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Protesting Christianity

With the increase in antagonism towards biblical Christianity in the UK (and beyond) so the questions – philosophical, ethical and theological – of church/state relationships and Christian protest arise.
 


MarriageIn the context of the current 'consultation' regarding same-sex marriage there is news that a group of Christians are planning a public protest at the Scottish Parliament building in Edinburgh at the end of the consultation period. One of the organisers, a church elder has been quoted as affirming "Marriage is an exclusive union of one man and one woman and the government are trying to violate our moral code."

While all who are faithful to biblical teaching, there are also questions regarding whether this manner of protest is in keeping with the Christian ethos. However with the very marked shift in legislation and public policy against Christian belief and value – along with various situations in law courts, and actions by employers and even the police – the question of the relationship between professing Christianity and the state in general is increasingly coming to the fore.

Following the Reformation division appeared between the Reformers and the Anabaptists. Although the question of baptism was at the forefront, there also appeared profound differences within these ranks regarding the extent to which Christians should be involved in the political process.

At one end of the spectrum hyper-Calvinism/Christian Reconstructionism and Theonomy  would see the job of the church as being to enforce God’s standards on society (cf Augustine/Calvin ‘City of God’ philosophy). This view was also manifest in the Anabaptist rebellion in Münster. Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, pacifist and isolationist views have produced sects such as the Amish who live 19th-century lifestyles and divorce themselves completely from the world around them. [Interestingly the Amish have their roots in the Swiss Anabaptists.]

In between these two extremes there are diverse views on the extent and manner in which Christians are allowed and/or instructed to attempt to influence the surrounding world.

Christian Witness

The ‘salt and light’ metaphors which Jesus employed would clearly suggest that Christian witness should be clearly evident (Matt 5:13-14). There is no biblical support for the sadly-common view that ‘faith is a private matter’. However in restoring the guard’s ear, Jesus demonstrated that violent responses are not the way (Matt 26:50-54): that we do not fight with the weapons of this world (2 Cor 10:4) but rather with reasoned argument (apologetics) - preaching obedient thought processes within a changed worldview (2 Cor 10:5; Rom 12:2). The zealots of Jesus’ day who sought to overthrow the invading Roman rule would not have been comfortable with these concepts; in fact they were ‘soon scattered and became a lawless band of mere brigands’.
But even in the ‘middle ground’ there are differing views on whether or not Christians should be engaged in the political process; and if so how should they engage. Some believers steer clear of the muddied waters of the political pond; others seek to bring ‘influence from within’ by joining one of the mainstream parties: yet others feel that forming discrete Christian parties is the best way to proceed.

Criteria for engagement

In a world full of violence, corruption and inequality there is ample biblical justification for responses from those who hold to the Kingdom principles of peace, honesty and justice. Whilst the deeper motives may well be highly suspect, the invasion in the Balkans and, more recently, the action in Libya, were conducted under the so-called Responsibility to Protect (R2P) philosophy. In early Christian doctrine, these actions would fit into the ‘Just War’ doctrine of Cicero which was then adopted into Christian thinking by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas. On the other hand many churchmen protested within the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament movement arguing the case against weapons of mass destruction.

Means of engagement

Regarding the ‘how’ of Christian influence again there is a spectrum of opinion. In Inverness the ‘Silent Witness’ on Easter Friday stands in stark contrast with ‘Christians’ who threaten to burn down abortion clinics. In the Highlands and Islands one prominent clergyman earned the media epithet of ‘Ferry Reverend’ in relation to the minister’s actions of lying prostrate on a ferry pier in an effort to block Sunday sailings.
 
Back in the mid-90s a group of Christian believers – leaders included – stood in silent protest outside the Highland Council’s headquarter building on the day on which local authority counsellors were due to discuss the proposal to install condom vending machines in secondary schools. In a high-profile and – for the Council, and more so the Highland Health Board – a deeply embarrassing fashion, the proposal was ditched in a spectacular volte face.
In more recent years, polite but efficacious representation from the Christian churches in the Inverness area has meant that offensive flags are no longer be flown over prominent local authority buildings.

The particpants in engagement

The very public and embarrassing predicament of English clergymen embroiled in the anti-capitalist protests at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London has pointed up the dilemma for many believers – whether or not to align with those who might have a just cause but lack Christian ethics regarding deportment and behaviour.
 
