(RLCC comment after the article)
'Hey, Mr Comedian, we didn't like that stuff you did,' some audience members once apparently said to American counterculture comedian Bill Hicks, after he cracked a tasteless anti-Christian joke, 'We're Christians.'
'Well then forgive me,' Hicks replied. A cute comeback, and, though this might annoy the sadly deceased Hicks' many passionate atheist followers, a good sermon too. Sadly, the joke depends on the general perception outside our faith that the least likely person in the world to forgive you is a Christian whose religious sensibilities have been offended.
At least that is among the many generalising misconceptions about Christianity. It's up there with 'Christianity is about being a good enough person to get into Heaven' and at least as popular as (in America) 'Christian = Republican' or (in Africa) 'Christian = gay-basher'. In Britain, and particularly England, the perception of Christians might be encapsulated by the phrase: 'Blessed are the quiche-makers'. And there are good things about our acceptance by mainstream society as a smiling, means-no-harm bunch of do-gooders whose rather antiquated beliefs gave us such British institutions as carol-singing, 'Christian names' and some bank holidays. We can speak in their public square and they will come to our church fetes.
It also means that many people assume they understand our religion when in fact they haven't a clue. Too harsh? Am I not cutting enough slack for our secularised neighbours? Well let's ask some asylum-seekers.
Last week the Evangelical Alliance criticised UK immigration officials for their 'ludicrous' treatment of foreigners seeking asylum here on the grounds that their Christian faith put them in danger. You may remember the recent case of a woman who was going to be sent back to Iran where there was a chance she would be stoned. She, and many others like her, have been judged to be unconvincing in their Christianity. Their asylum applications rejected because they were clearly not real Christians and thus not in danger and not eligible for our protection.
Why? Because (in one case) they did not know that the period before Christmas is called Advent. Other probing Scriptural/theological questions were: 'How do you cook a turkey at Christmas?'; 'Identify the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden' and 'What does the Christmas tree symbolize?' I trust I am not being too elitist when I assume that most of us know that none of those questions can be answered from the Bible. To be fair, some questions were less dependent on Scripture-knowledge. 'What will happen around the world in the second coming?' was the simple question asked of one asylum-seeker. (Answers on a postcard, please. Pre-millennialists need not apply.)
Of course, what these immigration officials are talking about is pseudo-Christian British culture, not our faith. And ultimately it is we, not secular society, who are to blame for their lack of understanding. The EA is quite rightly trying to make amends for how we have ultimately failed our brothers and sisters abroad who foolishly see this as a Christian country. And last week public opinion seemed to be with them. Radio 2 phone-ins featured several people speaking out on behalf of one Iranian woman, making passionate pleas for her to be allowed to stay. Of course, one can't help but notice that public opinion does not generally seem to be on the side of run-of-the-mill asylum-seekers. You know, the ones just facing plain old vanilla torture or death, not related to their faith. They, according to some of our most popular newspapers, are nothing but a terror-assisting, crime-causing, benefit-thieving drain on our resources. Maybe if we pretend they're all as Christian as our asylum adjudicators, we could care about the lot of them?
RLCC Comment: There are truths in the above article. It contains half-truths. Being opposed to the harm done by homosexuality, however, is not "gay-bashing." That characterization is reverse psychology, a ploy, a twist on a euphemism.
The questions posed by the UK immigration officials are terrible. That point is well-founded. The article does point out hypocrisies that do need to be corrected; however, harmlessness (a Christian commandment) must be sought as consistently as possible, and homosexuality is far from harmless. See our main post on the subject: "Homosexuals: What they ignore."
The following should appear at the end of every post:
According to the IRS, "Know the law: Avoid political campaign intervention":
Tax-exempt section 501(c)(3) organizations like churches, universities, and hospitals must follow the law regarding political campaigns. Unfortunately, some don't know the law.
Under the Internal Revenue Code, all section 501(c)(3) organizations are prohibited from participating in any political campaign on behalf of (or in opposition to) any candidate for elective public office. The prohibition applies to campaigns at the federal, state and local level.
Violation of this prohibition may result in denial or revocation of tax-exempt status and the imposition of certain excise taxes. Section 501(c)(3) private foundations are subject to additional restrictions.
Political Campaign Intervention
Political campaign intervention includes any activities that favor or oppose one or more candidates for public office. The prohibition extends beyond candidate endorsements.
Contributions to political campaign funds, public statements of support or opposition (verbal or written) made by or on behalf of an organization, and the distribution of materials prepared by others that support or oppose any candidate for public office all violate the prohibition on political campaign intervention.
Factors in determining whether a communication results in political campaign intervention include the following:
- Whether the statement identifies one or more candidates for a given public office
- Whether the statement expresses approval or disapproval of one or more candidates' positions and/or actions
- Whether the statement is delivered close in time to the election
- Whether the statement makes reference to voting or an election
- Whether the issue addressed distinguishes candidates for a given office
Many religious organizations believe, as we do, that the above constitutes a violation of the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That said, we make the following absolutely clear here:
- The Real Liberal Christian Church and Christian Commons Project not only do not endorse any candidate for any secular office, we say that Christianity forbids voting in such elections.
- Furthermore, when we discuss any public-office holder's position, policy, action or inaction, we definitely are not encouraging anyone to vote for that office holder's position.
- We are not trying to influence secular elections but rather want people to come out from that entire fallen system.
- When we analyze or discuss what is termed "public policy," we do it entirely from a theological standpoint with an eye to educating professing Christians and those to whom we are openly always proselytizing to convert to authentic Christianity.
- It is impossible for us to fully evangelize and proselytize without directly discussing the pros and cons of public policy and the positions of secular-office holders, hence the unconstitutionality of the IRS code on the matter.
- We are not rich and wouldn't be looking for a fight regardless. What we cannot do is compromise our faith (which seeks to harm nobody, quite the contrary).
- We render unto Caesar what is Caesar's. We render unto God what is God's.
- When Caesar says to us that unless we shut up about the unrighteousness of Caesar's policies and practices, we will lose the ability of people who donate to us to declare their donations as deductions on their federal and state income-tax returns, we say to Caesar that we cannot shut up while exercising our religion in a very reasonable way.
- We consider the IRS code on this matter as deliberate economic duress (a form of coercion) and a direct attempt by the federal government to censor dissenting, free political and religious speech.
- It's not freedom of religion if they tax it.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers? Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free. (Matthew 17:24-26)