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  • Technorati: graph / links

    Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so


    by guest
    1st December, 2010 at 5:02 pm    

    A guest post by Hannah Mudge:

    Today Christian Concern launches its ‘Not Ashamed’ campaign. This new intiative hopes to provide an opportunity for Christians in the UK to spend December standing publicly for their faith, due to concerns that Christianity is being erased from the public domain.

    Former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey has declared his support for Not Ashamed – on its website and in national newspapers - by speaking of the way Christianity is being ‘airbrushed’ from UK life, using examples of Christmas cards proclaiming ‘Season’s Greetings’ (forgive me if I’m wrong but cards like that have been around for decades, right?) and local councils using the word ‘winter’ instead of ‘Christmas’, which as we all know is part of our old favourite – the Winterval myth – the festival which, despite having only ever happened in one city in 1997 and 1998, continues to outrage tabloid readers every single year.

    Just recently I’ve become aware that Christian Concern is a sister organisation of The Christian Legal Centre, which is, to be honest, not a group I’d want to align myself with. CLC and its director, self-described fundamentalist Andrea Williams - have been on the radar for a while but in the past few years they’ve received much more attention with regard to the debate on abortion and also due to court cases involving Christians who feel they have been discriminated against because of their faith.

    The CLC and another group, The Christian Institute, have represented some of these people – such as Lillian Ladele, the Islington registrar who refused to officiate at civil partnerships due to her beliefs and lost her religious discrimination appeal. Other cases receiving media attention in recent months have been those of BA employee Nadia Eweida - who plans to take her case to the European Court of Human Rights – and nurse Caroline Petrie, who was suspended from her post after offering to pray for a patient who was worried that others might be uncomfortable with this. Mrs Petrie later returned to work.

    The inevitable focus on these cases – primarily covered by the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail, have prompted a host of accusations that Christians are now being victimised by the law and by society, which is supposedly favouring minority groups at the expense of a faith group which has been a major part of British life for centuries. In October, a group of seven prominent clerics wrote to the Telegraph, warning that Christians’ freedom to express their faith is at risk.

    Now the groups and individuals at the heart of such court cases and campaigns are often referred to as ‘fundamentalists’ or ‘evangelicals’ and I’ve seen the two terms used pretty much interchangeably in some blog posts, particularly following the airing of the controversial 2008 Dispatches programme entitled ‘In God’s Name’.

    It’s important to be clear on this point, that the word ‘evangelical’ refers to certain doctrines and focuses of belief within the faith and is not synonymous with ultra-right wing bigotry, although many fundamentalists would also think of themselves as evangelical. Evangelical Christians position themselves right across the political spectrum and many would be keen to disassociate themselves from the views expressed by Andrea Williams et al.

    The use of the word in the pejorative sense is something very common in the US, where as we know too well the ‘Christian Right’ has wielded considerable power for many years and tends to be associated with evangelicalism. But even many key figures in the movement denounce fundamentalism, criticising the way it seems to focus more on attacking people and spreading hatred than anything else. For this reason it’s probably best to continue to refer to people espousing these views as ‘fundamentalists’ (as several of them have actually described themselves) or ‘the Christian right’.

    Christian fundamentalism in Britain certainly does not wield influence in the same way it does across the pond. But for your average churchgoer, the way CLC and Christian Concern present their views could start to look very attractive at a time when we’re faced with news stories about ‘discrimination’ and issues which hit all the emotional buttons – abortion and ‘the family’, for example. People are passionate about their faith and want to defend it, so naturally all this talk of Christians being marginalised by society and government is going to have some sort of effect.

    On the face of it, the Not Ashamed campaign seems pretty harmless, focusing as it does on declaring that you’re not ashamed to be a Christian, as support for the continuation of the visibility of Christianity in the UK. As a Christian and a person who is ‘not ashamed’ of their faith, I know many others who would say the same thing. But initiatives run by Christian Concern are not ones I wish to sign up to, because I find their bigotry and scaremongering about abortion, sex education, equality and religious freedom unpleasant and over the top. Being unashamed of my faith doesn’t mean signing up to their particular issues. I’ve got my own concerns about our nation.

