“A Reproach to Any People”
More rapidly than we realise or care to think, the foundations of national righteousness are being eroded and what God condemns as sin is being enshrined as acceptable behaviour in our statute books. The underlying cause is the philosophical and practical denial of the exclusiveness and authority of the Christian faith and its implications for the life of the nation.
Pressure groups promote the idea that one religion is as good as another or, with the National Secular Society, contend that “religious belief should be a purely private matter. There should be no state religion and the public arena, including schools, should be strictly neutral on religious matters”. A Committee Report on “Women and Fundamentalism”, narrowly adopted by a plenary session of the European Parliament earlier this year, argues that religion should “always remain firmly in the private domain of individuals”. The Scottish Justice Minister, Jim Wallace, in a photograph accompanying a newspaper article on proposals to make religious hatred an aggravation of a crime, appears beside a banner with the central motto, “Sharing of Faiths”, surrounded by symbols presumably of different religions – a photograph which speaks, more eloquently than many words, of the ignorance or denial of absolute truth in religion which motivates much current public life.
This came to expression in discussions on the law of blasphemy before the House of Lord’s Select Committee on Religious Offences. Currently the authoritative position (obviously not acted upon) is that “every publication is said to be blasphemous which contains any contemptuous, reviling, scurrilous or ludicrous matter relating to God, Jesus Christ, or the Bible, or the formularies of the Church of England as by law established” (Christian Voice Briefing Paper). The danger is that blasphemy will be defined narrowly in terms of offensiveness to the Church of England (which would soon lead to a call for its abolition), that it will be extended to cover what is offensive to other religions, or that it will be abolished.
The denial of the absolute truth of Christianity is expressed also in proposals to give same-sex couples the same legal rights as married couples. Commenting on these proposals, the Shadow Home Secretary said: “I don’t think that anybody to speak of in my party believes there is any contradiction between believing, as we do believe, in the extreme importance of marriage and its special status and accepting there are particular concrete grievances that gay couples currently have that need to be addressed in law”. The Scottish Executive are expected to take steps to implement similar provisions.
As in Israel of old, a most alarming feature of the situation is the lack of commitment, even by the professing Church and its spokesmen, to the Bible and to the absolute truthfulness and authority of the faith and morality which it proclaims – and therefore the readiness to accommodate false religion and condone evil practices. Writing this note on the day previous to the day appointed by our Synod for humiliation and prayer on account of the sins of Church and Nation we wonder if we ourselves are grieved as we ought to be for the sin which is disgracing our national life and exposing us increasingly to God’s displeasure. Addressing the Britain of 1846, Charles Bridges, commenting on the verse, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people ” (Prov 14:34), urged “the little remnant in the midst” to “take care that their personal and relative profession add to the righteousness, not to the sin, of the nation. Let them plead for their country’s true prosperity with humiliation, faith and constancy. Let them labour for her exaltation with more entire union of heart.”
The Government’s draft Communications Bill will do nothing, it seems, to lessen the stream of offensive material being broadcast on television. The Director of Mediawatch-uk said of the bill: “By abandoning the ‘good taste and decency’ principle, the Government’s ‘flexible’ approach to regulation dependent upon ‘generally-accepted standards’ could accommodate any offensive programming that the broadcasters like to transmit”.
A recent press report says that a new Government-backed study has found that “four out of five parents think TV soaps encourage the breakdown of families. They worry about too many scenes of sex and violence, high levels of infidelity, heavy drinking and an overall feeling of negativity to family life.” It is to be feared that sexual immorality, profanity and brutality will continue to be features of television.
It is high time that our legislators became seriously concerned about violence in films inciting some viewers to violence. Even the director of a notoriously violent film said in a BBC interview a few years ago: “Film is a very powerful medium, film is a drug, film is a potential hallucinogen . . . it goes into your brain, it stimulates and it’s a dangerous thing – it can be a very subversive thing”. Perhaps the Bill will be improved in its passage through parliament – but in any case (even if we do not use television) we should let our MPs know that the broadcasting of corrupting material is totally unacceptable and that we expect them to support any amendments for the strengthening of the Communications Bill.
President Bush Praises Islam
“President Bush”, says the Washington Post of December 6, “pushed ahead yesterday with his administration’s efforts to portray Islam in a favorable light, returning to the Islamic Center of Washington for a second visit to the mosque he toured in the days after the 11 Sept 2001 terrorist attacks.” He proclaimed “the peaceful and humanitarian values of Islam”. His purpose in referring regularly to Islam as a benign faith is “to demonstrate to Muslim countries, such as Pakistan and Indonesia, that the United States is hostile to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi government but not to Muslims generally”.
