An Employment Tribunal has ruled in favour of Christian pastor and school caretaker Keith Waters, who was punished for a tweet that said LGBTQ pride events are harmful and should not be attended by Christians and children. He writes here about why he decided to take a stand and wants other Christians to do the same.
Over the past three years I have been asked a number of good questions about the stand I took on freedom of speech, expression and faith. Questions like, "Is it really worth it?" and "How has all the abuse and hate affected you, your family and your church?" One question which I don't think I have been asked, however, is this, "What surprised you most?"
That question is one I have been pondering on, and at different points I would have no doubt given different answers, but with the benefit of being able to look back over the various twists and turns, I would say that there are two interlaced answers.
Firstly, I must say that I was astounded to discover that there is a profound illiteracy when it comes to the understanding of even the basic tenets of the Christian faith. I sat in court and heard that the Head Teacher, Deputy Head Teacher, and Chair of the Governors were unable to articulate what mainstream Christians believe, or to comprehend why a Christian would wish to safeguard children from sexualisation and, so to speak, against events which celebrate sex. In fact, throughout the whole three years I have found that the majority of people (but thankfully not all) involved in the media, education and legal system have very little knowledge when it comes to the Christian faith.
So that's the first thing that came as a disquieting surprise to me; after all, if those running schools are illiterate when it comes to Christianity, one must wonder just what is being taught about the Christian faith and our nation's Christian heritage, and if those responsible for our media have little or no understanding of Christ and Christianity, then we must not be surprised if we're misrepresented.
The second surprise, I believe, makes sense of the first. When it comes to 'fighting the good fight' (1 Timothy 6:12) a large part of the Church in the UK, and I dare say the West as a whole, seems to be either asleep in the battle, surrendering or afraid of the collateral damage (Matthew 5:11; 2 Timothy 3:12; Ephesians 6:11). At least this is what I experienced.
I had a good solid amount of support and care from brothers and sisters across the country, but I also had a lot of conversations with Christians who were cowed or concerned, and they would say things like, 'it is best to keep our heads down and not risk offending people with what the Bible has to say', or 'but it is so difficult, it doesn't really fit in with what people want to hear'.
This may be the point that the desire to stop reading, or indignation rises in the reader's heart, but please bear with me. I write this not to discourage us, but to encourage us, because as Christian believers we have willingly enlisted in the battle (2 Timothy 2:3-4) and, on top of His abundant love, grace, mercy, joy and hope, our Lord and Captain in the battle has lavished on us all the gifts we need, all the protection we need, all the power we need, all the wisdom we need and all of the compassion we need.
As we celebrate a great common sense victory for free speech in the UK, I feel compelled to implore us to seek our Captain afresh, to look to His directions for where He will have us battle for Him, to daily put on the armour He so lovingly provides for us each day (Ephesians 6:11).
The army of Christ is made up of weak, wayward sinners, and as I know from my own life, so often we can look at the storms around us and become afraid, realise our weakness and become powerless (Matthew 14:30), but we must not! No, we must instead keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (Hebrews 12:2) and be ready to stay in the fight.
Brothers and sisters, our schools, our police, our judiciary, our media, in fact our whole society needs to see Jesus and needs to hear of Jesus. How will they if we remain silent, if we remain absent (Romans 10:14)?
If the last three years has taught me anything it is that there is such a need for the Gospel in our society, and it has taught me too that, when we take Christ at His Word and stand firm in the fight, then He does more than sustain us. He enables us, blesses us, and brings other brothers and sisters to walk alongside.
Let us be encouraged therefore, and be reminded of His call on our lives to share who Jesus is, to share what Jesus has done, and to share what Jesus is doing. I believe that when we take God at His word, then we will see a great movement for His Kingdom in this land.
So if you are on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or YouTube, then use your account to share the whole Gospel. Yes, ok, share the funny videos of pets if you must, but more importantly applaud those good things that are happening in our world and speak out against the bad things as we are commanded to do (Matthew 5:13).
Let us be confident Christians, let us shout out to the world around us that the God of Love and Justice rules and reigns, that He has things to say about the way we live, the way we care for children, the sanctity of life, that His way is the only way that any will find true joy, hope, peace and comfort in this world and an eternity with Him in the next.