A Crooked and Perverse Nation
There is no doubt that our nation is perverse – “deliberately or stubbornly departing from what is reasonable or required”. And to pervert is basically “to turn aside (a person or thing) from its proper use or nature”. Like other Western nations we have evidenced this by, for example, rejecting God’s requirements for family life and human procreation, and by adopting such procedures as artificial insemination by donor (AID), donor-assisted conception, in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), and social abortion.
Further proof of perverseness is seen in the Government’s proposals to hand out free contraceptives to schools in England and Wales and to allow same-sex couples and cohabiting couples to adopt children. Suitable married couples wishing to adopt children see perverseness upon perverseness in finding obstacles put in their path by politically-correct policies. We see perverseness too in the Scottish Executive proposal that schoolgirls be given the “morning-after pill” by school nurses without parental consent.
With perversion comes confusion and distress. This was highlighted last month when a white couple in the UK had black twins born to them after fertility treatment – a case similar to that of white woman Mrs Wilma Stuart who in 1993 gave birth to twins, one white and one black, after she and her white husband were treated in Utrecht.
All these evidences prove us to be “a crooked and perverse nation” (Phil 2:15). Surely God is saying to our professedly-Christian nation, “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” (Matt 17:17). “Wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” (Acts 13:10). Those with political power and wealth may feel confident and comfortable in opposing the right ways of God, and regard with contempt those who follow those right ways, but we can rest assured that “better is the poor that walketh in his uprightness, than he that is perverse in his ways, though he be rich” (Prov 28:6).
Evil Exploitation of Capitalism
The current crisis in American capitalism surely illustrates and confirms the Scripture statement that “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Corporate fraud often involves leading figures in companies manipulating the accounts in order to enrich themselves further at the expense of others. It would appear, at least in some cases, that such manipulation would not have been possible without the connivance of auditors and others who were supposed to monitor these dealings. The breach of trust was enormous and now their sin has found them out.
A professor of economics at Princeton University, writing in The New York Times, maintains that some members of the Bush administration have been deeply involved in shady dealings and that, if his past business career is closely examined, the probity of the President himself may well be called into question. Professor Krugman is of the view that Bush’s threat to mete out extra punishment to executives guilty of fraud is an empty one. “Top executives”, he writes, “rarely get charged with crimes. . . . Accounting issues confuse many juries; expensive lawyers make the most of that confusion; and if all else fails, big-name executives have friends in high places.” If this is the case, then the situation is indeed sad and analogous to that found in another nation long ago where materialism had taken over: “And judgement is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter”.
The way the wind is blowing in our society may be detected from such straws as the reaction in newspaper correspondence columns to a letter complaining of the Queen’s Jubilee visits to places of false religious worship. The responses included the usual assertions that the different religions are worshipping the same God in different ways and that the allegedly multi-faith and multi-cultural character of Britain is a strength and will contribute to bringing diverse elements of the human race together. The usual accusations were made of bigotry and of the responsibility of “religious fundamentalists” for the atrocities which have taken place throughout the world. The increasingly-prevalent viewpoint was expressed that opposition to the countenancing of false religion is “nothing more than poorly-veiled racism, disguised by religion”. It was suggested that critics of the Queen’s action were using religion to justify racist beliefs and that, while “everyone has the right to free speech”, freedom of speech “is not an absolute right if it is considered to be an incitement to racial hatred”.
Once again we see the danger to freedom implicit in the abandonment of belief in absolute truth and, in particular, the absolute truth of Christianity. There is a very real danger that criticism of false religion, be it Romanism or Islam or any other, will be silenced, whether by law or by moral intimidation – using accusations of racism, bigotry or sectarianism. The fact that most Scottish Romanists in modern times were of Irish extraction has been used to brand all opposition to Romanism in Scotland as an ethnic phenomenon. Although not necessarily doing this, Callum G Brown, in Religion and Society in Scotland since 1707, has written that in the early twentieth century “virulent sectarianism was being enriched with racist eugenics”. In such a context it is easy to brand as racist all opposition to religions such as Romanism, Islam and Buddhism which in this country are largely dependent on immigration for their existence and growth.
Our opposition to religions other than Biblical Christianity is free from racial prejudice. We believe that God “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:25,26). It is a reality to us that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28). We rejoice in the prospect that “they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God” (Luke 13: 29). Our opposition to false religion is based on the absolute truth of the Bible and on the claims of Christ, who said: “I am the way, the truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 14:6). It is characterised by concern for the well-being of our nation, which depends upon the favour of God, and by concern for the salvation of the souls of those who are held in bondage by systems of belief which divert sinners from the only way to heaven. “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt 7:13,14).
Religion and the World Cup
The matches played by England’s footballers in the World Cup brought many of the country’s workplaces to a standstill – football was so important for vast numbers of people that what is essentially a trivial activity took precedence over their normal work. It may be good exercise for youngsters, but surely grown men and women have better things to do than to become engrossed in the success or otherwise of 11 men kicking a ball about a field.
Interest in football very easily becomes idolatry – a fact emphasised by how easily the expression football idols trips off the tongue. Particularly serious examples of such idolatry were prayers composed by Rev Jeremy Fletcher, who is, ominously, a member of the Church of England Liturgical Commission. Intended as lighthearted pleas for success for the England team, they were flippant parodies of the Scriptures. What understanding does such a man have of the One who is the great God of eternity, who ought to be approached with holy reverence?
Also perplexing is the fascination for the World Cup series which the Free Church minister of Dundee, Rev David Robertson, shows in an article on his Church’s website. He begins: “I am living in the midst of a nightmare. I find myself in central London, having left an English pub, crowded with very excited English people. Why should that be nightmarish? Because England . . . have just beaten Denmark 3-0 in the World Cup second round. I would like to join in the general mood of rejoicing – but find it impossible. I have tried, but I was so keen on Denmark winning that I bought a pint of Carlsberg and a Danish – just to show my solidarity with Olsen et al.” And so the article goes on except, somewhat incongruously, for a little religion at the end. Is this the image the Free Church wishes to present to the public – of drinking, football-loving clerics? Are ministers not directed to be “an example of the believers” in word and life (1 Tim 4:12)?
Disregard of the Sabbath
The Sabbath opening of shops has, sadly, become commonplace in the UK. It is even sadder when employees are dismissed for refusing to work on Sabbaths, as has been the case in an Argos store in Aberdeen, where nine members of staff have lost their jobs.
We trust that at least some of them have made this stand on scriptural grounds. If that is so, we can expect that God will show once more that He is no man’s debtor, for He says, “Them that honour Me I will honour”.
The vast majority of people consider the Sabbath a suitable day for doing their shopping. Were it not for this, no stores would open on Sabbath; it would not be profitable to do so. Our society has made money its god. It not only rejects the spiritual blessings which the Sabbath brings; it also ignores the temporal blessings of a Sabbath rest. May the Lord come to this generation in the power of the Spirit to convince sinners everywhere of His authority as the law-giver and so bring them to feel their need of the gospel! Then we would see the Sabbath truly observed, and valued, by employers and employees alike.