Crying Wolf – Is Free Speech Being Suppressed in the UK?

Crying Wolf – Is Free Speech Being Suppressed in the UK?

Here is my latest article for Christian Today – a reflection on the arrest of Tony Miano in my home city of Dundee.  I wrote this because I am somewhat distressed at the ill-informed and somewhat hysterical reactions to what is a very important issue.  As Christians we are to be as wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  I will wait until the court case is over before offering a more substantive analysis of what went on in this particular case.  At the moment all I can say is that this has not been helpful to the Gospel at all.  You can obviously see a similar situation with what happened with Josh Williamson in Perth –




  1. David, you wrote:

    “If we seek to be faithful to Jesus Christ then we are to obey his words to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves. That means in a culture where homosexuality is seen as a ‘shibboleth’ issue and ‘homophobia’ is the sin against the Holy State, then you cannot stand on a street corner and shout out a sentence which includes homosexuality and sin in the same phrase, without expecting some kind of violent reaction.”

    But, where do we draw the line? What do we do when writing a public blog post about sin causes a similar violent reaction? Or when we share the same thing to a colleague in our workplace? Or when we speak the same things from the pulpit? In our own homes?

    Being “faithful to Jesus” by being “wise as servants” does not always mean avoiding a violent reaction, obviously. But, if the street corner is the wrong place to provoke a violent reaction, where is the right place?

    As you well know, we can all avoid a violent reaction by retreating and practicing our Christianity privately away from the public sphere – which is exactly where secularism wants us.

    Or is this all to do with the amplifier?

    1. Hobbes…good questions. The bottom line is that its all about context. I don;t think I could ever be accused of practicing Christianity away from the public sphere – but my interest is in people – not in seeking to provoke a reaction or in having a martyr complex. I think if you read the actual article you will find that your last question is answered.

  2. Thanks David. Your post on Josh Williamson was spot on. Some comments on the issue of open air preaching more generally: I find it very frustrating when people use the degree of opposition they are receiving (for doing outreach in this way) as a measure of how faithful they are being. I have seen street preaching done well (by gifted people) but I don’t think that shouting at people in the street is how the Lord would have us do things. If someone shouts at me in the street, I am more likely to run away than to engage with what they are saying. Moreover, obstructing/annoying people who are trying to go about their day in a lawful way is not ‘making the teaching about God our Saviour attractive’. Personally, I think that unless someone has obviously been suited and gifted by the Lord for this particular ministry and is affirmed in it by their local church, then they would be advised to leave well alone. This is one of those situations where more harm than good can very easily be done.

  3. I am getting increasingly frustrated with the arrests in Dundee/Perth and Scotland being made out as some “satan-ruled” country by people who seem keen to actually be arrested! I totally agree with what you’ve said. Street preaching may have its place but surely the idea is not to yell about specific sins at people, upsetting and angering them but to draw them closer to the grace and love of Jesus by sharing what He has done for them? Of course we can and should talk about sin but I cannot see the wisdom in shouting about such a specific sin and also “touchy” subject in the middle of a Dundee street.

    1. So, just so I’m clear: Is the issue that he shouted/yelled about the specific sin, or that he addressed the specific sin at all?

      In other words, is the volume your only issue? If not, we need to have a theological discussion. 🙂

      1. Hobbes – if you read the article you will I am sure be able to see the answer to the question. It is neither. Some things are slightly more complex that you seem to want to make them!

  4. David – how is it that you know that Tony is not interested in people as you are? How did you determine that Tony was seeking to provoke a reaction (beyond repentance of sin and believing the Gospel)? How did you determine that Tony has a martyr’s complex? Also, Tony did not use any amplification…just his voice.

