Saturday, December 23, 2006

religion and society

2 links today:

A Guardian online leader about religion and society, arguing for a more secular approach. Unfortunately, one might add, secular doesn't mean value free. It's because secular government and society have cut across deeply held religious convictions that Christians and other faith groups are campaigning (e.g. Jerry Springer the opera, the Sexual Orientation regulations, Debt relief for the developing world). In response, governments are now looking at partnership with faith communities.

We should also resist the secular tendency to put faith in a box: 'private morality and prayer are your own personal business, leave everything else to us.' No. World poverty, global warming, city bonuses, community regeneration, housing policy, reproductive science, health, education, war and peace, these are all issues for Christians. Because Jesus is Lord of all there is no sacred/secular divide, everything is sacred. Trouble is, because we only get quoted when we talk about sex, people think that's all the church is bothered about, and the sacred/secular divide is reinforced. I just look at the social programmes of local churches in Yeovil (food provision, pregnancy counselling, youth centre, provision for families, night shelter) to know that we're a long way towards breaking that down. However, (here's a challenge) we're good at engaging with poverty and need, how about engaging with riches and success?

And a very sobering story from Australia about 2 Pakistani Christians who fled persecution in their own country only to be persecuted again. This time, it was under the auspices of a secular law aimed at preventing religious antagonism. The effect seems to have been the opposite. We avoided having laws like this by 1 vote earlier this year.

Jesus would have been on trial much earlier if calling a Pharisee a whitewashed tomb, or telling religious people 'you are wrong because you do not know the scriptures', had sent his adversaries bawling to the law courts. If a Muslim and I cannot say to one another 'I think you are wrong and here's why', without the fear that one or other of us will take offence and go to the police, then religious debate is dead, religious tolerance is dead, and God help us.


  1. Perceptive as usual, and I especially resonate with your comment about engaging with the rich, powerful & influential - with the clear declaration of the Lordship of Jesus. Learning how to do that without being drawn into seeking 'power' (in the sense usually assumed, and as modelled by 'Christendom') is something we need to learn, and urgently.

  2. It's because churches and other faith groups are so broadly involved with with provision of support for the most vulnerable in our society that protections against discriminatory treatment such as the Sexual Orientation Regulations are necessary in respect of that support.