    Abortion is one of the issues we’re seeing the most about at the moment. Sunny Hundal has in the past written about the links Nadine Dorries MP has with groups like CLC and how they were involved with her campaign to lower the time limit at which abortions can be carried out. Indeed, Andrea Williams believes that abortion should be completely illegal. Dorries has of course been spending the past month or so promoting her views about the highly-dubious ‘post-abortion syndrome’ and links with a group, Forsaken, which describes itself as ‘non-aligned’ but seems to be very obviously anti-choice.

    While Dorries’s integrity is being repeatedly called into question at the moment, we shouldn’t forget that she’s still an MP who’s getting her views out there and attempting to influence policy, resorting to unsubstantiated claims to do so.

    In light of all this, in a month when I’m supposed to be standing up for my religious beliefs, I’ll do so because the fact is, I’m not ashamed to be a Christian. But I’ll do so independently of Christian Concern’s campaign. I’m not ashamed to call myself a Christian but I don’t think that the mere existence of other belief systems is tantamount to the ‘marginalisation’ of Christianity. I’m not ashamed to call myself a Christian but we live in a world where many of my fellow believers die for their faith and I do not think that these UK court cases are evidence of society’s hatred for Christianity. I’m not ashamed to call myself a Christian but I also believe in equality and compassion for those who don’t share my beliefs.

    Edit: Simon Barrow has written a great piece about this for Ekklesia, which you can read here.


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    Filed in: Current affairs,Religion






    40 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. sunny hundal

      Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H


    2. earwicga

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H - Guest post by @boudledidge


    3. gwenhwyfaer

      http://bit.ly/gR1U6H Organisation behind #notashamed is allied with the insane "Christian Law Centre" (and that name is a lie in 3 ways)


    4. Paul Burgin

      RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H


    5. sianushka

      RT @earwicga: RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H - Guest post by @boudl …


    6. Anna Sharman

      RT @gwenhwyfaer: http://bit.ly/gR1U6H Organisation behind #notashamed is allied with the insane "Christian Law Centre" (and that name is …


    7. Maria S

      RT @earwicga: RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H - Guest post by @boudl …


    8. Hannah M

      RT @earwicga: RT @sunny_hundal: Blogged: : Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://bit.ly/gR1U6H - Guest post by @boudl …


    9. Tim Moore

      @earwicga @sunny_hundal @boudledidge Great article, Hannah. A good analysis on the Christian Right in the UK http://bit.ly/gR1U6H


    10. Achtung Aeon

      Pickled Politics » Airbrushing Christianity? Christianists think so http://ow.ly/1ag0N5


    11. Lee Durbin

      Two excellent posts on the Lord Carey story I tweeted about earlier - http://is.gd/i4i4C & http://is.gd/i4i5i




    1. aziz — on 1st December, 2010 at 5:22 pm  

      Leaving aside whether or not Christians are being persecuted (which itself is highly debatable) what is galling is that much of the complaints from Christians seem to be based on bigotry and the (false) notion, spread by certain tabloids, that other religious communities, especially Muslims, are somehow getting special favourable treatment.

      Nothing could be further from the truth.

    2. Don — on 1st December, 2010 at 5:59 pm  

      Well, I am personally at war with christmas and fully intend to victimise any christians I can track down.

      Seasons greetings. That’ll teach ‘em.

      But seriously, this is a bad idea. I have a number of religously affiliated friends and colleagues and if they don’t mention it, I don’t. We should keep it that way.

      But I really like Christmas. Usual Tim Minchin link.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCNvZqpa-7Q

    3. Tim Moore — on 1st December, 2010 at 6:41 pm  

      Thank you for your analysis. Although I don’t identify with evangelical Christianity, I recognise that many evangelicals are not fundamentalists, and it is important to make that clear, both to liberal people of faith and to non-Christians.

      I also agree that the campaigns of Christian Concern and the like can appear very attractive to otherwise more moderate believers. Issues such as the supposed sidelining of Christmas are highly sentimental and therefore quite powerful when being propogated by a group claiming to be Christian. The combination is potentially very dangerous, especially when the underlying claims being made turn out to be false or largely exaggerated.

    4. Shamit — on 1st December, 2010 at 7:32 pm  

      This is brilliant. Very well written and argued and balanced article.
      ****************************

      Over the last couple of weeks, commissioning of articles is getting better and better - and hats off to Sunny, Rumbold and Earwicga for getting these wicked articles on here.

      Good stuff lady and gents

      *****************************

      There are a few MPs across parties who shouldn’t be there. I would be happy to support and work for their main opponent’s campaign for free and Nadine Dorries tops the list.