This expedient but unholy admixture of ideologies was very starkly evident in earlier protests against the military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan. TV scenes showed violent street marches comprising radical Islamists, ‘peace’ activists (including Christians) and vociferous supporters spanning the political spectrum; all marching together.
 
Co-belligerency is a very dangerous game for followers of Christ and disciples need to be very careful indeed regarding the platforms on which they stand and the associations they are involved in. [We are now seeing Anglican clergymen taking the stage with hate-mongering Islamists – all in the name of ‘justice’ in the Middle East; see video below]

Compare and contrast the following scenes
 Easter Silent Witness in Inverness 2009 
 Rev. Garth Hewitt at London rally 


Footnote:

Church/State Relationships

The four models of Church/State relationships have been described as follows –
  • The State over the Church: where Christianity is only expressed – if at all – within the boundaries of the country’s laws and constitution (e.g. The ‘Three-Self’ church in China which is effectively state-controlled).
  • The Church over the State: for instance the Vatican is a separate state ruled by the Pope/Roman Catholic Church. Essentially the Scottish Covenanters pressed for a nation which would be ‘covenanted’ with God and under God.
  • Separation of Church and State (typically in the USA)
  • Mutual interaction between Church and State with each having primacy in their respective spheres as two parallel but complementary systems. (This is the ‘two kingdoms’ view which the Scottish Reformers championed and is embedded in the Westminster Confession of Faith; Ch 23.)
Although the ‘two kingdoms’ model (above) is cherished within the Church of Scotland (as the ‘national’ church but not the ‘state’ church – as is the Church of England with the monarch as its head), the fact that there are now many other Christian denominations (and non-denominations) means that the body of Christ in Scotland cannot possibly be understood as being confined to any one grouping.
In this context the Church of Scotland has (under God) no special or unique place in the spiritual life of Scotland. However it does have a unique position within the Scottish legal framework as expressed in the Church of Scotland Act 1921 which grants the denomination immunity from civil jurisdiction in ‘matters spiritual’.
 
But any lingering notion that Scotland is a ‘nation convenanted under God’ with the Kirk as its spiritual mentor and overseer is well and truly demolished by the Scottish Governments wholly unbiblical desire to redefine marriage and the Church of Scotland’s risible failure to hold a biblical line on this vitally-important issue.

For a fuller overview of the relationships between the Christian faith and the nation/state(s) see the article:
Church and State; who's boss?

Christians Together, 15/11/2011

Feedback:
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Peter Carr 27/11/2011 20:27
Penny asked, "They may well succeed if recent events are anything to go by but what will have changed?"

Everything! What our children are taught in nursery and school will change dramatically, the whole fabric of society will quickly unravel, including other aspects of marriage eventually being redefined, ie, others will fight to have more than one wife or husband.

The governments (both north and south of the border) are about to open a can of warms that once it is opened can never be reclosed!!
Peter Carr 27/11/2011 20:40
Ooops! 'warms' should read worms
Penny Lee 27/11/2011 21:09
I agree, Tartan, I'm not saying it's a trivial thing. What I mean is that a practice which God has condemned will still be condemned no matter what official sanctioning it receives.
Peter Carr 27/11/2011 21:35
Yes, but the ramifications for everyone on this side of Judgemnet Day will run deep and wide, both now and for generations to come. We who know truth must not only stand on it, but also act on it whilst there is still the opportunity.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)"

There is a spiritual battle for hearts and minds, particularly of the young in this land. For every Christian there can only be one response, and that is;

Eph 6 "...and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist..."
David (Guest) 27/11/2011 23:14
Editor
Poss doing this in wrong place again
But I need to tell you,
To cut a long story short I find mysrlf needing to go back to God.
I need to have time with God some thing is not right, so I am ready to open myself up to God

You can delate this if you want but just had to tell you


So please bare with me
John Miller 16/12/2011 11:34
This is a copy of an email that I sent yesterday to the CEO of Tesco -

Dear Mr Brasher

As a customer of Tesco and also a committed Christian, I write to protest at the pronouncements of your Mr Nick Lansley, Head of R&D at Tesco.com., on his personal profile page on Flickr.com. He describes as "evil", Christians who oppose homosexual marriage. Homosexuals have been provided with civil partnerships if they feel the need of a legal standing in their relationship. Christians who choose to believe the Holy Bible, as well as uphold and live by its teaching cannot accept that two people of the same sex can be married. Marriage in the sight of God, according to the Bible is between one man and one woman. This is our belief because of our Christian faith and Mr Lansley's comment might be construed as hatred of Christians and the Christian faith. Marriage is clearly defined in the European Convention of Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the union of one man with one woman. I am not homophobic. Homophobia is the fear or hatred of homosexuals. I neither fear them nor do I hate them. To do either would be a betrayal of my Christian principles.

