This week an English bishop fought back against the intolerance being aimed at Christians by some public bodies. In an open letter he wrote,
“Yet in the minds of those charged with implementing such policies, ‘diversity’ apparently means every colour and creed except Christianity, the nominal religion of the white majority; and ‘equality’ seemingly excludes anyone, black or white, with a Christian belief in God”
I agree, we are seeing more of this, and Christian leaders should speak up.
But its what else he said that disturbs me, that I think is a mistake.
“Those employed as public servants and charged with running our local services, be they schools, hospitals or councils, receive their public authority only under a system of governance which is constitutionally established from the ‘Queen in Parliament under God.’
“For public servants to use their authority to deny the legitimacy of the Christian faith, when they receive such authority only through the operation of that same faith, is not only unacceptable but an affront.”
Here is the Constantinian error in all its glory. You may recall my post on The Anabaptist Tradition and the Politics of Jesus, where I voiced my discomfort with church/state alliances. Here I think the wiser course would be to argue for tollerance, not on the basis of constitutional privilege, but on the basis of equality and equity.
4 thoughts on “We want respect, but on what basis?”
I’ve been thinking about reading a book by Yoder, but am not sure which one to start with. What would you recommend?
The Politics of Jesus is his most famous and my favourite but I must pre warn it can be heavy at times. I think you can handle it though so That would be my recommendation.
Constitutional privilege indeed! One of the problems I have with this whole issue is that — here in the US at least — it’s often difficult to sort out actual cases of intolerance towards Christianity from cases where some Christians are simply upset that Christianity isn’t automatically treated as the superior or preferred religion. There have been a number of cases where Christians have demanded their religion’s place in the public sphere only to get upset when another faith group asks for the same right — often even riding on the smoother path paved by the Christians’ triumph. Whether it’s backpack mail in Virginia schools, opening invocations in the local press, or holiday displays, some Christians have demonstrated that access to the public sphere is only desirable if they control who has access.
I’m not saying that intolerance for Christianity never happens. I know better. For instance, I thought the whole situation where the nurse was fired for offering to pray for a patient was ridiculous when I heard about it last week. But on the flip side, I’ll note that some Christians — again, here in the US at least — seem to be quick to cry intolerance when what they’re really upset about is that they can’t dominate the religious marketplace anymore.
As an aside, typing the phrase “religious marketplace” makes me feel dirty.
I can’t seem to find this right to respect in my New Testament here. Must be an oversight I’m sure… How did it go again?
> Blessed are those who protest their right to other people’s consideration, for if things go well, they shall annoy their neighbours enough to be rendered begrudging compliance for a time.
Or did it say,
> in order that your daily life may *win* the respect of outsiders…