Jonathan Edwards seems a nice guy, but why don’t we stone him to death?
Jonathan Edwards was once the most prominent sportsman in Britain. As well as being world record holder he is a former World, Olympic, Commonwealth and European champion for the hop, skip and jump, now known more prosaically as the triple jump.
The son of a vicar and sharing a name with America’s greatest theologian Edwards was also at one time Britain’s most high profile Christian. Early in his career he refused to compete on Sundays, only changing his position after coming to the conclusion that God had given him his athletic talent in order for him to compete. When his athletics career ended he became a television sports presenter, also at one time fronting Songs of Praise a Sunday evening semi-religious programme on BBC television. Then in February 2007 he announced that he had lost his faith.
In religious terms Jonathan Edwards, who appears on television to be an extremely nice guy, the sort of person you could easily have a chat with, is an apostate. He has come to the conclusion that there is no God and as a consequence no longer considers himself a Christian.
Although this happened seven years ago we are still waiting for Christian leaders to call for his stoning. The archbishops of Canterbury and York have been silent on the subject. Not a peep from the General Assembly of the CofS. The Methodists and Pentecostalists are holding their collective tongues and we listen in vain for the voice of the usually reliable Baptists.
The only reaction from Christians to Jonathan Edwards’ loss of faith is a genuine sadness for him and his family, and a belated recognition of the folly of having a starstruck worldly attitude towards prominent individuals. He is still thought to be a nice guy and more worth listening to as a sports commentator than most of the semi-literate bozzos who crowd our screens.
We bring this up because a couple of days ago Owen Jones, the perpetually adolescent thirty year old journalist beloved of the Guardian, the BBC and other nostalgic left wingers, wrote an article in the Guardian with the title ‘Why the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians’. Whilst relieved that Jones has taken a break from trying to reproduce the British left of the 70s with its strikes, three day working week and economic collapse we have to question his analysis and motivation. The best thing about the article is the title.
Unfortunately Jones fails to grasp that there are certain crucial differences between Christianity and Islam. In his desire to be above the fray, like the good progressive secularist he is, he posits a moral equivalence between Christianity and Islam. Without any attempt at providing context or descriptions of the relative types of oppression he trots out the assertion of the Pew Research Centre that Christians faced oppression in 110 countries, and Muslims have suffered in 109. As far as oppression is concerned in Jones’ mind it is all equal.
We could not expect him to understand the theological differences between Christianity and Islam, but we could have expected an acknowledgement of the practical outworking of those theological differences. One religion tells us to love our enemies, the other to kill unbelievers, yet in Jones’ world both are to be considered equally.
In how many countries shaped by Christianity is there state sponsored persecution of Muslims? Are there Christian nations where, as in Saudi Arabia, it is illegal to build a church or where there are certain holy cities non-Christians are not allowed to enter? Do we have courts in the UK, USA or Canada handing down sentences of flogging on Muslims who have helped others convert from Christianity to Islam? How often have Christian mobs violently rampaged through streets of major cities threatening murder because someone has drawn a cartoon of St Paul? How often have Christian courts handed down death sentences for apostasy, as did a Sudanese court to Meriam Ibrahim who, although her father was Muslim, was herself a Christian?
Owen Jones should grasp that there is a world of difference between a Muslim in Bradford being called a nasty name and a church being attacked and the worshippers inside murdered as has happened in Egypt, Indonesia, Syria, Nigeria, Central African Republic, and too many other countries.
Just why does Owen Jones think that the left must speak up about the persecution of Christians? If he had argued that persecution is persecution, whoever is the perpetrator and whoever the victim, and as such should be opposed he would have met with general agreement. However, Jones’ stress is that unless the left speaks up about the persecution of Christians it will be left to those ‘with ulterior motives who wish to hijack misery to fuel religious hatred’, those whom he describes as ‘Muslim bashers’.
According to Jones’ reasoning the left should speak up about the persecution of Christians worldwide in order to protect Muslims from insults in the West.
Whilst being glad that there is a prominent voice amongst progressives who is willing to acknowledge that Christians are persecuted we wish he had done so from motives other than trying to make a political point against those who have been vilified by progressives for standing up for persecuted Christians.
We will have moral equivalency either when Muslims stop murdering people for disagreeing with them or when Christians call for Jonathan Edwards to be stoned to death. Both events are unlikely in our lifetimes.