Christianity marginalised

(Photo: Getty/iStock)

Western civilisation is built upon a foundation of Christianity. It is no coincidence that as Christianity fades in the West so do those values which have distinguished the West: tolerance, freedom of conscience, the value of all life and personal responsibility. Those values which we have taken for granted are in serious danger, and the more Christianity is pushed out of the national conversation the greater the danger.

Growing Intolerance

The abandonment of toleration as a civic virtue is deeply troubling. There is evidence of increasing intolerance, harassment and discrimination being shown to Christians in Britain today. It is important that Christians wake up to the growth of attacks on British Christians and our beliefs before it develops into something much worse.

A survey of more than 1,500 people conducted by the conservative Christian organisation Voice for Justice UK has reached the conclusion that people who hold biblically orthodox Christian opinions are being increasingly marginalised and treated with contempt within society. This growing hostility, at times amounting to 'Christophobia', or anti-Christian hatred, is evident in every sector of British national life.

Amongst the Young

Worryingly, the report indicates that social discrimination is most acute amongst the younger generation, those who have gone through the progressive-influenced school and university system. Fifty-six per cent of the respondents affirmed that they had personally experienced hostility and ridicule when they attempted to discuss their Christian beliefs, but this rose to 61 per cent amongst young people. More than half of under-35s felt there were negative stereotypes of Christians at their place of work. Thirty-eight per cent of Christians under 35 felt their freedom of speech was restricted, leading to self-censorship.

Hierarchy of Protection

Unsurprisingly the report indicates that the strongest opposition came when Christians revealed they did not go along with the beliefs of the LGBT-etc movement. According to the Equality Act 2010 there should be no hierarchy in the list of nine protected characteristics: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation.

However, it is evident that amongst the characteristics protected by legislation there is a clear hierarchy with all things LGBT reigning supreme, closely followed by race. Seventy-eight per cent of respondents said they believed religious discrimination was not treated as seriously as other forms of discrimination.

Many respondents noted that Muslims were being treated with 'a greater sensitivity' than Christians, with any criticism of Muslims perceived and treated as a form of racism.

The Barnabas Fund in evidence to the House of Commons has highlighted the plight of ex-Muslims being attacked. Attempts of 'forced reconversion' to Islam are widespread in the UK for Christians who have converted from a Muslim-family background, or Christians who come from Muslim majority countries. Tajamal Amar, a Pakistani Christian who had fled Pakistan after being shot for refusing to convert to Islam, was 'knocked out and left with a broken nose by a gang of "Muslims" in Derbyshire who attacked him for displaying a cross and poppies on his car'.

Official Discrimination

Most concerning of all is how anti-Christian attitudes and actions are being perpetrated by the organs of the state. When official institutions discriminate against Christians there is created an atmosphere where anti-Christian prejudice appears acceptable and even encouraged.

The report found that 'children expressing Christian beliefs would be bullied by pupils and intimidated by teachers' and that 'Christian teachers were required to teach materials which went against their faith'. Schools are teaching progressive ideology to Christian children even when their parents object.

This is not confined to state schools: the mainstream churches are complicit in rejecting Christian social mores. Church of England guidance telling primary schools that children as young as five can be transgender was funded by Stonewall. The Catholic Herald is of the opinion that 'progressive ideology has replaced Christianity in many of our Catholic schools'.

It seems almost routine that Christian street preachers openly promoting the gospel are arrested under the Public Order Act after being reported by LGBT activists for supposed 'homophobia'. It appears that the police automatically believe the allegations of homosexual activists. Criticise Islam and the police might arrest you on the word of a Muslim or woke activist.

Perhaps the most frightening incident of official discrimination was not a physical attack or stream of abuse but rather the actions of the police and Crown Prosecution Service in Northern Ireland. In 2015 James McConnell, minister of a large Presbyterian church in Belfast, was prosecuted for stating in a sermon that he believed that Christianity was the only way to God and that other religions such as Islam were a satanic deception. Mr McConnell was acquitted after a liberal Muslim friend spoke up defending his right to express theological disagreement. It is disturbing that the police and Crown Prosecution Service thought it likely that they could secure a conviction for hate speech against a Christian minister for expressing a theological critique of Islam during a sermon in church.

In circumstances of acquittal like this, the process becomes the punishment. A police arrest and the subsequent charge and wait for a trial, the expense of lawyers, the constant worry, the disruption to congregational life, all these have a chilling effect and lead to pressure about speaking out again. Christians should be seriously concerned that this is possible in the UK in the 21st century.

The Voice of Justice UK report concludes that 'there is growing concern that the ability of Christians in the UK to practise and manifest their faith in public is deteriorating'.

Despite all the evidence we wait in vain for any politicians referring to the rise of Christophobia. Just as we wait for any of the mainstream denominations expressing concern that society as a whole has fallen into the grip of a progressive ideology which is actively hostile to Christianity.

Campbell Campbell-Jack is a retired Church of Scotland minister. He blogs at A Grain of Sand.