Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Summons to a Higher Court

Arrogance Paternalism and Racism Rife in the UK Foreign Office

State parties all around the world have taken a fancy to claiming authority over the Bible.  For decades this has been happening indirectly.  State schools, for example, teach evolutionism as fact.  Whilst this is not a direct attack upon the Holy Scriptures per se, it indirectly runs a flag up the flagpole: the state and government parties hold the Bible to be a bunch of baloney.  

We Christians have got used to this and end up returning the "compliment": we hold that state parties are riddled with cant, ignorance, and are grossly prejudiced.  We end up handing them over to their fate on Judgement Day.

But things are ratcheting up somewhat.  In the UK a functionary of the Foreign Office has decided that it is time to rein in Christians in the Southern Hemisphere (by which they almost  certainly mean Africa, since the Church has been going from strength to strength in that continent).  The Barnabas Fund has exposed the latest egregious action by an organ of the UK state.

A report produced by an executive agency of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has argued that Evangelical Christians in the Global South should be expected to “reinterpret” the Bible to make it compatible with LGBT ideology. The recommendations, if implemented, would massively reverse freedom of religion across the globe.

Barnabas Fund is seriously concerned at the implications of the Foreign Office’s involvement in pushing this ideological agenda and the implications this government involvement may have on freedom of religion around the world in the future. Once it is accepted that any ideology can be imposed on those who hold conscientious disagreement with it, a very significant backward step has been taken both in relation to i) Freedom of Religion or Belief and ii) human rights generally. Barnabas Fund has produced an analysis of the proposals and called on the UK Foreign Office to institute an inquiry into Wilton Park, the Foreign Office agency which produced the report.
Citations from the report, together with Barnabas Fund commentary can be accessed here.

There are a number of immediate responses to be made:

Firstly, the paternalistic arrogance of Wilton Park (an executive agency of the UK Foreign and
Commonwealth Office) functionaries to presume to lecture and admonish African churches, black Christian leaders, and African professing Christians is nauseous.  The entire report strongly implies that all African Christians and churches are ignorant, dumb, and easily led by manipulating Western missionaries (that is, Christian "fundamentalists"--also known as people who believe the Bible is the Word of God).  The Great White Father needs a stiff kick in the rear.  Let's hope it comes to pass.

The report portrays the church in the Global South, by which it appears primarily to mean Africa, in
starkly negative terms. For example, p. 2 states:
In recent years, the spread of Islamisation and the growth of US based Protestant Evangelical churches have intensified hatred, disseminating it in parts of the world which had previously exercised greater tolerance.   To some extent, evangelicals and Islamic states have made common cause in international fora to inhibit LGBTI  human rights.

The Report goes on to assert that:
A strategy is needed to tackle this serious global problem. The approach will vary from place to place, according to local traditions, cultural norms and needs, but common components include:
. . . challenging the interpretation of sacred texts.
Later on the same page it claims that the problem of churches holding views on sexual ethics that are
different from those of LGBTI ideology are due to:

a.) The activities of missionaries ‘who bought the trust of the people’ and entrenched hateful attitudes towards  homosexuality, transgender and intersexuality.

b.) This influence is amplified where there is poverty and churches can provide what the state cannot: schools, hospitals and other social goods as well as a community for people, many of whom are unemployed.

c.) The churches’ position gives them a powerful influence on cultural and political attitudes, which can include negative views of LGBTI people.
Secondly there is clear evidence of institutional racism on the part of the UK Foreign Office report:
The clear implication is that:

i) There is a serious problem because the church in the Global South holds a different view of sexual ethics from LGBTI ideology.

ii) The problem exists because Christians in the Global South have been misled by western missionaries both in the past and increasingly in the present.

iii) Christians in regions such as Africa are incapable of interpreting the scriptures themselves and only adopt these positions because they are reliant on and subservient to western missionaries.

This is a most extraordinary example of institutional racism. One could perhaps, just possibly envisage  this sort of racism in something written in the 1940s or 50s, although even that may be stretching the imagination a little.  There is absolutely no attempt to engage with how Evangelical African Christians  themselves see the situation. It is solely an outsider’s (i.e. in anthropological terms etic) perspective and very clearly a deeply prejudiced and patronising one.

The suggestion that Evangelical Christians in the Global South have simply imbibed incorrect interpretations of scripture from western missionaries and need to be challenged to reinterpret them will be deeply offensive to a great many Christians. It will be viewed by many African Christians in the same way as they view the attempt of western churches to impose their own liberal theology on them i.e. as both a denial of the faith and a form of cultural imperialism. 
This is the modern UK Foreign Office at work.  It is as pagan and as secular an institution as could be imagined, but it has the chutzpah to lecture Christians on what the Bible says (or ought to say or what they insist it must be made to say).  The Christian Church, for its part, does not answer to the UK Foreign Office.  It answers to its Head, Christ Jesus.

As the dying Samuel Rutherford said, when the King's men came to arrest him,
I have got a summons already before a superior judge and judicatory, and I behoove to answer my first summons, and ere your day come I will be where few kings and great folks come.
The faithful church in Africa will be summoned in due time to appear before the King of kings.  There is no doubt the lackeys of humanistic secularism beavering away in the UK Foreign Office will, in due time, also be summoned to appear before the same Superior Judge and Judicatory. Christians in Africa, meanwhile, will be where few of the Great White Folk of Wilton Park will ever come.

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