Recently, Barnabas Fund has drawn attention to the increasing hostility to evangelical Christians that has characterised some sections of the media and even some government institutions. Over the past 12 months we have seen Christian politicians asked overtly theological questions and attempts by some mainstream media in the recent UK general election to ”out” parliamentary candidates as Christians, declaring them “unfit” to hold public office because they held mainstream Christian beliefs such as believing in miracles.
In other words, a significant parallel is now developing between how gay people were treated by the press a generation or so ago, and the way that evangelical Christians are now being treated by the media and some sections of government.
One of the reasons for this is that the ideological beliefs of social liberalism are now being treated as a litmus test of social acceptability - not by society at large, but by a large part of the political and media class. Some social liberals are attempting to hijack the definition of extremism to foist their own sectarian ideology on wider society and brand anyone who disagrees with it, including evangelical Christians, as “extremists”.
This week The Spectator drew attention to the risk, pointing to a poll that the Evangelical Alliance recently conducted on what people regarded as ”extremist”. The Spectator observed,
“The reason for this poll is the Evangelical Alliance is worried Christians will start getting hammered again. They believe the liberals will use this ominous commission to outlaw a fairly large proportion of what they believe in (and indeed, what the Bible tells them to believe in). That the strangle-hold which the middle-class liberal elite have over our culture and society — without having anything close to hegemony — will be tightened still further, and their views marginalised or even criminalised. And the excuse given will be they are trying to stop us being blown up, or stabbed to death on London Bridge. That’s my worry too — that in order to placate the sensitivities of the adherents of a recently imported culture, the beliefs of indigenous people will be proscribed. When there is not the remotest comparison between them.”
This week, the attempt to impose socially liberal ideological beliefs on wider society took a further turn. Four years to the day since the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act became law, the Prime Minister urged churches to “reflect” on marrying gay couples. This was despite a much-heralded “quadruple lock” promised to churches when the bill was passed to protect them from being pressured to do so. Four days later, Education Secretary Justine Greening urged the Church of England to “keep up” with the modern world and reflect “modern attitudes” by conducting same-sex marriages. She also announced a range of other socially liberal measures including plans to “streamline and de-medicalise” gender changes. In other words, Ms Greening wishes to abolish the legal requirement that anyone who wishes to change their legal gender must be medically diagnosed as having a medical condition known as “gender dysphoria”. Instead, people will simply be able to choose which gender they wish to legally have – and the rest of society will be legally obliged to treat them as that gender.
Needless to say, that is a colossal ideological change being imposed on society without having been included in any election manifesto. To make it worse – the consultation Ms Greening promised is actually a survey aimed exclusively at LGBTI. In other words, as was the case with the consultation on same-sex marriage – which asked “how”, not whether, the government should introduce it. This is a consultation that effectively excludes evangelical Christians.
It is precisely these sort of government actions that marginalise, and actually generate prejudice against, evangelical Christians. In fact, as both Barnabas Fund and other media have previously reported, such actions by governmental bodies have sometimes been followed by threats and actual acts of violence against those such as evangelical Christians, church leaders and MPs who have voiced moderately expressed disagreement with these proposals, being subjected to hate mail, death threats and even violence.
The Education Secretary, who is also the minister for “equalities,” needs to wake up to the fact that evangelical Christians are now being treated with a similar level of prejudice to that which gay people experienced one or two generations ago.