Sunday 1 April 2007

At last a sensible Christian voice on 'secularism'

Canon Dr Judith Maltby, the chaplain of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and a Reader in church history at Oxford University, takes the heat out of the 'aggressive secularism' debate, and at the same time restores one's faith in liberal, thoughtful Christianity, in her 'Face to faith' column in yesterday's Guardian. Reminding Christians that their prayers on Good Friday will include remembering those who are persecuted for their faith, she affirms: 'It is right that Christians in the west should pray for our sisters and brothers in parts of the world where the religious liberties we take for granted are scarce'. But she adds:

There is a growing view, however, that Christians in the UK are suffering persecution. In the debate over sexual orientation regulations, the removal of the right to discriminate is being presented as a form of discrimination. One leading conservative Christian critic of the regulations recently wrote: "The Berlin Wall may be down, but Lenin rules in Whitehall".

As I said in earlier posts on this topic (here, here and here), this point of view has become increasingly strident recently and (disappointingly) not just among Conservative (or conservative) Christians. But Canon Judith's response cheered me up no end:

I cannot be the only Christian in Britain who detects a lack of proportion in the protestations of "persecution" and an erosion of "religious freedom" because some Christian B&B owners will be forced to take money from gay couples (of whom some will be Christians themselves). In a world of genuine suffering for religious beliefs - at times with the support and collusion of church leaders, including some Anglicans as in Zimbabwe - this sort of comment seems at best self-indulgent and in poor taste.

I hope Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor and whoever writes the Tablet editorials read The Guardian and have taken note. Dr. Maltby goes on to argue that Christians should also pray for those who are persecuted in the name of Christ, and she has in mind those American Episcopalians who have been 'subject to cheap jibes about trendy liberalism' (not least for their support of gay clergy) from some of their co-religionists.

No comments: