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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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HomeCulture WarPiers Morgan and the ‘echo chamber’ that plagues Christians

Piers Morgan and the ‘echo chamber’ that plagues Christians

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A WORRYING number of people who seem fairly well-educated on most issues appear to be incapable of understanding what the late theologian John Stott called ‘Basic Christianity’. There are also many who do understand but choose to twist and misrepresent what used to be our widely accepted national religion to push an increasingly virulent anti-Christian narrative.

Whether from ignorance or malice, Piers Morgan became part of this attack on Christianity in his interview of Joshua Sutcliffe, a teacher sacked for ‘misgendering’ a pupil as well as for his orthodox Biblical views on marriage and homosexuality. The now viral clip tweeted out by Talk TV declared: ‘Struck-off teacher Joshua Sutcliffe tells Piers Morgan he thinks adulterers should be executed: “All sin deserves the death penalty”.’ 

That is, of course, deliciously shocking. Media click-bait gold! Furthermore, branding someone a religious extremist is a pretty effective way to destroy his credibility. Yet, even though I disagree with Sutcliffe’s views on the role of women in leadership roles such as the priesthood, the views he expressed to Morgan are not extremism. The first part of Talk TV’s tweet is simply a lie. Joshua Sutcliffe did not say he thinks ‘adulterers should be executed’. The second part is simply fundamental rather than ‘fundamentalist Christianity.’

‘The wages of sin is death; but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus.’ I have fond memories of many a Sunday school lesson and Bible holiday club in which that was our ‘memory verse’, a Bible verse to learn by heart. Indeed that verse from the book of Romans is at the very heart of Christianity. It is a one-sentence summary of the gospel message and why we Christians use the cross as our symbol. However Joshua Sutcliffe made the mistake of speaking as he would amongst his Church congregation. There is definitely an ‘echo chamber’ naivety that plagues evangelical Christians. When Morgan challenged the relevance of the Bible because it depicts adulterers being stoned to death, Sutcliffe went into Bible study group mode. ‘We all deserve the death penalty’ means ‘we’re all sinners who deserve eternal death after our earthly life’ to any evangelical Christian. To the ears of your average non-believer it can easily sound like crazy death cult talk. After those words Sutcliffe tried to get on to the crucial ‘Jesus paid the penalty of death for us’ bit, but Morgan cut him off with the speed of a predator smelling blood.

Even if this interview had been conducted in good faith, there is a good chance Sutcliffe would have been met with bemusement or even hostility. There is an ingrained resistance within many people to the idea that they are ‘a sinner’. Certainly most would admit they don’t always behave as well as they could. They might tell the odd fib, behave a bit selfishly, not give as much money or time as they could to charity and so forth. Yet most do see themselves as being ‘pretty good people’. The idea that one’s behaviour deserves eternal damnation is anathema to the law-abiding citizen. This is why you get a more open-minded and open-hearted reception to the Christian message in prisons than you do in smug middle-class areas. ‘I don’t need God’ because ‘my life is good’ and ‘I don’t need saving’. Although the heart of Christianity isn’t extremism in the intolerant and violent way of abusive cults or religiously motivated terrorism, it is offensively radical. The woke ‘progressives’ often try to claim Jesus as one of their own but fail to see that they are the self-righteous, virtue-signalling Pharisees he condemned. In the end his radical, offensive claims about being God made man come to save sinful humanity drove them to arrange his execution.

There is an inherent human resistance to what seems ‘unfair’. It surely can’t be ‘fair’ that a kind, family-loving, hard-working individual receives the same penalty for small-fry sins as a child abuser or mass murderer. The irony is that this very attitude is often part of personality traits such as arrogance and pride which lead to some very harmful actions towards others. Furthermore, what seems repulsive unfairness is remarkable grace to others. Indeed I have encountered several people for whom the struggle with accepting the Christian Gospel stems from a deep-rooted lack of self-worth. For such people, myself among them, it is difficult to accept that God would forgive us and love us. ‘Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me,’ is the first line of one of our nation’s favourite hymns. Indeed Amazing Grace is celebrating its 250th anniversary this year. It was composed in the church of a vibrant North Buckinghamshire market town called Olney by John Newton. I happen to live just outside Olney and am looking forward to the commemorative celebrations this summer.

‘Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come
This grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.’

This hymn is of course very much associated with slavery and Newton himself was a reluctant sailor aboard ships involved in the transatlantic slave trade. Slavery in all its forms is one of the great examples of human suffering and indeed sin. However the liberation spoken of in Amazing Grace is not freedom from human oppression but a breaking of our spiritual chains. This is why for many of us singing those beautiful lyrics is a grateful cry from the soul. Yet most who sing along with gusto do not see themselves as ‘wretches’ and consider it a hymn of social rather than spiritual justice, even a type of BLM anthem. Perhaps this illustrates a wider problem in society: that many think ‘other people’ are the problem, not them. Introspection is generally encouraged only when it affirms a sense of victimhood and entitlement rather than a sense of responsibility and humility. It’s therefore little wonder that believing in universal sinfulness and the universal need for forgiveness is seen as extremism.

Perhaps there would be more compassion in society if more of us were aware of our own shortcomings. Maybe if we spent as much energy working on ourselves as we do on attacking others for their failings, we could better tackle complex world problems. Many politicians think ‘I’m not as bad as Putin’ lets them off the hook when it comes to being criticised on the world stage. Likewise ‘I’m not as bad as Piers Morgan’ can evoke a similar confidence in those who disagree with his often-controversial views. But as Joshua Sutcliffe told Morgan, ‘we’re all sinners’. However ‘offensive’ and ‘extreme’ this belief may sound in our secular society it is, to quote the great C S Lewis, ‘mere Christianity’.

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Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti
Romy Cerratti is half German, a quarter Italian and a quarter Peruvian but is proud to be British. She has a masters degree in medieval history from Oxford and is a passionate campaigner on issues of mental health and NHS reform.

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