Giles Fraser: Defending the faith from its cheerleaders

by
15 December 2010

NO, I am not ashamed of the gospel. But I am more than a little ashamed of the Not Ashamed campaign (News, 3 December). It comes across as just more complaining from the usual suspects. Can’t they see that most people will find it hard to take seriously anyone who continually bangs on about the existence of Christianophobia from the priv­ileged benches of the House of Lords? Once again, Lord Carey and his friends have got it badly wrong.

Furthermore, what many people suspect — and they are probably correct — is that this sort of cam­paign is motivated by a very narrow band of ethical concerns, led, once again, by a visceral disgust at homo­sexuality. When Lord Carey speaks of the need to stand up for Christianity, many of us now hear him as saying something as petty as the need to stand up for the right to be anti-gay. Well, count me out.

At the forefront of the Not Ashamed campaign is the Christian Legal Centre. Consider the cases it takes on. This week, it has been in court in Bristol to defend two Corn­ish guesthouse workers who refused double-bed accommodation to two civil partners, Martyn Hall and Steven Preddy (News, 10 December).

A Christian lawyer was quoted recently in The Tablet, commenting on the work of the Centre: “They have not won anything, as far as I know. They also seem to have an obsession with homosexual cases.”

Lord Carey speaks as though the Not Ashamed campaign were about defending the very basis of moral Britain: “I am immensely proud of our country. I’m proud of our Parli­amentary democracy under our Mon­archy. I’m proud of the sense of fairness and fair play that runs through­out our nation. I am proud of our tradition of tolerance and our historic commitment to welcoming the stranger.”

These values, Lord Carey argues, originate in Christianity, and are “under attack” as the faith is publicly disparaged and sidelined. The cam­paign puffs itself up as a defence of the faith, but it is little more than an ill-thought-through baggage of victim­hood and scaremongering.

The Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, got it right when he said: “If you define yourself by your victimhood, you’ve got a real problem. I do not believe that Chris­tians are a persecuted group of people in this country.”

If Christianity is loosing its grip on the public imagination, it is be­cause it has become too closely asso­ciated with resentful and narrow-minded sectarianism. De­fend­ing Christianity can re­quire saving it from its noisiest cheer­leaders.

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