriminated. So much what one would expect. There is, however, a sting in the tail.
In delivering his judgement Avakian said something truly frightening, ‘The goal is never to shut down a business. The goal is to rehabilitate. For those who do violate the law, we want them to learn from that experience and have a good, successful business in Oregon.’
The abuse, attempts to close down his business, rape and death threats to which Kelin has been subjected are unfortunately par for the course when the ire of the homosexual lobby is aroused. Much more serious for us all is the contention of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries that Christians have a right to own a successful business in Oregon only as long as they abandon the Christian sexual ethic. If they actually put their beliefs into practice they will be subject to ‘rehabilitation’.
For a moment try to imagine what would happen if a Christian or a Jew were to enter a homosexual owned bakery and asked for a cake with Leviticus 18:22 in pink icing, ‘Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.’ The homosexual baker would refuse to supply such a cake. Would there be an outcry about discrimination from the forces of liberal progressivism? Would the Oregon Bureau of Labour subject the baker to ‘rehabilitation’?
The homosexual baker would be quite right to refuse to supply a cake which offended his deepest principles, just as the Christian baker was. That is what we call freedom and there are those of us who consider freedom to be rather precious, and worth losing sleep over.
When freedom applies only to certain segments of society we no longer have freedom. Having the business you have worked hard to establish closed down is not as bad as having your business burned down with you inside it as has happened to Copts in Egypt. If Dr Williams is losing no sleep over Christians being ‘rehabilitated’ perhaps he should.