Scotland and the Private Faith

With the rise of secularism in Scotland, and the western world in general, there has been a concurrent agenda forced upon the church or indeed any faith group. Its origins were simple enough and the spread of it has been infectious; faith or belief are not things which should be discussed outside of the private sphere.

As part of the wave of privatization which swept through the economic policy of the 1980’s in the UK, faith was also bracketed in the category of “privatize”. I want to make clear this is not an anti-Thatcherite point, it is merely an observation that the worldview expounded in the march toward privatization impacted more than just the railways and the housing market. It changed the core principles which ordered the social interaction of society at large.

Now if someone brings faith to the surface and wishes to discuss this it is viewed at best as a bit weird or crazy and at worst as wrong and potentially an act of evil. But this is not something which should catch the church by surprise. Secular Scotland is not the first place where this tactic of silencing faith has been adopted.

Recently I have been working through the book of Acts, where we have the narrative of the early church coming into being. No sooner do we see the church established but there are campaigns to silence the message which it proclaims. And at first this is not violent. The ruling elite seek to stop these uneducated men speaking in public about the name of Jesus (Acts 4:17-18). But this does not stop them. They continue and this leads to further attempts to silence this religious hysteria which is causing so many problems.

Now I’m not saying that our nation is the same as Jerusalem in the 1st century, clearly it is not for a whole number of reasons. However what I do see as a parallel in is this. Christianity is ok, as long as other people don’t hear about it. Effectively it can be summed up by saying “you can believe what you want, as long as you don’t force it on me.” And to some extent I agree it is not helpful to bombard.

However, this way of thinking is operating from the presupposition that Christianity has nothing to offer. In fact it presupposes that whatever Christianity has to offer is false or invalidated because it is not true. Given that most people believe, knowingly or not, that there is no such thing as a meta-narrative to life, it seems highly inconsistent to assert that Christianity holds nothing of value. Surely this is logically inconsistent? To say that there is no narrative is, in itself, a narrative. The desire to shake off an absolute ends in an absolute mess.

Sadly a militant response to the message of Jesus is very often the case, as it has been throughout history. Let me be clear I am not saying Christians are being flogged and beaten in our nation; this isn’t a sob story. But the reality of the situation is that the message of Jesus and the society we live in are journeying further and further apart. And to hear the words of Jesus and to think that he calls his disciples then, and now, to a life of private faith is just bad reading.

We will not find in the bible a consistent argument which will state that this is a faith purely for personal use. No, it is clear that this is a message which is needed by all people in any society. We may not like that, but that is what it says. Buying the worldview that the church is best served if we are to remain silent is false, unloving to others and disobedient to God.

There will be a reaction against it speaking about Jesus and his good news. Nevertheless it is a message worth sharing and a stance worth taking. After all do we not live in a society which prides itself on tolerance?






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