Many Muslims, no doubt, object to the terrorism and persecuting activities of what they regard as the extreme elements of Islam, but the deplorable fact remains that Islam is, by definition, a persecuting religion. It is a tenet of the Koran that infidels should be killed and that to fight them is to engage in a holy war, or jihad. This doctrine is the real root of the ongoing fierce, often fatal, Muslim persecution of those who adhere to some form of Christianity in African countries such as Nigeria, Sudan and Ethiopia; in Central Asia (Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan); as well as in Pakistan and Indonesia.
Never will the ancient hostility of Islam to Christianity cease until the Muslim world comes under the benign power of the Prince of Peace Himself. The gospel of Christ will yet be the power of God unto salvation to Muslims as well as multitudes of followers of other false religions. So we must ever pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth.”
Adoption by Homosexual and Unmarried Couples
It was a relief to those concerned about Christian family values when, on October 16, the House of Lords overturned by a majority of 34 the House of Commons decision to permit unmarried and homosexual couples to adopt children. However, and not unexpectedly, the Commons again voted in favour of the amendment before returning the Bill to the Lords, but it was widely expected that the Lords, on November 5, would again vote against the amendment. Surprisingly, the Lords reversed its previous decision. Although peers received many representations from campaigners for Christian family values, they voted by a majority of 31 for the amendment to give adoption rights to unmarried and homosexual couples. It appears that the homosexual lobby rallied its forces, with the result that legislation is now being enacted which flouts God’s law and is a shame to any nation, let alone a Christian nation.
Promoters of the amendment argued that there is an urgent need to find homes for the 5000 children across the country who are awaiting adoption, and that it is better for them to be raised by unmarried or homosexual couples than to be left in local-government care. However, a sad fact is being kept in the background; according to a recent article in The Daily Telegraph, many suitable married couples who wish to adopt children find insurmountable obstacles being put in their way by politically-correct local authorities and anti-family social workers.
The final vote in both Houses, although hailed as a victory for children, is in fact a victory for those who “declare their sin as Sodom”. Children and families are the losers. Our nation too is very much the loser in ignoring the fact that it is God who has ordained that families be headed by one man married to one woman. “God setteth the solitary in families” (Ps 68:6).
European Arrest Warrant Legislation
This Church has often referred to the threats posed to our liberties by our involvement in the European Union. As time passes, we see that our fears were not unfounded. The latest cause for concern is the proposed European Arrest Warrant (EAW), a piece of EU legislation which is to be enacted in Britain under the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, and will permit foreign police to operate on British soil for the first time.
Politicians on both sides of the political divide have expressed alarm about the EAW. Even the Labour chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee says, “We are not happy with the Bill as it stands and we want to see some significant changes”. The Shadow Home Secretary has warned that it will be “possible for people to be arrested in Britain for actions which are not crimes here, with the need to prove their innocence in a foreign country”.
As a nation, we forget that our civil liberties are based on our God-given religious liberties, obtained at great cost by those who fought for them. The more we turn our backs on God and His word, the more these precious liberties are being taken away. Like Israel of old we have “forsaken the Lord” (Is 1:4), and are therefore beginning to experience the judgement which came on Israel: “Your land, strangers devour it in your presence” (Is 1:7). May we be brought to heed the call of God: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil” (Is 1:16).
The Drug Problem in Scotland
The Scottish Executive has published recently The Clubbers Guide, which advises young people on the safest way to take illegal drugs, and how to cope with the bad effects of using them. Astonishingly, the Executive is not urging, or even advising, young people to avoid drugs altogether.
The latest issue of the British Medical Journal gives the results of studies among young cannabis users. The conclusions are chilling. Teenagers who smoke cannabis at least once a week are at great risk of suffering serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in later life – and the earlier they start, the greater the risk.
Plainly, the answer to the drug problem is not to give advice about the safe use of drugs (as if that was possible), or decriminalise cannabis, or attempt to cure addiction by administering methadone. We believe that Mr K Eckersley of the Campaign for Effective Treatment of Addiction has part of the answer when he says, “The drugs market is regulated by supply and demand, and the only effective reduction tools are prevention, and abstinence-based addiction cures that are effective in two-thirds of those being treated”. To say the least, those in government should loudly and clearly express the principle of the Apostle’s urgent cry to the Philippian jailor: “Do thyself no harm!”