    1. Jane – I find it interesting that sometimes Christians who seem to be so concerned about the moral law and our freedom to declare it in public, are so reluctant to obey it! Bearing false witness is not a great way to go. I never said that Tony was not as interested in people as I am, nor the rest of what you said. You are correct in saying that he did not use amplification. The microphone was there so he could record himself, film it and play on YouTube. If Tony was just concerned about recording for legal purposes – then he should have done what I have done at times – which is use a small unobtrusive recording device. I am not sure how recording people is helpful or condusive to communicating the gospel to them – it smacks more of ‘look at me, look at what I am doing’, rather than any real interest in the people concerned. How would you feel if someone came to your door to speak to you about Jesus – and had a camera and recorder!

      1. To be fair to Jane, you said:

        “… but my interest is in people – not in seeking to provoke a reaction or in having a martyr complex.”

        In the context of our discussion, the implication is you regard Tony in the latter category.

        Would you like to distance yourself from such a view?

      2. No – my interest is in people. I am not able to say whether Tony’s is or not. I assume he would be. I also think that he may well have a martyr complex – certainly his suggestion on his own video that getting arrested is a good way to promote the gospel or fill a meeting…(or hiring a speaker who does)…..points to that. I find it interesting what is going on here – both Tony and his supporters seek to prevent any discussion of the issues involved by personalising the whole issue and suggesting that if we do not agree with Tony and what he has done we are on the devils side. Its an interesting way to attempt to shut down criticism.

      3. David, you are close to breaking the 9th yourself here. In Tony’s video he clearly prefaced the words “in jest” immediately before speaking about promoting the gospel and filling meetings by being arrested. He’s even *laughing* when he says so!

        So, in the absence of any other evidence (and, of course, there may be some) that he sought arrest, would you like to distance yourself from your view?

        Besides, since we are studying Philippians at St. Peter’s, you will know that Paul’s imprisonment “has actually helped to spread the gospel” (1:12). So, although we wouldn’t seek imprisonment, such a positive outcome idea is not totally indefensible.

      4. Hobbes – as you know many a truth is told in jest! I do know that he appeared immediately on American Radio (which would not have happened if he had not been arrested). I know also that he managed to avoid arrest in Inverness by avoiding saying the same thing. I very much doubt he went out to get arrested in Dundee, but he does seem to glory in it. Your latter point is more important. Did what happened in Dundee serve to help spread the gospel. My whole point is that it did not. And that is all I care about. It seems as though there are those who are more concerned about defending Christians, or Christendom, or feeding the martyr complex….(and I am not referring to Tony Miano here)…..

      5. David – Is God sovereign? Is it your belief that Tony Miano is working outside the sovereign plan and will of God by preaching on the streets of your country or any other country?

      6. jane is God sovereign? Is it your belief that the Christians being killed in Nigeria are outside the soverereign will and plan of God? If not does this mean that we can go round killing people?! Of course God is sovereign – and sometimes in his sovereignity he allows human beings to do stupid and wrong things. Just because something IS done, does not mean it SHOULD be done. I’m sure you can see the difference.

      7. David, you wrote:

        “Did what happened in Dundee serve to help spread the gospel. My whole point is that it did not. And that is all I care about.”

        Well, that’s your view. Your article asserted your point, it didn’t establish it.

        But, let’s cut to the chase. It seems to me that there is a distaste for street preaching underlying your whole response. Indeed, one of your previous posts you admit that street preaching is not the best way to do evangelism.

        So, let’s put criticism of Tony to one side for a moment (since you thankfully admit he did not seek arrest), and let me ask you this: is there a way of doing street preaching (and I mean *preaching*, not some other form of public “evangelism” such as mime artists, sketch boarding, and guitar playing, etc) that you could support and perhaps even engage in? Or is it preaching (or “shouting” as you put it) per se?

      8. Your supposition is wrong….I have nothing against street preaching and have done, and hopefully will do it again. Providing it is done well and in context.

  5. David – how do you know Tony did it wrong? Were you there? The police have not returned his video and equipment. Please tell me how you would do street preaching? Do you have any videos available from which people could learn how to do it well and in context? How does a street preacher do his preaching so as not to do it stupidly or wrongly (referring to a previous comment of yours)?

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