You have chosen to withdraw your sponsorship of Cancer Research UK and replace it with a donation based on the sales of a "Natural Drink" with a very sexually suggestive name, while at the same time actively encouraging and promoting the homosexual lifestyle with your sponsorship of London's "gay pride parade". No doubt this is a carefully calculated marketing strategy based on the expectation of increased future sales. Time will tell if you have been wise in making such a decision. Personally. I find this a most inappropriate product to grace the shelves of a family-friendly supermarket chain.

I have no personal knowledge of Mr Lansley or his lifestyle nor do I desire to know anything about him. I must assume that he put these comments on his personal profile page with the full backing and approval of your company. I do intend to share this email with as many of my Christian friends as possible and ask them to do the same. A few of them are listed in the Cc window above but I will make a fuller list shortly. How individuals act is for them to decide. I should say that we have a Tesco clubcard and shop at your store in Cupar, Fife. Because it is a small store our main weekly shop is with one or two of your rivals in Glenrothes, Fife. We had fully intended to transfer to the new larger store in Cupar when it is built but this change is now most unlikely unless a full apologetic retraction is forthcoming from Mr Lansley and Tesco. As a Christian I am obviously unhappy about supporting a company which actively promotes and encourages the homosexual lifestyle of a tiny minority, and its controversial activities, such as their "parade" in London.

Yours sincerely

John E. Miller

I followed it up today with another -

Dear Mr Brasher

As an afterthought to my email sent yesterday, may I suggest that you ask Mr Lansley why he did not include "evil Muslims" in his tirade against those who oppose homosexual marriage? My understanding is that the Islamic teaching on how to deal with homosexuals is fairly extreme.

John E Miller
John Miller 20/12/2011 12:29
I have received great encouragement from many Christian sources, following the publication and circulation of this letter. Many have snt their own protests to Tesco and I would encourage you all to consider doing the same. An organisation like this does not welcome adverse publicity, nor the suggestion that its customers might be pushed into the arms of its competitors by the stupidity of an employee.
andyhay (Guest) 27/04/2013 12:09
I am concerned at your use of the term 'hate-mongering Islamists' as those involved are not. You give the impression that all Islamists are hate-mongering while many in fact I would say the vast majority aren't. Yes we need to recognise that follow a false religion like all other non Christian religions but we need to avoid the media hype of seeing them all as evil seeking our destruction as that way will not lead to us being able to engage with them with the love of God and seek to bring them into His Kingdom as we should. There is no difference for us between the vast majority of Islamists, Buddists, Atheists or other group of non believers. To judge those Christians who seek to serve God and engage with them saddens me.
John Miller 29/04/2013 09:15
Andy Hay, I'm puzzled by your post. I cannot find the term to which you refer in this discussion.

However we need to be aware that according to the teaching of the Koran all who do not subscribe to the Islamic faith are infidels worthy of death, Jesus is a prophet who will one day return as a supporter of Islam and He will reveal that He never died on the cross at all. His future mission will be to convert Jews and Christians to Islam and those who refuse will be slaughtered. The Koran also teaches that anyone who claims that Jesus is the Son of God should be put to death.

While it is quite possible that all Muslims do not subscribe to these ideas, nevertheless they are part of Islamic doctrine and you will not get a Muslim to deny the truth and accuracy of what they mistakenly believe to be God's (Allah) holy book. I have had business dealings with Muslims, many of them very affable, but when you dig under the surface, believe me it's surprising what you discover.
John Miller 29/04/2013 09:25
As far as the main subject of this post is concerned, personally I have great difficulty about joining in protest with non-Christians.

I protested to Tesco as an individual Christian as did many others. Take note of Tesco's fortunes since the end of 2011. Individuals and organisations that thumb their noses at God need to realise that there will be consequences. I am no seer but I am confident that in the forthcoming English council elections the present coalition, which is anti-Christian in its general political stance will be humiliated.

The believers' weapon, individually and collectively is prayer.
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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Christian Life > Christians and Politics > Protesting Christianity