The Ranting Kraut

19.3.2006 – 27.9.2010

Another Theocratic Menace

Posted by rantingkraut on November 5, 2006

The UK’s Evangelical Alliance, a Christian pressure group, has published a report entitled “Faith and Nation”. Judging by its recommendations, the report seems to advance a broadly communitarian brand of authoritarianism and appears to aim at securing a minimum degree of Christian influence within it.

The report calls on Christians to “Oppose the pervasive contemporary culture of autonomy, self-expression and privatised values, reasserting instead the crucial importance of community based life …” and “Resist strict segregation between the public and private realms, and maintain that God is sovereign over all Creation…”. This makes their position fairly clear in general terms.

It doesn’t get any better where the report touches on freedom of speech. Some non-committal remarks on religious tolerance and freedom are made of course. However, censorship is not even rejected in general terms. The question rather appears to be how far it should go. On page 92 of the report we read that “… real uncertainties remain as to how far religion should be legally protected from criticism and to what extent censorship is valid.” For those who genuinely value freedom of speech there is no such uncertainty: no idea or ideology, religious or otherwise, should ever be legally protected from criticism –full stop.

This flirt with censorship is no esoteric concern either. The report urges Christians to make use of existing oppressive mechanisms to take action against opinions which are deemed religiously offensive: recommendation 32 calls on Christians to “… make use of the various complaints procedures offered by media outlets, regulators and the law when material seriously offensive to Christians and others is broadcast.

The Daily Telegraph has been reporting on “Faith and Nation”, stressing its call for civil disobedience and even violent resistance where necessary. Given the current climate for selectively oppressing Christians while accommodating all other religions, this call for civil disobedience could well meet with some approval. What is hard to accept though is the peculiar combination of the evangelists’ demands: on the one hand, a call for civil disobedience where Christian interests are at stake; on the other, a call to use the law to censor opinions deemed offensive to Christians. This is exactly the kind of hypocrisy which is currently seen as an Islamist trade mark.

How should secular minded classical liberals react? The need to reject Islamist and Christian theocratic authoritarianism alike should be obvious. Accordingly, one ought to be wary about close alliances with groups like the Evangelical Alliance. We have no equivalent to the first amendment in the UK and it is not inconceivable that Christian authoritarians could eventually join forces with their Islamist counterparts to enforce some kind of compromise, protecting a limited set of religious beliefs from criticism. They could also use the law to demand all kinds of religious privileges for their members.

With Christians currently at the receiving end of multiculturalist thuggery it is possibly still worth forming tactical alliances where they do not conflict with liberal principles. The next time a Christian gets bullied e.g. for wearing a cross, it may be a good idea to actively support them by writing to their employer or whoever does the bullying. If the victim belongs to an identifiable Christian group, one should perhaps let them know of the support and highlight the fact that what is being supported here is individual liberty rather than a common religious belief or interest. At the moment, Christians are in a position where they badly need their individual freedom to be protected. The more often they are reminded of the principles on which their own liberty depends the better.

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