Thursday, October 13, 2011

Stop persecuting yourself

I don’t know what a Centre for Transatlantic Affairs is, but it’s director has written a particularly insipid article for the Huffington Post which says Christians in the UK are being persecuted by an increasingly secular society.  Well he problem is the usual one, isn’t it?  Christians think they’re being persecuted if they aren’t heaped with undeserved respect.  Secular societies are naturally going to strip away some of this privilege in favour of, you know, actual fairness and so Christians will surely decide they are being persecuted.  My heart does not bleed.

For anyone who follows the British media's reporting of American politics, the continuous attempt to run down certain American politicians on account of their faith rather than engaging with their politics has now become a rather boring familiarity.

When I first read this, I had a hard time working out what the guy was on about.

Bush and Palin are crazed evangelical fundamentalists we are forever being told, oh yawn, is this kind of cheap and lazy defamation really what we have to make do with for journalism?

Oh…. Bush and Palin…. Well… I guess we did run them down based on their crazed fundamentalist evangelism…. but they’re hardly very relevant now, are they?  And that’s rather the point: Obama is a Christian, but we don’t tend to attack him for it.  We were disparaging and – let’s face it – scared of people like Bush and Palin because they are batshit insane, not solely because they are Christians. We ran them down because they manifestly wanted to turn the planet into their own personal brand of theocracy.  That’s plainly and obviously crazy and that’s why we found them problematic.

Yet what is far more concerning is what is happening to Christians here in our own country. It is only when one steps back and takes an overview of the litany of cases where Christians have been discriminated against for their religious convictions, that it is possible to appreciate what resembles a sustained assault against the Christian communities in Britain.

These guys never say who’s doing the attacking or why, do they? Nobody’s more atheist than I am, but I have no interest in attacking Christian communities in Britain and I don’t know anyone who does.  But let’s have a look at all these attacks, shall we?

Whether it is the case of the nurse who was suspended for offering to pray for a patient, the van driver who faced disciplinary action if he refused to remove a palm cross from his dashboard, the couple who were prohibited from fostering because of their Christian beliefs or the supply teacher who was dismissed when she mentioned praying for a child's family. The list goes on and on.

Seriously?  The list goes on and on and these are the best examples?  Even if those stories were as true as they are presented here (they aren’t) then they would hardly constitute a ‘sustained attack on Christian communities’.

It is as if there is a systematic effort to extrapolate British society from its Christian heritage and the values that have for centuries served as a basis for British culture and identity.

Well that’s embarrassing.  But in any case, it isn’t like that at all. Nobody argues that Christianity isn’t culturally important.  Nobody’s trying to marginalise Christians.  We secularists want to marginalise the impact of Christianity – and all religion – on public life, but few of us are interested in attacking Christians, Christian heritage or anyone’s values.  The latter claim, by the way, is especially strange.  How can an attack on values be extrapolated (see what I did there) from one man’s employer telling them not to display a cross?  He hasn’t thought this through.

A systematic effort would imply that we all get together to work out how best to hurt Christians.  I must have missed the meeting where we all decided to ban that guy’s cross and tell the nurse off.

Those who have been responsible for these moves have often advocated for them on the grounds of creating a more secular and therefore a supposedly more inclusive and pluralistic society for everyone.

Have they?  Is that what the cross-banning employer or the hospital were trying to do?  Besides, how can increased secularism possibly be less inclusive, as he implies?  All it can possibly mean is that the religious end up having the same amount of influence on public life as everyone else.

Yet it is hard to escape the fact that it has often been the very same people who have promoted secular values when it has come to driving out Christian aspects of public life, who have simultaneously lent their support for the establishment of a parallel religious legal system in the form of Sharia law courts.

Who are these people?  I don’t know of anyone who simultaneously promotes secularism and the introduction of Sharia courts.  Neither does Tom J Wilson, apparently, since he doesn’t name names or explain his astonishing claim further.

Instead, he turns it into a case of fatwa envy:

How is it that the media has often lambasted Christian individuals who have found themselves dismissed from work or even in court on account of their views on sexuality and yet concurrent to this we hear so relatively little about those hard-line Islamic preachers who have openly preached hate over issues of gender and homosexuality, issues that the liberal press claims to champion.

He proceeds to compare some apples with some oranges and decides for no particular reason that this is proof of systematic attacks on Christians by unnamed forces.

It is as if Christians and their faith have become fair game.

This is the crux of Wilson’s argument and the basis of his misunderstanding.  Christians are fair game.  So is everyone else.  That’s what secularism is about.  Nobody gets unfair influence and nobody is protected from ridicule or offense because of their religion.

Those who cannot bring themselves to understand this will naturally also prove unable to appreciate what it means to actually be British and our society will continue to suffer from the chronic loss of values and any sense of purpose that currently seems to be at the heart of so many of the social challenges that we now face.

That’s a nice little tidbit to through in at the end as though it were an unassailable fact.

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