Once again a Guardian columnist has reacted to the latest example of a Christian in the public sphere speaking-up about what they believe with scorn and numerous mistaken assumptions. Zoe Williams’ “You ain’t no Catholic, bruv” is riddled with inaccuracies and shows a lamentable lack of research. Here’s the lowlights:
1) professing Christians should speak out more about poverty and a failure to do so invalidates their comments on other (sexual) matters: “It’s all sodomy and foetuses”. Yes, we should be concerned about the impact of government policy on the poorest and most vulnerable in our society, but Williams cannot just quote one verse (Acts 4:34) and assert that this proves the silence of politicians is damning.
For starters, the early Church realised that charity and care for one another happened best in a context of community, where individuals were accountable to one another and shared common beliefs. They were concerned enough about what might be termed “scroungers” or “benefits cheats” to warn thieves to stop their bad habits and “do something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need” (Eph. 4:28). Although I don’t think some of the terms used in this debate are helpful, I’m more alarmed by the failure of Labour & co. to challenge this root cause of poverty. In fact, the Bible even gives this simple rule: “if you don’t work, you don’t eat” (2 Thes. 3:10 – only applying to those who are able to work, of course).
Of course, the Scriptures also say much about promoting social justice with the concept of Jubilee where every 50 years debts were to be written-off. Another example is Leviticus 23:22, which introduced to our world the practice of gleaning whereby those who were struggling to find work could collect leftover crops from farmers’ fields after they have been commercially harvested or on where it was not economically profitable to harvest. This actually became a legally enforced entitlement of the poor in a number of Christian kingdoms. Christ Jesus frequently encouraged his followers to display compassion and care to those who were less fortunate, which today is reflected in the amazing actions of CAP (Christians Against Poverty).
However, it’s a very difficult task to draw lessons from the Bible for how to govern a secular society in terms of intervening to forcibly redistribute wealth. Christ’s teaching was aimed at challenging individuals to respond to the needs around them with their own resources, working together with like-minded peers. Managing the welfare state is a very different proposition.
2) the propensity of Christians to speak out about and criticise ruinous government policies on marriage and abortion: “Nobody wants Rees-Mogg in their bedroom, even if only in his imagination.” Well, on these issues the Bible is crystal clear and there really should be no debate. On marriage this foundational truth is set out in Genesis 1 – God “created them male and female” – and reiterated by Christ Jesus in the gospel – “what God has joined together, let not man separate”. Concerning abortion, Rees-Mogg is right to say that life is sacrosanct and should be protected from conception: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Ps. 139:13). This insight was thousands of years ahead of its time and has recently been beautifully illustrated by ultrasound scans.
What makes these principles so difficult to accept is sin – selfish desires that rebel against the Creator’s plan and prioritise feelings above everything else, without considering the consequences for others. Why should an unborn child suffer for the choice(s) of those who conceived him or her? A true Christian society would provide all the support and encouragement for vulnerable mothers-to-be, even in the most challenging circumstances (i.e. incest, rape), to see through the pregnancy to term. Then, there would be sensitivity and compassion shown if a decision to put the child up for adoption was saved. Of course, those kinds of situations are incredibly rare, even in the United Kingdom today, and are a drop in the ocean of death – 185,824 abortions were carried out on women and girls in England and Wales last year, the highest figure in five years.
Whilst Williams’ focuses on the more challenging questions (for pro-life activists) of incest and rape, how would she respond to the likes of Ann Freudi (CEO of BPAS) who openly support abortion on any grounds, including gender, and the fact the UN Population Fund estimates there are more than 117 million girls missing in Asia as a direct result of sex-selective terminations? Did she speak-up in defence of Aisling Hubert who sought to expose doctors in the UK willing to abort babies because the parent(s) only wanted a boy? This courageous campaigner found her private prosecution hijacked by the Crown and was then ordered to pay massive costs to those law-breaking abortionists! How on earth is this not the most outrageous discrimination?
3) what the Bible actually says about looking after God’s creation: “ardent environmentalism [is a position that it is] anachronistic to find Biblical grounds for, but I think we can easily enough imagine having God’s approval.” This displays shocking Scriptural illiteracy. Adam and Eve are commissioned to be “stewards” of what the LORD crafted for them to enjoy, caring for the earth and fulfilling its creative potential. The Psalmist David perceives that the world belongs to God and displays His glory: “Let the sea resound, and all that is in it; let the fields be jubilant, and
everything in them! Then the trees of the forest will sing, they will sing for joy before the LORD, for he comes to judge the earth” (1 Chronicles 16:23). Given this understanding, clearly God expects us to look after what He has made and is utterly appalled when trash what declared “good”.
4) “homophobia has a curious, expansionist tendency: it is never enough to simply think less of a person for their sexual preferences. There is always an undercurrent of wanting to prove that disapproval with violence, or the turning-a-blind-eye thereto” – really? Firstly, what does Williams mean by “homophobia”? This seems to include all criticism and objection to homosexual activity. If so, that’s like saying that everyone who thinks Christians are – for example – mutton-headed sheeple also wants to beat them up. Surely not!
Now, according to “Ditch the Label“, who produce a comprehensive annual survey conducted only amongst students. in 2017, 50% of those bullied say it involves attitudes to their appearance; 19% say it relates to them getting high grades, and 14% say it’s because of household income. Only 4% report being bullied because of their sexuality. The clear inferences is that you are far more likely to be bullied because of your body shape, for wearing glasses, achieving academically or for having red hair than whether you are gay or transgender. It would seem this agenda has, quite simply, been hijacked by LGBT rhetoric with money and training being poured into stamping out a mere 4% of the problem!
It’s this “us and them” mentality, the plea for privileged treatment and claim to unique victim status, as seen in Williams’ article, that actually is causing frustration and resentment to grow in our society. David Sergeant, reflecting on the redefinition of marriage in the UK to help those balloted on Australia about a similar change, lists a number of alarming consequences that have emerged since 2013 that make for terrifying reading. However, I know that true Christians will remember the words of Jesus Christ – “love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute”. So, that’s exactly what I will do: plead with the One who is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine, for His mercy upon those like Zoe Williams who misrepresent Christians, so they can advance their own agendas. May they see the Light that gives Life and turn from the road that leads to destruction.