Two clergymen sent the secularist ‘Taliban’ who dominate the media into fits of apoplexy this week. The preachers of liberalism and tolerance suddenly revealed that their tolerance does not extend to anyone from the Christian faith who dares comment on public issues.
The first target was the Roman Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor who dared to suggest that members of the Roman Catholic Church should ask those who sought their votes where they stood on the issues of abortion and gay marriage.
The second was Pastor McConnell of the Metropolitan Tabernacle who, commenting on the persecution of Christians across the world, especially in Muslim countries, and the use of Islam by those who committed acts of terror, gave his view on what drove this behaviour.
There were the usual cries for churchmen to keep their nose out of politics, that they were blackmailing voters into toeing the church line, and were encouraging homophobia, racism and even violence. All the usual tactics by those who praise pluralism, demand tolerance, and expect to be given freedom to propagate their belief system, but heaven help anyone from a Christian perspective who asks for the same opportunities.
The one thing I have discovered is that the most intolerant group in our society are those who flout their liberal credentials; they tend to be the most nasty, vicious and ruthless when it comes to suppressing the freedom of those who express a contrary position, especially if it is from a Christian point of view.
I listened to Father Tim Bartlett patiently justifying the comments made by the Bishop of Connor on the Stephen Nolan Show and only wished that some prominent clergymen from the Protestant churches had the same courage to resolutely argue the case as he did. His central point was that on these issues he believed that there was clear guidance from the Bible, and that the belief in the sanctity of life and the nature of marriage had important implications for the ordering of society. Therefore, they were political issues which he wished to give those who shared his faith clear guidance on. There were the usual cries of ‘you can’t impose your beliefs on others’ and this was interference in people’s right to make up their own minds.
This is an argument I have heard a number of times while canvassing during the election campaign. ‘How dare you try to impose your beliefs on me,’ demanded another angry, red faced man whose blood pressure must have soared to dangerous levels through my very presence at his door. When I pointed out that the corollary of his argument was that he expected his beliefs to be accepted by me, I thought I was going to have to send for an ambulance. As I pointed out to him, many of the good things we take for granted today in our society only came about because people brought their Christian faith into the politics of the time in which they lived.
Wilberforce brought his Christian belief, and the idea that “out of one blood God made all nations of men”, to argue that slavery was wrong and fought against the accepted view of that time to finally get laws passed which banned slavery. The drive towards free education for all children was started by churches who provided schools and then persuaded parliament to make public provision.
It was mainly politicians from a Methodist background with a strong Biblical belief in justice for the poor who formed the Labour Party and laid the foundations of the welfare state.
So it is nonsense to suggest that people should leave their beliefs at the door of the Assembly as Anna Lo demanded in the Euro election debate this week.
The truth is we all bring our beliefs into the decisions we make. It seems that the only people who the liberal tyrants exclude from this right are those who have Christian views.
The other tactic used is to brand those who dare express their beliefs as bigots, homophobic, racists, supporters of violence, any derogatory label to force others who may be thinking of speaking their mind to think again.
This is the tactic which has been used against Pastor McConnell in the wake of his remarks about aggressive Islam.
I didn’t hear all he said but I do know him well. One thing I can say is that his life demonstrates he is neither a racist nor a man who promotes violence.
His church supports hundreds of children in Africa through feeding them and educating them. Many of them will be from a Muslim or some other non-Christian background.
However, he takes no prisoners when it comes to his preaching. His congregation are not left wondering what he means at the end of his sermon.
On the issue he was addressing, the facts are clear, across the Muslim world Christians are cruelly persecuted; it is an issue which as a party we have raised in the House of Commons and which is recognised by the Foreign Office. Politicians are also struggling with the way in which young people are being recruited to commit acts of terror by Islamic preachers. Indeed one of them has been found guilty of that very crime in USA this week. These are political issues which cannot be shied away from.
People of Christian faith make up a big part of our society in Northern Ireland and I am glad that some of their leaders are speaking up on the issues of the day and I hope it will encourage ordinary members of their churches to do the same. Let them not be cowed into submission by the bigoted liberals who want to monopolise public debate.