Growing anti-Christian prejudice in the U.K. 

Barnabas Fund which works to serve and protect the persecuted church around the world has highlighted the attacks upon a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party.

 

Ed preface: Although the following article focusses on the withdrawal of Andrea Leadsom MP from the post-David Cameron post-Brexit leadership contest in the Conservative Party, reference is made to the serious and escalating problem faced by Christians in the U.K who are involved in public life and/or work for public and third-sector agencies. 
See sidebar for links to related articles on the above theme.

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Editorial: Barnabas Fund calls for a national conversation about anti-Christian prejudice and bullying

  Andrea Leadsom MP

Andrea LeadsomThis week saw one of the two candidates to become simultaneously leader of the UK’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister drop out, leaving her rival to claim the crown without any further voting. The reason Andrea Leadsom withdrew was a sustained media campaign against her that by Friday last week was being described by seasoned political commentators as “feral” and based on prejudice towards her Christian faith.

It was being claimed that her support for traditional marriage and family values, rather than wholeheartedly endorsing every aspect of the gay rights agenda, was morally wrong and that being a Christian in politics somehow made her suspect. On Friday last week, well before that campaign of abuse had reached its zenith, Paul Goodman editor of ConservativeHome the UK’s main independent Conservative website and himself a former MP and shadow minister observed:
 
“Scrutiny is one thing; prejudice is quite another.  Iain Dale was right to suggest this in his column this morning that much of the media coverage of Leadsom’s campaign has been feral.  Support for same-sex marriage is a litmus test of social acceptability among the class that helps to shape our political culture, and there is a sense in some of the reporting of her reservations about it that her position is not merely wrong but somehow wicked.  Nick Boles’s famous text to other MPs can also be read in this way. Leadsom has also been asked while being interviewed on TV if God speaks to her..”
 
"I was deeply concerned that the concerted and brutal attempt to destroy her character led directly to her resignation.”
(For more details of this see our Operation Nehemiah article). Of course all politicians have to take the rough and tumble of politics, but this went far beyond that. Following her decision to withdraw from the leadership contest on Monday, partly due to the impact on her children, former Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith observed that:
 
 “The departure of Andrea Leadsom on Monday morning, even by the low standards of Westminster leadership elections, was painful. I was deeply concerned that the concerted and brutal attempt to destroy her character led directly to her resignation.”
 
While Daily Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson asked:
 
 “What was the final straw? I think Leadsom was genuinely shocked by the poisonous attacks from forces within her own party. She said it was highly unlikely that the daily stories saying how useless/dishonest/Christian she was ‘are coincidental’ (Interesting isn’t it that no-one calls practising Muslim Sadiq Khan a ‘religious nutter’)…Well the skullduggers succeeded.”
 
That level of interference in the political process ....... is a deeply disturbing development
Even before these events it was becoming increasingly difficult for Christians to become parliamentary candidates for any of the major political parties without being seen to give at least notional assent to the “new morality” that regards traditional Christian sexual ethics as outdated. However, the level of anti-Christian prejudice directed at Mrs Leadsom took this growing exclusion of Christians from certain areas of public life to a new level by directly interfering in the choice of who should be the next Prime Minister. That level of interference in the political process in one of the world’s most longstanding democracies is a deeply disturbing development.
 
What we are seeing is indicative of a wider loss of freedom of religion, not just in the UK but across many western countries. The enforcement of the new morality has already forced out of their jobs Christian marriage registrars, magistrates on adoption panels, marriage guidance counsellors and is even being enforced on private businesses as in the case of  Ashers Bakery in Northern Ireland.
 
This disparaging of Christianity is, as Daily Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson pointed out, not directed against all religious belief, but specifically against Christianity. Indeed, one of the strangest aspects of the media coverage of the whole Conservative leadership contest, was the fact, that until the very end of that contest there was absolutely no mention whatsoever of the fact that Mrs May, who is now Prime Minister, had while her leadership rivals were occupied with the referendum campaign, quietly set up a committee to look at whether the UK should legally recognise shari‘a courts. Yet this received almost no media scrutiny at all until the leadership contest was virtually over and only then in response to a concerted campaign by women’s rights groups.  In contrast, the fact that Theresa May’s rival Andrea Leadsom was open about her Christian faith led to a barrage of the most brutal and humiliating media coverage.
 
The disparaging of Christian belief by government and governmental bodies is itself becoming directly linked to a growing trend of wider anti-Christian prejudice in society
This is clearly not a level playing field. It is Christianity and historic Christian belief that is subject to so much prejudice. What is particularly disturbing about this new anti-Christian prejudice that has been formenting for the last decade or so, is that it now operates at governmental level.
 
The UK has a proud history of freedom of religion that emerged over three centuries. Laws requiring individuals to assent to particular beliefs in order to hold public office were successively repealed between 1673 and 1871, which marks the point at which full freedom of religion was achieved. Yet, it is now becoming increasingly evident, as this week’s events only too painfully demonstrate, that progress over former centuries towards  full religious liberty is now being put into incremental, but nonetheless very evident reverse. 
 
Why does that matter? Well it matters for two very important reasons.
 
First, from the sixteenth century onwards freedom of religion gradually developed into one of the UK’s defining national values, something that also became true of other countries that emerged from it, such as the USA, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It was the reason that refugees fleeing religious persecution came to Britain, whether French Huguenots in the sixteenth century, Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust or later Ugandan Christians, such as the present Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu,  who fled Idi Amin’s brutal regime in the 1970s.
 
Secondly, as we argued in a recent editorial, the disparaging of Christian belief by government and governmental bodies is itself becoming directly linked to a growing trend of wider anti-Christian prejudice in society, which has in turn encouraged a small but increasing trend of violence against Christians. In fact, in some instances, as in the Ashers bakery case, there is a specific link between action by a governmental body – in that instance the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland -  and anti-Christian violence.
 
Both of these trends have enormous long term implications. However, the incremental way that they are happening means that many members of the wider public will be unaware of the bigger picture. The treatment of Mrs Leadsom needs to be a wake-up call.
 
That is why Barnabas Fund is calling for a national conversation in the UK and other western countries about the importance of freedom of religion as one of our most important historic national values and how we maintain it.
 
We are free to speak up for the persecuted church elsewhere because we have freedom of religion here. It is vital that we protect it.

Barnabas Fund, 16/07/2016

Feedback:
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Mini 17/07/2016 12:33
There is a wider picture here. As Peter said we should not be surprised at the fiery trials that are coming. Those trials are necessary 1) for our purification and to make us the beautiful bride who worthy of Messiah 2) To shake us free from our old selves and from the world 3) For the spread of the Gospel because God needs us to move in our new spirits and not in our old selves. Notice that when the Hebrew Children were thrown into the seven times heated burning fiery furnace, the strange thing is that although their clothes were not even singed and there was no smell of burning about them, THEIR CHAINS BURNT OFF AND THEY WALKED IN THE FIRES FREE!!

So lets stop all this “oh dear this awful thing is happening” and focus on what Jesus is doing in and through these things? Also, we need to focus on “coping strategies” and how to stop clinging to the past, the known and our own comfort zones. We need to metamorphose fully into what God has created.

JL (Guest) 17/07/2016 13:12
May, had to reward Leadsom for making the pathway clear, but her voice will be as mute as a mouse in the corner! Thats for sure!
She has a reputation of putting her foot in it, and saying and doing unwise things. However, May SHOULD have made her the education secretary, instead of a lesbian?
By all means pray for her.
(Guest) 17/07/2016 13:45
saying and doing unwise things.....should have made her the education secretary, instead of a lesbian
/
beyond help
Mini 20/07/2016 13:38
I would like to quote from "The Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun, which I am reading at the moment. Note that in China there is a state approved and controlled church called the Three-Self Church, and there are the house churches which are persecuted by the state:

“We see the Three-Self believers as caged birds. Yes, they are able to sing to the Lord, but their environment is controlled and their wings are clipped. They are free to sing only within the restrictions imposed on them. In the house churches we enjoy the freedom to fly around wherever God leads us and to sing from the depths of our hearts. We have been released from the cage and we never intend to return!
It is a known fact that birds confined in cages have a hard time reproducing. This is also true of most believers confined within the Three-Self Church structure. House church Christians love to be free, to roam around the country wherever the Lord leads them, and to proclaim the gospel to all people. Reproduction has been occurring at a rapid rate!”

