– and if so, do we have only ourselves to blame? Let us consider this proposition on Easter Sunday, the climax of the Christian year.
What might lead us to think that some degree of persecution is taking place? Well, some people report that they are not allowed to wear crucifixes at work, for example. OK – well, whilst that is unfair if – and only if – other faiths are permitted to show signs (Sikhs wearing turbans, Muslim women wearing the hijab etc) I’m not sure it constitutes full-blown persecution. But in addition, some people report that they are not allowed to hold prayer meetings or to discuss their faith with others at work.
There are two points I want to make about this. The first can be summarised nicely in my favourite words of St Francis: ‘Talk about God all the time – use words if you must.’ In other words, there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and maybe banging on about your faith is not always the best way to go. Maybe it’s better just to show it. I’m sure we’ve all met Christians who can’t hold a simple conversation without bringing Jesus into it – you know, like this:
You’re standing in the queue at the canteen.
You: They’re very slow today, aren’t they?
Christian colleague: Oh, yes. Still, patience is a virtue.
Colleague: Are you having the bread?
You: The bread?
Coll: Yes, the bread.
You: I thought I’d have a ciabatta
Coll: Ah! Yes, I like that sort of bread. You know, I always feel there’s something so special about bread, don’t you? It reminds me of our Lord….
… and so on. We’ve all met people like this and you end up avoiding them because you know that whatever the topic, they’re going to try and shove their religion in your face. A bit like these guys:
And, let’s be honest, it isn’t just individuals. As a society we were doing this for far too long; right up until the 1970’s we were forcing children to go to church or to worship at school; religion was a part of council meetings and no public ceremony or dedication was complete without the vicar saying a prayer first. It was a kind of colonialism – and, just as forcing me to go to church three times a day led me ultimately to reject the whole shebang, so the same thing has happened in our society. Given the choice, people have voted with their feet and walked out of church for good.
But some of us came back: and it is due in no small measure to the tolerance and openness that I have found at the Martyrs that I am still going there. Whilst not every single member is accepting of, say, yoga, they are at least tolerant of differing views and open to dialogue, and that is a huge change from other places I’ve been to. And that’s where we need to be. So rather than beefing about not being allowed to wear a crucifix at work, maybe you need to ask yourself why you’re wearing it. Is it a Christian witness? If so, maybe it’s better to witness in other ways. By practising kindness and compassion, say. Because isn’t that more important than a symbol?
On the other hand, I can’t help feeling there’s a sort of knee-jerk spitefulness about some of the anti-Christian stuff: a sort of ‘let’s kick the creature while it’s down’ nastiness, to which we are supposed to respond by smiling tolerantly and putting up with it. Because that’s what Christians do, isn’t it? Turn the other cheek, smile nicely while the Roman centurion beats you up?
Hm. I have a lot of problems with turning the other cheek, but I’m not going to go into them now. Suffice it to say that I have no problems with a genuine atheism-faith debate; it’s the jeering I don’t like.
But never mind Christians, what about MEN??? Yes, MEN are the persecuted minority these days – at least according to Mike Buchanan. This interview on weekend Woman’s Hour took me back at least 30 years: apparently every piece of legislation in that period has favoured woman rather than men (well, yes – just as every piece of legislation in South Africa since 1991 has favoured black people – because previously they had apartheid!) He also favours compulsory paternity tests since ‘between 10 and 30% of women apparently lie about who is the father of their child’ (!) – his whole manifesto is a mish-mash of paranoia and reactionary conservatism. He makes one or two minor good points but fails to understand the underlying context for anything he talks about. Anyway, take a look for yourself:
And here’s the programme – it’s about 1/2 hr in:
In other news… it’s the coldest Easter on record, apparently, which set me wondering when records began. Probably not that long ago, and I know winters were colder in the Middle Ages because the Thames froze and they used to hold Frost Fairs on the ice. Still, I reckon we could use a heatwave round about now.