Rt Rev Vincent Nichols is dead right: Christians are not persecuted in the UK

I wholeheartedly agree with the archbishop of Westminster Rt Rev Vincent Nichols who is quoted in the Guardian as saying:

I personally don’t feel in the least bit persecuted. I don’t think Christians should use that word.

Absolutely right.

In fact, if Western Christians are to self-define as “persecuted” then we need a new term to coin the brutalisation of Christian minority groups in Islamic lands and elsewhere.

Nichols goes on to say:

“what might have started out as an acknowledgement of a variety of religious and philosophical positions has produced a seeming determination to tear the legal and therefore cultural life of the country away from its Christian roots.”

Again, absolutely right. And I will be the first to acknowledge that the secular agenda is on the ascendancy in the UK. However, this still does not equate to “persecution” in the true sense of the word.

It is entirely possible of course, that the UK Christian ‘persecution narrative’ is based on a subjective perception that we are witnessing the thin edge of the wedge, and I think this is the very heart of the matter. UK Christian persecution anxieties are not so much based on current events, but on the perception of what may be on the horizon. We can see a slippery slope and it makes us edgy.

Let me elaborate on the UK Christian “persecution narrative” as I see it. I believe it is a self-reinforcing group narrative within which subjective perceptions are evidenced as an objective reality. Firstly, you cite a few recent high profile legal cases. Any that were successful prove the encroaching persecution; any that were unsuccessful prove the anti-Christian bias of the law courts. Either way the narrative is affirmed and the lawyers make money.

All of this “evidence” of persecution perpetuates the narrative, leading to a subcultural “moral panic” that potentially precipitates a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Many outside of Christianity perceive Christians to be lamenting the loss of a privileged position and status within our culture, rather than anything else. Sometimes I can’t blame them. Many of the recent high profile Christian ‘persecution’ legal cases have revolved around the ‘Equality’ laws and many in society are annoyed, as they perceive Christians as believing they should be exempt from such laws. Yesterday Sir Trevor Phillips, the Head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, was quoted as saying:

…..the law stops at the door of the temple as far as I am concerned.

Of course, this cuts both ways.

The crux of Phillips’ argument is that it is only inside a church or religious institution that believers can apply their own rules. Phillips also makes the argument that if we make exceptions for Christians, then we need also make exceptions for others; for example, the implementation of Sharia law. There is a logic to this in my mind.

In truth, no government will really be able to legislate for ‘offense’ or ‘equality’ for everybody, as it is inevitable that as a result of these laws, some will actually become discriminated against. Personally I believe the government should legislate as little as possible in this area of life.

Given the hostility of the world towards Jesus, should we always expect the world to be nice and friendly towards us? Is this even a healthy state of affairs for the Church, as it can potentially foster complacency and too much involvement in worldly affairs?

The truth is, if we define ourselves by our victimhood, we have a massive problem, as we ape the society around us, which is dominated by a hierarchy of victimhood.

In conclusion, I will state that I personally don’t feel that I belong to a beleaguered minority; we’re everywhere and I think Christians need to be more confident about who we are.

UK Christians need to stop using the word “persecution” for fear of devaluing the term. We may experience areas of discrimination, belittlement, exclusion, and so forth – Who doesn’t – but this is patently and qualitatively different to persecution.

Anyway, when did Jesus say it would be an easy ride?

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9 Responses to “Rt Rev Vincent Nichols is dead right: Christians are not persecuted in the UK”

  1. Nancy Wallace Says:

    If as UK Christians we actually do belong to a ‘beleaguered minority’ then we should be acknowledging our failure to evangelise this county. We will not communicate the good news of the gospel by fighting for our ‘rights’ in the courts. Some of the sillier cases have the opposite effect. Christians are not persecuted in the UK. We are not in danger of imprisonment, torture or shooting for being Christian or for assembling to worship. A hostile or marginalising attitude towards Christians is a far cry from persecution.

  2. webmaster Says:

    Totally agree Nancy…

  3. Daniel Mann Says:

    If you stand in the eye of the hurricane, you will not feel the wind. If you stand in the center of your culture, you will not experience its offense. If your Christian faith has been co-opted by the prevailing culture, you will not understand the cries of those caught up in the hurricane.