There are many passages in this book which are so relevant to us, as we are on the cusp of having our own freedom restricted. I recommend this book to anyone who is feeling discouraged or wondering what God is doing.

I am not saying we should not protest against plans to restrict the Gospel, but we should be aware that God has plans. The Word of God is not bound. We should leap into the arms of our Heavenly Father and let Him take us we know not where.

I mean to say, how effective has the Church been in Britain, lately, even though she has had freedom? We must trust and not be afraid. The plans of Man and the devil will merely accomplish the Will of God. Things will be different for us, and painful, but at the same time, God will pour His joy into our hearts and we will become useful to Him instead of redundant.

We must wholeheartedly go with Him, trust and agree with Him. Let's show Him we have confidence in Him and that He can count on us for our support.
Editor 20/07/2016 16:22
I believe the persecution which the Christian church (in the UK and beyond) is experiencing is part of what God is using in His purposes. (I hope to cover this in the next 'Editor's update'.)

I will also produce a short article to highlight material which is already on the CT website on this (persecution) topic.

But for starters site visitors might wish to visit -

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/288658/Christians_Together_in/Survival_Kit/Is_the_church.aspx

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/266261/Christians_Together_in/Survival_Kit/Chinese_churches_join.aspx

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/340653/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Christians_and_Politics/Christian_Freedoms_in.aspx

http://www.christianstogether.net/Articles/258738/Christians_Together_in/Christian_Life/Small_Churches_and/The_Remarkable_Replacement.aspx
Mini 23/07/2016 11:05
Helpful links - I'll read up on them.

To give an additional comment, as I've just read the CI's article "Govt extremism plans slammed by MPs and Peers" which is part of the same onslaught: I think opposing the Extremism Bill will only postpone what is really happening, not just in the UK but across the world. The MPs who are rightfully complaining that Christians could be implicated in inciting violence, are not seeing that it goes way beyond that. Teaching a different set of moral values, or rather that there is a higher Law which should be obeyed rather than prevailing moral values, will be seen as illegal.

I may have made the point before, but the Extremism Bill is not only about inciting violence. I think, for centuries, we have been living in a kind of pause. During this time, the general concept of morals and ethics has nearly coincided with God's Laws. I believe we are coming into the age where God's Laws will be considered immoral.

Soren Kierkegaard wrote a book called "Fear and Trembling". In it, he examines the conflict between someone who has decided to obey "The Absolute" [God] and go against the Ethical. We are going to be in that position - I cannot emphasise too strongly how important it is that we understand the position we will be in. Those who choose to obey God will be considered immoral and unethical. "Those who depart from evil are accounted mad" Isaiah 59:15

The Moral and The Ethical = the majority consenting together over what is right and what is wrong. The Moral does not equal God's Law. We must understand this.

The Extremism Bill will also be about that new buzz word "Tolerance". Another buzz phrase is "British Values". To teach the bible will = intolerance and be against British Values. To call the new Morality a sin will be considered immorality. It will be unethical to say or teach that certain things are wrong. You were talking about the age of "Sudden". Well this transformation of Good and Evil into their opposites is pretty sudden, and we must not be taken by surprise. We must not be caught unaware.

We also need to have compassion on people who will become SO SICK in body and mind. God's Law is a healing law and good for people. It is medicine. People will be dying and won't even understand what they are dying of. Jesus healed the sick and cast out demons. Because that is what The Divine Word does. Oh God, have mercy on the human race who don't know the Power of the Word.
Reg (Guest) 15/08/2016 22:03
She had media problems concerning her C.V. and clearly lacked the ability to lead that very distasteful political party; but that said there are much worse things than being a Christian.
Editor 18/08/2016 13:56
Recent posts have been deleted because of (a) anonymous posters and (b) party-political postings.
(Guest) 18/08/2016 18:25
You tell 'em Ed-good on yer!
(Guest) 24/08/2016 21:42
Jonathan Edwards is a very "tragic story". Me, not being a member-couldn't comment there.
Yes J.Edwards is a very "tragic" case. And if he be not for us-then he is "against us" Mark 9.40?- therefore he is part of the "anti Christian prejudice in the UK?
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