      But thankfully, most of the Tory party including the higher echelons do not like her very much and everytime she says anything - they cringe.

      ****************************

    5. earwicga — on 1st December, 2010 at 7:36 pm  

      Cheers Shamit, and thanks to Hannah for the guest post.

    6. An Old Friend — on 1st December, 2010 at 7:48 pm  

      These types of religions are on their last leg. Men are making an exodus from Liberal, Progressive, and Reform sects of Christianity and Judaism. I am hearing that men are flocking to Eastern Orthodoxy. I dont know why everyone is victim queueing. Very pathetic.

    7. Soso — on 1st December, 2010 at 8:08 pm  

      Leaving aside whether or not Christians are being persecuted (which itself is highly debatable)

      Yes, barely two weeks after 58 people ( babies included) were blown away in a church in Iraq the persecution of Christians is debatable.

      Christians are among the most persectued faith group on earth, and guess who’s doing the persectution?

      Twat.

    8. An Old Friend — on 1st December, 2010 at 8:28 pm  

      @Soso

      Which would put into perspective any claims of persecution of Christiansin your UK dont you think?

      When are the Shiite going to get some love? They get blown away in Iraq all the time. Babies included.

      Personally I think its black African women who are the most persecuted. I mean at least unprincipled a holes such as yourself discuss what goes on with Christians world wide. No one seems to talk about black African women and their systematic rape and murder.

    9. earwicga — on 1st December, 2010 at 8:30 pm  

      ‘Christians are among the most persectued faith group’ in the UK Soso? The article is based on a campaign and groups in the UK. It would be reasonable to assume that aziz based his comment on the same, and that you are a twat.

    10. Sarah AB — on 1st December, 2010 at 8:48 pm  

      Yes, good post which made me think about my own reactions to some of the cases cited. Although I’m an atheist I would support Nadia Eweide (unless there’s something I’m missing here) in the same way I’d support other people’s right to wear religious head coverings at work. I would not support Lillian Ladele. I’m, as it were, agnostic about Caroline Petrie - I certainly would not welcome such an approach myself (offering to pray with a patient)but I’m glad she has been able to return to work.

    11. damon — on 1st December, 2010 at 9:11 pm  

      There’s too much religion in the opening post for me. It’s too long and there’s too many links.
      What on earth is a ”Christianist”?

    12. Rumbold — on 1st December, 2010 at 9:54 pm  

      Thanks Shamit.

      Hannah- good piece. We need more people like you to resist the Christianist tendency.

      Damon:

      I understand it as someone who pushes Xianity aggressively in the public sphere.

    13. joe90 — on 1st December, 2010 at 10:00 pm  

      Christianity has been marginalized in society that is clear.

      Christmas from what i see has become a one month long tv commercial.

      This campaign doesn’t surprise me, if the Christian community want to reclaim their day of celebration. They need to spread their message in better way, and this is mission impossible because at moment majority of people don’t listen or don’t care.

    14. An Old Friend — on 1st December, 2010 at 10:19 pm  

      @joe90

      Once you throw men out of religion than it ceases to be. Tv, shopping, etc is what women do. Christmas is a holiday for women to go into debt and have some guy pay for it.

    15. Shamit — on 1st December, 2010 at 10:55 pm  

      Yeah Joe - but you believe in the medevial values of all religions - you are not fooling anyone - and could you please explain how Christianity is any more marginalised than any other religion in this country.

      Every school that I know still have nativity plays - and Christmas is about the spirit of festivities and reaffirming the values of Christianity which is compassion, love thy neighbour not beating your chest and saying my religion is better than yours.

      So when you say Christianity is marginalised in this country - I know for a fact that it is not.

    16. Shamit — on 1st December, 2010 at 11:04 pm  

      I am sure we do not want Christians in this country going around killing people because they worked during the Sabaath.

      I am sure we do not want parents killing their children because they dared to disobey - or killing some one for wearing cloth made of two different clothes - or killing farmers for sowing two different seeds in the same field.

      Joe that kind of Christianity we do not want in this country - in fact I am sure neither does Nadine Dorries.

      So, mr. fundamentalist or loony take your pick - everytime you write something remember I would be there to challenge your flawed ideas - as I said you are not fooling anyone.

      But all the above points would go over your head as you have actually never read Leviticus - did you now my boy?

