IN A recent episode of the Irreverend podcast, the Rev Jamie Franklin noted that we have hitherto been fortunate to live in a country that has broadly allowed individuals to freely proclaim and practise their Christian faith.
Franklin and co-host the Rev T J Pelham discussed the recent arrest of Pastor John Sherwood while he was preaching outside Uxbridge Tube station.
With the ever-broadening scope of what state bodies deem to be ‘hate speech’, Franklin predicted that being a Christian in Great Britain may become increasingly difficult.
As a mere congregant, I would suggest that most of the barriers obstructing those wishing to access organised Christianity are imposed by Church leaders themselves, not the state.
Jamie Franklin is an outspoken critic of senior officials within the Anglican Church, and I imagine he may sympathise with my position.
Before the lockdown of March 2020, I was a regular attendee of Sunday Mass, yet I have not set foot in a church since. Both my local Roman Catholic and C of E churches operate a booking system to obtain your place in the pews. Facemasks are mandated, hymns are not sung, and communion is not fully taken.
Perhaps my absence is an indictment of my own commitment or lack thereof, but I cannot be the only one who does not wish to offer any kind of consent to this new form of worship. I did try to enter my nearest cathedral (Salisbury) for a few moments of reflection. However, it was being used as a Covid vaccination centre and I was turned away.
Many will no doubt claim that responsibility for the Covid-induced attack on religious freedom rests with the government, and not with the church. However, it is surely a mark of faith to continue to preach the word of God and allow people to gather in praise, even when it is costly to do so.
It is not merely in respect of Covid restrictions that many within the church have swayed with the political wind. The C of E’s From Lament to Action report is a clear indication of acceptance of identitarian political correctness.
Identity politics is flatly rejected by those outside middle-class metropolitan communities, as the decline of the Labour Party and their ‘woke’ ideology indicates. For many, politically charged preaching hardly makes the church more welcoming.
Our society is already saturated with diversity- and equity-obsessed institutions. Church leaders would be wise not to disengage from the majority of people who do not fixate on race and ethnicity. Instead, many look to the Church to offer them something far more profound.
In his book Dominion, Tom Holland describes the story of Christ as ‘the greatest story ever told’. Considering that the clergy has this story at its disposal, why have many Christian organisations succumbed to dishing out the politically correct pap that can be found in the mainstream media every day?
If we are to enter an era where being an openly practising Christian is increasingly difficult, we must note that the greatest threats often come from within. Covid dogma and identity politics provide needless obstacles to engaging people in Christian life, before even considering the prospect of overt persecution.
Church leaders of all denominations should follow the lead of Jamie Franklin et al and shun the political hijacking of Christianity.