Having just returned from speaking at a conference in London I was reflecting on the experience. Some of the other speakers were good, particularly Joe Boot who heads the Ezra Institute for Contemporary Christianity. An Englishman working in Canada and leader of a growing church in Toronto Joe is well worth listening to. Also to be recommended is Jubilee the occasional magazine of the EICC, don’t worry, it’s posted out free.
The biggest impact however, came over lunch one day when I sat next to a rather charming lady who remarked that she was likely to lose her job. She works for a department of her local council in London which deals with funerals. The local authority is about to reorganise and those working in her department are to be made into registrars. This means that, as a Christian, she will be forced out of her job with all that implies in this time of austerity.
She has no problem with registering births and deaths, but what is she to do about registering civil partnerships or officiating at same sex marriages? This lady of course has no intention of bowing the knee and denying her beliefs. She is not angry or bitter about this, she is not hurt and offended, she doesn’t rail against the intolerance which would force her out of her job on the off chance that someone from a favoured minority might be offended; she simply recognises that this is the way of the world in the UK today. Christians are being sidelined and eased out of mainstream society.
We will be accepted as long as we aren’t too Christian, as long as our faith is not obtrusive, as long as it is merely a private matter between us and our God and doesn’t affect anyone else. But when we are distinctively Christian we will be shunned.
There is no conspiracy with some Machiavellian mastermind pulling strings to silence the faithful. It is far more serious than that. I am sometimes asked why there is a culture war in the USA and no equivalent in the UK. The answer is simple; we have had our culture war, and we lost.
We have lost in society generally because we have lost in the church. The people who should have been a bulwark against the destruction of culture have stepped aside. The people who should have been the bulldozers clearing new paths have been MIA. The church has failed to be the salt and light Jesus told as we were. Remember He did not say we should be salt and light, he said we were. If we weren’t salty what did He say we were useful for? I find that Matthew 5:13 makes uncomfortable reading at times.
Our church institutions generally, like that to which I belong, have little interest in protecting or proclaiming the orthodox faith, instead they have been captured by those whose interest is in subverting orthodoxy. The plight of the lady I met will not be taken up by any major, or even minor, denomination in England, any more than it would in Scotland. She will, thankfully, be supported by her strong Christian fellowship and because of that and her own strong faith is able to face the future calmly.
The big battles are over, all that is left for the defeated is to wage guerrilla warfare, small groups and individuals struggling where they are, making an impact however they can where they are.
A great example is another equally charming lady I met. She saw her Christian calling as entering the political arena and took the local MP under her wing. As a result the MP, who is not a Christian, is strengthened to maintain a pro-family and pro-life stance, the local branch of his party now has an active Christian Association, and the lady is on her way to becoming a councillor. This took years of hard work and prayer, but it has had a very real effect. We too must begin our ‘long march through the institutions’.
Many will see this as being a pessimistic view of the Christian position in society today. As one who is sometimes naively optimistic I have come to the conclusion that this view is the realistic one. We, the organic church, are the ones who can and must be effective.