    17. aziz — on 1st December, 2010 at 11:11 pm  

      damon
      “What on earth is a ”Christianist”?”

      good question. Whats an “Islamist”?

    18. joe90 — on 2nd December, 2010 at 12:46 am  

      post #15

      well mr neo con

      christmas is one big commercial in my view and marginalised it is, this has nothing to do with superiority of one religion over another so i would give up trying to be mystic meg and also putting words in peoples mouths.

    19. Shamit — on 2nd December, 2010 at 12:51 am  

      how is it marginalised - could you explain?

    20. Don — on 2nd December, 2010 at 12:55 am  

      I am sure we do not want parents killing their children because they dared to disobey – or killing some one for wearing cloth made of two different clothes – or killing farmers for sowing two different seeds in the same field.

      I am not aware of any mainstream christians who hold with that. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    21. KJB — on 2nd December, 2010 at 12:56 am  

      This is a fantastic post, thanks Hannah!

    22. Shamit — on 2nd December, 2010 at 1:01 am  

      Don - I was having a go at Joe90 - and I was just simply using Leviticus as a reference point to have a go at him.

      And you are correct - I don’t think any mainstream Christians even think about practicing what’s said in some parts of the Old testament.

      In fact, the idea of a vengeful God is something most Christians and Churches do not really buy into.

    23. Hannah — on 2nd December, 2010 at 9:26 am  

      Don/Shamit - yes, you’re right - for the majoroty of Christians the need for the laws of the Old Testament was wiped out with the coming of Jesus. Some Christians have become increasingly concerned about keeping the Law but this tends to be confined to more fundamentalist groups.

    24. Unity — on 2nd December, 2010 at 10:22 am  

      Sarah AB:

      Harsh as this may sound, I would not have supported any the cases cited by this campaign.

      As trivial as the Eweida case may seem, had it gone to an employment tribunal she would have lost the case because she was doing nothing more than seeking special treatment of a kind not afforded to other BA employees.

      The wearing of Christian symbols is not comparable to the Muslim practice of hijab or Sihkism’s 5Ks because Christianity - for obvious historical reasons - does not regard the wearing of a cross/crucifix as an explicit religious duty.

      The Ladele case was a nonsense from start to finish but at least the perverse decision of the original ET in upholding her claim forced the case into the High Court and, consequently, provided a valuable bit of case law.

      Petrie was simply caught proselytising on the job, contrary to clear NHS guidelines on appropriate professional standards for medical staff. She would not have had a problem had she not gone into business for herself instead of politely enquiring as to whether the patient would like to make use of the hospital’s chaplaincy service.

    25. Kismet Hardy — on 2nd December, 2010 at 1:37 pm  

      Noel Edmonds

    26. Mezba — on 2nd December, 2010 at 3:10 pm  

      I see most Christians don’t follow their own laws (for example “living together” is considered adultery by the church, divorce is not there for Catholics, Mosaic dietary laws are ignored), so why do they get upset during Christmas time only?

      Jews, Muslims, Hindus who follow their religious edicts have no problem being proud of their religion. It actually means something.

    27. Soso — on 2nd December, 2010 at 5:59 pm  

      Personally I think its black African women who are the most persecuted. I mean at least unprincipled a holes such as yourself discuss what goes on with Christians world wide. No one seems to talk about black African women and their systematic rape and murder

      Look, you may be right, but I was merely responding to the lame assertion that it was debatable whether Christians are being persecuted.

      They most certainly are, but since Christianity isn’t fashionable the horriblefate reserved for Christians, especially Christian minorities in Muslim-majority countries is completely ignored.

      Muslim radicals in Iraq, for example, have openly stated they intend to ‘cleanse’ the country of its 2,000 year-old Christian community.

      So a million people are being chased out, a 2,000 year-old community is being destroyed, and there isn’t a word about it in the press.

      Aziz seems to think this is “debatable”.

    28. Soso — on 2nd December, 2010 at 6:36 pm  

      http://www.farsinet.com/persecuted/pastor_youcef_nadarkhani.html

    29. Sarah AB — on 2nd December, 2010 at 6:52 pm  

      Thanks Unity - I certainly see the logic of your positions on those issues.

      I think the position of Christians in other countries is beginning to get a little more coverage - which it certainly deserves - the blasphemy case in Pakistan has generated lots of attention of course. Clearly the UK is a different matter and I don’t think cards with ‘Season’s Greetings’ in are a major cause for concern!

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