  4. Goy Says:

    In hoc signo vinces†

    “In fact, if Western Christians are to self-define as “persecuted” then we need a new term to coin the brutalisation of Christians minority groups in Islamic lands and elsewhere.”

    Is one of two slaves not a slave because he has no chains? Is the slave without chains a freeman because he is without shackles?

    The shackling of the christian mind in the West is the forging of the chains of dhimmitude and brutality for christians elsewhere in the World.

  5. Lazarus Says:

    Glad to see you back home and blogging again!

    I’m not sure if ‘persecute’ is the right word. But I think it’s pretty close to it and certainly hints at the urgency and difficulty of the task before us.

    I think the key issue here is the place of Christian morality in the public sphere. Until recently, it was accepted that the UK was a country whose moral ethos was based on Christianity. Now the view (certainly in law) seems to be that our moral ethos is based on whatever people happen to want at the moment and Christians are just a small group of people who have to find some accommodation with that ethos.

    Call it a loss of privilege. Call it persecution. I’m not sure it matters. But as Catholics, we should be clear that a) Christian morality isn’t just the rules of the club for signed up religionists, but simply the best way for people to live fulfilled lives (ie it is based on natural law); and b) if we can’t convince enough people of this, we need to fight for private spaces in this society (schools, Churches, homes) where we as Catholics can live and bring up our families according to the correct view of human flourishing.

  6. Tim Says:

    This appears to be a rather appropriate post to link to Cranmer’s latest offering: Cranmer

  7. Gillan Scott Says:

    I do get tired of Christians complaining whenever someone challenges the perceived right that this country should be totally Christian because of our Christian heritage. Those who think Christians are persecuted in this country don’t understand what real persecution is.

    I do believe that our country will be better of if we follow Christian principles, but that is because to me they are a strong foundation for a just and moral society, not because of some sort pf belief in tradition.

    I’m not interested in people moaning if they are not willing to do anything about their complaint, but I have great respect for those who are proactive in trying to live out the gospel in ways that will benefit our society and will support them if they get attacked for it.

  8. Daniel Mann Says:

    Gillian,

    In your blog, you appropriately wrote, “As a Christian I am desperate to find God’s will for this but also to treat all people with love and respect whatever their viewpoint.”

    Do you find anything inconsistent with this and what you wrote about Christians who who find their freedom and means of support threatened when they try to live out a faithful Christian witness: “I do get tired of Christians complaining whenever someone challenges the perceived right that this country should be totally Christian because of our Christian heritage.”

  9. Graham Goldsmith Says:

    Persecution is clearly an inappropriate word , we can say marginalisation in areas where Atheists/ secularists care to take issue.Mostly nobody is bothered. Religious prejudice i think is more common has always been there in a benign way but is now clearly politicised fostering a seeping drip drip alienation of the christian world view. Despite some very chronic social problems we have failed to advocate kingdom principles and a ”choice” culture is naturally attractive and people don’t make the link between the personal problems they suffer with a loosening of Christian values and a spiritual vacumn. I get fairly depressed at dismissive, unthinking stereotypical comments made against christians but this is partly because we havn’t challenged them,yet a core will always believe God is just a fairy tale spawning a set of controlling oppresive rules. Fear for the future is a real reason for christians using the term ”persecution” innapropriately . Will our faith be seen as unacceptable as Racism or Sexism or forever be branded homophobic? I think there is a danger if we dont explain ourselves clearly after all we have seen social attitutes shift very quickly in what is a media driven age.We should’nt project ourselves as victims but we must also be realistic about the political changes taking place in our country and there may come a time when we need to be more proactive. I disagree entirely with Trevor Phillips and his Sharia argument. Its a Red Herring. Its impossible to make an accomodation between womens rights and Sharia law particularly where the woman herself objects. The case say of a registrar who wants to hold her Christian conscience in an office of 16 registrars however is different, a reasonable accommodation can be made for her and the same sex couple still get the service to which they are entitled. We can never have an absolute right in those situations but a more equitable balance of rights need to be legislated for. The state should be facilitating space for various personal identities not imposing a heiarchy of rights or limiting personal choices through the courts. We shouldnt dismiss those recent cases against Christians either, it is unjust for them and their experience may well become more commonplace in the future.

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