There is a small story happening in the Scottish region of Dumfries and Galloway which tells us a great deal about what is happening the UK today.
At first glance it just appears like a minor spat that is hardly newsworthy at all. But the story and how it is reported is revealing of the current state of the culture and the church in the UK.
The basic facts are that Gideon Bibles were due to be placed in every room in the new Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary. But one person complained that this was giving Christianity preferential treatment and therefore should be stopped. The NHS board agreed and so the Bibles will not be placed – although patients are free to request them if they wish. So what does this tell us?
Atheist secularists are able to impose their views on the whole of society because the decision-makers in our culture lack both reason and courage. In what possible world can it do any harm merely to have a Bible placed in a room? It is not reasonable to claim that it gives one religion an advantage. The vast majority in that area of Scotland profess some kind of Christianity or are non-religious. It is offensive to other religions to imply that they would be offended at Bibles being made available.
When I am in a Muslim country I am not offended at the Quran being available. When I fly Malaysian airways I don't get upset when the TV unit tells me where Mecca is so that I can face the right direction when I pray. It's called tolerance. The trouble is that our militant secularists have no concept of tolerance and cannot conceive of a world in which their every diktak is not followed. They use the excuse of multi-faith to ban any expression of faith (and especially Christian faith) in the public sphere.
And 'civic society' permits this pettiness. In the UK today it only takes one atheist to complain using the buzzwords of equality and diversity and the whole establishment falls over itself to oblige the poor wee hurt soul who might just possibly be offended.
One example of this is when Perth Council banned schools using a helpful Scripture Union book on moving from primary to secondary school, just because at one point it mentioned prayer. One militant atheist complained. Result – book banned from being distributed. In this latest instance there is one complaint. Result – Bible banned from being distributed. The irony is that in the name of equality, diversity and tolerance we are becoming more unequal, less diverse and more intolerant.
The response of the church is often pathetically weak. If the remarks of the Gideon spokesperson are reported accurately then they are indicative of why we are in so much trouble: 'We discussed this and thought the last thing we want to do is to put people's backs up by being pushy, so we'll accept that.' Personally I would have thought that the last thing we want to do is give into the kind of intolerance and irrationality displayed in this bigoted behaviour.
The bad news is that the good news does often put people's backs up. Of course we don't intentionally go out to offend but the last time I looked every time Jesus and the apostles preached the good news, they seemed to get both a good and an adverse reaction. You don't 'turn the world upside down' (Acts 17:6) by not wanting to get peoples backs up. Given that we live in a society where everyone seems to spend most of their time with their backs up, if that is our yardstick our preaching of the gospel is going to be somewhat limited!
The media in general don't have a clue about Christianity. No – Christian leaders are not 'furious' because of the ban on Gideon Bibles. We are sorrowful. We are tired. We are compassionate. We care that there are many people who would actually get help during illness from reading God's word (and who would be reluctant to ask) but they will now not be able to do so. Our sorrow stems from watching our culture slide into a fundamentalist secularism that seeks to remove all the Christian foundations of our society. We know that we cannot have the fruits (tolerance, equality and diversity) without the roots, and so we mourn for the poor, the weak and the sick as we see our culture regressing into the Greco-Roman/Pagan world that Christianity saved us from.
The hospital Bible ban demonstrates that we are well on our way to becoming a Godless culture, policed by militant secularists and opposed by a gutless Christianity. It's sad that those lying in hospital sick and fearful won't be able to read about the great healer, the one who calls all to come to him and receive rest. The words of Christ as he wept over Jerusalem are surely apposite for the UK today:
'As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace – but now it is hidden from your eyes."' (Luke 19:41-42).
We share in his tears.