Monday 23 July 2012

United States v United Kingdom.

It has long perplexed me in the selective way that we in Britain import much of American life. Sky has a channel devoted to American television programmes, which is very popular. We follow American movies and play their music, and use their colloquial phrases and terms, (‘a witness box’ has now become ‘taken the stand’) and of course some of their types of food; we even import their pornography. But there is something of American life we have not and no doubt will continue to resist, and that of course is their commitment to Christianity.

I was listening to a programme conducted by a presenter, who is a self confessed atheist, in which Christianity was being discussed and he seemed to be pleased to repeat several times that the number of people attending Church on a regular basis in America is down to 41%. This may or may not be true, but before polls are taken seriously it has to be determined who asked the question, what was the question, and where was it carried out.

If I was asked to conduct a poll I could produce any response that was required just by concentrating on an appropriate area and being selective in the asking of people. However, any Church in Britain, where regular attendance is less than 10%, would be delighted to find they could attract 41% of their local area to regular worship.

In modern life, circumstances make it difficult for some people to attend on a week by week basis, but will attend when possible; but those would not figure in the percentage. I watch American religious channels and the Churches I see have congregations that would have thrilled me and would be a joy for many Church leaders here.

A major religious difference here between our two countries is in the attitude of Evangelicals. The American Evangelical movement is strongly supportive of Israel, and indeed are Israel’s greatest foreign friends. In contrast I was amazed to read recently that a Vicar in this country, who claims to be a conservative evangelical, likened Israel’s response to the Palestinians to that of the Holocaust. He also appears on Islamic sites and has supported a Hamas anti-semitic preacher. When his attitude was complained about and other evangelical ministers asked to disassociate themselves from him, they refused.

I believe our attitude as Biblical Christians should be that of supporting Israel. I accept that their response to attack can be strong, but in which case it must be realised they are in fact responding, and if they were not attacked there would not be need for a response.

I am envious of the American preachers being able to freely express their views on all moral issues. There is no question that if British preachers were to use the same words I have heard from Americans, they would be facing prosecution. A street preacher here was arrested after a police assistant heard him answering a question
in a private conversation regarding homosexuality. In other instances advertisements have been banned as likely to offend people in same sex unions.

I was interested in the statement of beliefs of the largest Christian denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptists. I can only imagine the outcry if that was proposed in Britain. People would be screaming for action under the Equality and Diversity Acts. Only other faiths can be so dogmatic about their beliefs here.

Evangelicals are not popular outside their own circle. The liberals don’t like them because they stand for too high a theological and moral belief. The non believers don’t like them for much the same reason. A prime example was revealed recently.

Free Schools are a prized part of the Education Secretary’s agenda, which some of us commend. This takes authority away from left wing councils who have ideas which often children should not be taught, especially in regards to sexual matters, and subjects of a politically correct attitude. Free schools are supported by teachers and parents who have higher ideals and often have a religious background, which of course infuriates the opponents as those religious ideals are traditional.

An adviser to the Education Department, who also writes for the Daily Telegraph, described evangelicals as extremist and equated them with totalitarian Muslims and Orthodox Jews. This unbalanced, prejudiced and bigoted view was challenged by the Evangelical Alliance, who wrote a letter of protest to the Editor outlining the many practical and beneficial contributions evangelicals made to society. The failure of the paper to publish that letter adds to the justification for a press enquiry. There is a total lack of principle when accusation can be ignorantly and wilfully be made without the decency and courtesy of publishing a response.

I was personally surprised as the Daily Telegraph was once recognised as being one of the finer and more responsible papers, with a sympathetic attitude to Christian issues. As has been asked elsewhere, would they have dared to treat an Islamic protest with the same disdain?

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