Monday, 19 May 2014

In defence of Christianity

It's been quite a few years for battering Christians.  Firstly, a Christian says that the floods were caused by the gays, and then UKIP start to mention Christianity in the same breath as some of their other rantings, and the two become linked together.  It's simply not fair.

Christianity is not a political party.  It's not a political standpoint at all.  It's simply a name for the collection of groups of people who have certain faith.  To say that because one Christian says something, that's what "Christians" think is as fallacious as saying that you saw someone with red hair in a restaurant the other day picking the tomatoes out of their salad, and therefore all ginger people must hate tomatoes.

I should declare an interest at this point.  I am not a Christian.  I'm not a Muslim either. Nor a Jew.  (Although with my Mother's mother being Jewish, I know some would argue the last point.)  But anyway, I am an atheist.  That means I don't believe in God.    However, that does not give me the right to treat those who do believe in God with anything other than the respect and tolerance I would expect them to show to me.  Just because I don't believe in God, it doesn't mean that I have a right to ridicule those who do.  Tolerance must work both ways.

There has been a lot of debate recently about whether the UK is a Christian country.  However, I think that debate missed the point.  I don't care whether the UK is a Christian country or not, although I am not in favour of the UK being a Christian state.  By that I mean that the state should be secular.  That is, that no church nor group within any church, should have any more access or right of influence over government than any other.  Nobody should be given privilege because of their faith - but neither should anyone be denied privilege because of their faith.  That does mean I am in favour of disestablishment of the Church of England, but I'm certainly not in favour of the dissolution of the Church of England.

The difference between a secular state and an atheist state is important.  An atheist state might say that a worker couldn't wear a Christian cross around her neck to work.  A secular state should support her right to do so in the same way it would support freedom of expression to others.

I should declare another interest here.  I'm also gay.  In these times, "the gays" and "the Christians" are often portrayed in the media as being warring factions.  Christians are portrayed as being consistently against gay rights, and "the gays" are portrayed as a lobby group who would seek to destroy the power of the church.  The fundamental flaw in all of this, of course, is to presume that there are no gay Christians.  I know two or three at least.

The media loves to set groups of people up against groups of people.  The media (and Twitter!) doesn't do well with representing the views of individuals, but enjoys attributing an opinion or statement to large groups of people rather than to just one.  One Christian says "the floods were caused by gays getting married" and suddenly Twitter is full of ill-informed ranting against Christianity.  Then it's full of rantings of Christians talking about being marginalised and then the Daily Mail draws the battle lines and reports the waging war.

In my life I've had people say unpleasant things about the fact that I'm gay.  Some of those people have been Christians.  But never once would I hold their views against anyone else who happened to be a Christian.  If a black person did something unpleasant to me and I held that against all black people I met- then that would be unacceptable.  Why is saying things about "Christians" acceptable when if we swapped "black people" or "Jews" the same sentiment wouldn't be?  I simply don't see it.

You don't have to be gay to think that gay people deserve equal rights. And you don't have to be a Christian to have respect for those people who are.

For me to deny the right of someone else to believe in what they choose would be for them to deny my right to believe in what I choose.

That's not to say it's easy.  There will always be friction between differently held sets of beliefs - but to seek to demonise or ridicule either side not only shows a huge lack of respect it is also the slowest and hardest path towards progress.

No comments:

Post a Comment