Sir Keir Starmer has committed a terrible sin – he has blasphemed by visiting a place where one of the most sacred doctrines of today's secular society is not believed. But concerned readers need not worry – before he was dragged off to the stake, the fearless leader of the Labour Party has acknowledged his sin and repented. There is much rejoicing in Guardianista land over the one sinner who repents!
For those who don't know, Sir Keir visited Jesus House, a large church belonging to one of the biggest denominations in the UK – the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), a Black Majority Church with some 850 congregations.
But not simply a church, these past few months Jesus House has been a vaccination centre exerting an undeniable influence over one of the groups that seems most reluctant to take the vaccine. Who better to encourage vaccination among the black population?
It therefore ought to have been a great 'safe' photo op – no one could doubt his commitment to the vaccine, the community, the poor and fighting racism.
I went on to the Jesus House website to find out what they were up to. Apart from a thoroughly enjoyable and Christ centred Easter service an impressive 92 hours long, I noted that they are involved in debt counselling, a hotline for victims of domestic violence, 21 days of prayer, a French service, a prison ministry, a foodbank, hospital visits, Christmas lunch on Jesus, banquets for older people, home maintenance tasks for vulnerable residents in the community and much more. It is impressive.
So why did Starmer feel compelled to apologise? Because as well as believing the Bible and doing all these good works, Jesus House also believe what Jesus teaches about sex and sexuality - which is what Pastor Agu Irukwu and his congregation clearly do. They believe what Jesus says about marriage being between a man and a woman, which in today's world is enough to have them condemned and sent to secular purgatory.
The LGBT activists in Labour declared that Starmer's visit was unacceptable, and Starmer then deleted the video of his visit and issued the following apology: "I completely disagree with Jesus House's beliefs on LGBT+ rights, which I was not aware of before my visit. I apologise for the hurt my visit caused and have taken down the video. It was a mistake and I accept that."
But now Keir Starmer has a lot more questions to answer. For a start, if he is worried about hurt, then will he apologise for the enormous hurt he has caused to the tens of thousands of black and minority ethnic people who belong to the Redeemed Christian Church of God? What about other Christians? Or in the 'hurt' game, is it only privileged groups who get to play that card? (You can read more about my thoughts on this question here.)
Will Keir Starmer be consistent? The Catholic church, evangelical churches, the Church of England and the Orthodox Church all hold to the same teaching as Jesus House. Will Starmer not visit any of these anymore? What about Islam? Will Keir Starmer no longer visit mosques, given the Islamic teaching about same-sex marriage and homosexuality?
The stench of hypocrisy from the Corbynistas in the Labour party is overwhelming – they fanatically followed a man who 'visited' and supported Hamas – an organisation whose policies on homosexuality are many times more severe than Jesus House. Yet they demand Starmer recant and repent for even visiting.
Sir Keir's apology was an act of cowardice, intolerance, and stupidity. Did he not think that a Christian church would teach what Jesus teaches? And he is condemning them for doing so? All their good work is negated just because they do not share his particular beliefs about sex and sexuality? Can you get any more dogmatic than that? Or was he just giving into the ideologues in his own party? What kind of leadership is that?
There is also more than a whiff of Western liberal imperialism and racism about Starmer's position. He undoubtedly visited a Black Majority Church because it would look good, but he now condemns that church for teaching the Bible.
The fact is that Western liberals tend to think (though they dare not say) that most Africans are a bit less enlightened and not so far down the progressive road as they are. There is a condescension and patronising attitude of (largely white) Western liberals, which suggests that once Africans accept Western (white) 'liberal' values, then they will be truly 'equal' and deserve their place at the table.
Boris Johnson has also visited the Jesus House church – and so far, he is not backing down and apologising – although his spokesperson was keen to stress his pro-LGBT credentials. He too shared his Easter message: "If there is one thing that British Christians have shown us is that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life, not just today but every day."
Many Christians were delighted at this, but we need to stop and think. Is the Prime Minister really saying that Jesus is The way, the truth and the life? It would be quite astonishing if that were the case! If he believed that then why declare Jesus is Lord, but not do what he says? No, he is quoting the Bible in the same way he quotes the Greek classics. It's a soundbite, a form of pleasing but empty words. Like Starmer and other politicians, the PM is happy to patronise the churches when we do good works, and tell us what he thinks we would like to hear, but unlike those Jesus spoke of, he won't praise our Father in Heaven. Christians should not be taken in by visits or kind words. By their fruit you shall know them.
Returning to the RCCG. I first came across them almost 20 years ago when I noticed two black preachers in Dundee City Square being accosted by a couple of white soldiers who had returned from Afghanistan. I joined in with and defended my black brothers, and together we proclaimed Christ. Many years later the pastor of the RCCG (one of the preachers) turned up at my church and asked if I would like to come and preach in his. He never forgot that we stood together. I did and it was a joy.
Christians throughout the UK need to stand against the intolerance, spinelessness and hatred of a culture which does not want us to belong to their 'diverse' society and does not think we are equal.
We will carry on loving, serving the poor and caring for all. But we won't bow the knee to the idols of our culture, or stop following Jesus Christ. If people want to hear about diversity and equality, they can listen to the politicians or read about it in the media. If they want to see it, they can come to church! And they don't need to repent for doing so!
David Robertson is director of Third Space in Sydney and blogs at www.theweeflea.com