I’m calling for a retranslation of Matthew 24:6. We’re living in strange times. With strange people. Here are some media stories about public Christianity that have grabbed my attention in the last few weeks.
A UK judge ruled that a Christian sex therapist could not refuse his services to a gay couple.
‘Law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.’
‘We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs.
‘The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.
‘If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.’
‘The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments.
‘The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”
I didn’t know the English had a consitutional right to sex therapy. Forcing people to act against their conscience in the interest of “freedom” seems pretty odd to me.
But England is pretty messed up, just days later a Christian street preacher was arrested for privately telling (according to the reports) an off duty (gay atheist) police liaison officer that he believed homosexuality was a sin.
Whether or not homosexuality is a sin (I believe it is) is not the point here – whether or not we can voice opinions over things we disagree with is a much more important issue. I’m not sure why an atheist (which the complainant claims to be) would be offended that a God they don’t believe in thinks their conduct is sinful – especially when he defines every person as sinful, and every sin as essentially genetic (an inherited trait).
Things aren’t much better in the US – where a judge just ruled that the cross is a symbol for everybody – not just Christians. Much to the chagrin of atheists and Americans of other religions… here’s a section of the transcript.
MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn’t say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that’s why the Jewish war veterans —
JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?
MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.
MR. ELIASBERG: So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.
JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.
MR. ELIASBERG: Well, my — the point of my — point here is to say that there is a reason the Jewish war veterans came in and said we don’t feel honored by this cross. This cross can’t honor us because it is a religious symbol of another religion.
Closer to home, a Geelong church had an Easter publicity stunt closed by police because it was offensive. They were trying to re-enact the crucifixion in a public space. Who thought that would be a good idea? Seriously. I know the crucifixion is important – but in terms of scarring (and scaring) little children in a public place the only way you could create more shock would be to crucify the Easter Bunny and tell them they aren’t getting any eggs.
I know the message of the cross is offensive – that doesn’t mean we have to go out of our way to offend people with it. Like this:
The minister of the church responsible, Sarah Keneally, said:
“When the police stopped it I looked behind me and there were about eight children … watching it and none of them looked distressed,” she said.
“I think it was pretty sad that a Christian group couldn’t express what Easter was truly about for one hour – it wasn’t like we were trying to take over the city or tell everyone they were going to hell.”
She said the group did not get a chance to talk with police before the display was shut down.
“They didn’t talk to us first, they just came and yanked the cord out of our amp and said we had to stop,” she said.
“We got through 40 minutes of Jesus hanging on the cross with two women mourning and instrumental music. I was a bit disappointed we weren’t allowed to have a one-hour demonstration.’
The Bible tells us to go and tell the world about Jesus.
“It doesn’t say to stay in a church and hope that everyone will turn up there because they won’t.”
Ms Kenneally said if the church conducts the same re-enactment next year it would consider cutting out the fake blood element.
“We would probably modify that a bit,” she said.
“We don’t want to, but if that’s what the public are saying, we would if we needed to.”
There’s a big difference between telling the world about Jesus and shoving a gory picture of his crucifixion in their faces.