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Christians and Politics – A Plea for Tolerance – Quantum of Solas 4

There is little doubt that the referendum debate in Scotland can get a wee bit overheated. There have been instances of posters being defaced, people feeling intimidated etc – on both sides. However overall this has been a great example of democracy at work – passionate, ordinary people engaged, full public halls, vigorous debates etc….nonetheless we should deplore anything which inflames rather that helps this civic discussion.

But I have been a little bit disappointed with the behaviour of some Christians. We are not immune from the emotions and sins of others! I know my own attitude and behaviour has not always been the best, but I have come across something which to be honest, as quite surprised me. I have been a recipient of several messages which are a particular form of ‘Christian’ intimidation. It runs like this. Firstly they tend to point out how divisive and nasty the referendum debate is and this is of course the fault of the nasty Nats in general or the evil Salmond in particular (the sub text being – how can you as a Christian endorse this? Which I don’t). They then go on to ask me how I as a Christian can support independence. One beauty yesterday accused me of ‘being a bastion of Christian credibility’ but this slipping because of my support for independence. When you point out that its ok for a Christian to have a different political view they then jump to the unbeatable point ‘oh – but its the way you express it, you are arrogant’. That point is unbeatable because it is of course arrogant to claim you are not arrogant! Others drop hints that one is seen as not quite ‘sound’ and so might be blacklisted from speaking at events. Still others have accused me of breaking ordination vows or denying the gospel. It is a subtle ‘Christian’ way of intimidation. A ‘nice’ way of name calling.

The trouble is that far too many Christians identify their Christianity with their politics and their culture. In the US one friend told me that when he became a Christian he became a Republican, because the two were seen as synonymous. In the UK I have known people who thought that if you were NOT left wing then your Christianity was suspect. Likewise it appears that amongst a certain section of evangelicalism if one is a Christian, or at least a sound Christian, then de facto one will be for the Union. After all who wants to be a covenant breaker, hateful separatist, divider of the church, destroyer of Christian Britain etc (all these and more have come into my ‘in’ box). The trouble in all these cases is that people are confusing their culture and their political beliefs with the Gospel – and that is always a disaster. I have very good friends who are totally opposed to Scottish independence and who are fine Christian brothers and sisters. I don’t consider them to be any less Christian, I won’t defriend them, uninvite them from speaking, or hint that they are not quite ‘sound’ because of their political views. To equate the Kingdom of Christ with the kingdoms of this world is a fundamental error, which I expect liberal and non-Christians to make. It is disappointing that some evangelical Christians seem to have fallen into that trap.

Anyway here are some reflections on this and other issues in the latest episode of Quatum of Solas – listen, enjoy and pass on….



    1. There’s great irony in that the “bastion of Christian credibility” was meant as a compliment! It wasn’t tying Christians to any political affiliation but was intended to highlight that you had been highly credible in atheistic debates on behalf of Christianity but your posts on Independence have not been to the same standard (twitter allows to few characters for such an explanation, which was why I chose my words as poorly as I did). Again, you took the clarifying tweet, that it was not what you were arguing for but how you argued the wrong way and there was nothing about arrogance there (I appreciate you were referencing the general twitter responses at that point, but the posts smacks that that is what you were thinking). It is probably because your posts on atheism are very good that I’ve come to expect such a high standard from you so it was probably unfairly levelled at you, given that Independence isn’t really anyone’s speciality topic. The tweet also said your credibility had slipped (which I think it has from the Indy tweets) but it remains high.

      The offence you’ve taken from it is definitely far beyond anything ever intended. No intimidation was intended at all. I appreciate how easy it would be for you to take it the wrong way but your fiery responses on twitter have kind of proved my original but poorly expressed point (ironically, now wonderfully expressed in this blogpost, just with the whole Christian spin bit that was never intended). I appreciate you get a lot of twitter abuse and my tweet was never intended to contribute to it. (I hope you remain a bastion of [Christian/Non-Christian] credibility!).

      With your experience from heated atheistic debates I had hoped you would have a higher standard in this Indy debate. Your tweet remains an extreme statement, which I still believe to be untrue, but more so it was doing the typical thing of throwing your opinion on everyone else and not contributing in any measured or helpful way to the discussion.

      I think I have respect for you less because of your debates, intelligence, passion or arguments but for your humility. You are the first to admit and apologise for any mistakes you make as I must also do (in life, but also particularly here!). I am sorry you took this as such a discouragement. I am sorry you felt it was “Christian intimidation” which was in no way intended. I apologise for the discouragement cause by quick tweeting and less thinking – even though the intention was good. I’ll still be taking your views on independence with more salt because of your tweets on the subject but I do still have huge amounts of respect for you as an individual.

      I’m not an anonymous tweeter and I will stand up and be counted for my sins. We’ve met quite a few times but don’t worry, I don’t expect you to remember the thousands of people who pass through your audiences and catch you after your talks. I hope to see you again so that I can apologise in person for the offence cause (see tweet).

  1. Also, I have to admire the amazing duplicity. You think it’s OK for people to have different political views and want people to be nicey-nice, but when it comes to Thought Control, you simply claim you have a hot line to God.

    When it comes to morals, you claim you have Divine authority.

    Why not just claim, as you do with unprovable and personal issues (morals, e.g.), that God wants what you want?

    God wants Scottish Independence… right? He’s told you all about everything, and let you a book – and you are his Wonderkind. You speak for Him, David! Stand up! Speak for God – tell your people what He wants!

    It’s what you do in every other post. You tell people he doesn’t want gay marriage, or doesn’t want Christianity removed from schools…

    but, suddenly, when the ‘shit gets real’ you suddenly realize there is no God to help you. There is no God. It’s you and the people you live with.

    All you have, now, are pleas for civility.

    Welcome to Humanity, David, now either treat your fellow neighbors like you are one of them, or continue to pretend to be a prophet and be better than them.

    Your choice.

  2. Sorry to post so much, but I find that when things get real, we see the collapse of religious beliefs.

    For example, this vote has nothing to do with Religion. And all the discussions about talking snakes and Kalam and such seems so childish when confronted with actual real world problems.

    You are attempting to create an independent country in which you and everyone else becomes completely responsible. It’s not like religious belief: some pie-in-the-sky belief about the afterlife and all that crap.

    It’s about real people and real things.

    Your actions will have real consequences, and you will make them in complete ignorance as to what looming problems may be facing all of you.

    Praying won’t help. If it did, you could pray for independence.

    It’s easy to be a Religionist. You only need to choose a religion, then tell everyone what your God thinks.

    It’s hard to be a Human Being, doing human things, and living a human life.

  3. Good post, David, thank you. We all need to realise that Christians can support any political view for genuine and good reasons, and perhaps different reasons to the non believer. I personally don’t support any political party, and I can see good and bad in them all. I am not a supporter of independence, yet I can see that those who do support it can be doing so for good motives (and sometimes not, just like those against!). Having said that, I don’t honestly believe that it is God’s will for us to split the country up. I really think He wants us to work together, show unity in a divided world, and try to make something new and better than we have had before. I don’t think those with the opposite view are bad Christians, but I do wonder if they are really listening to the Spirit on this one. Of course, perhaps it is me that is not listening right! Will God allow the yes vote to win? Quite possibly, but honestly think it will be part of His will to show through practice how as humanity we cannot ever rule perfectly. We long for His return to rule perfected over His world in a way that no government ever can, or will.
    It was interesting that some Church of Scotland ministers recently said they supported independence in order to get rid of Trident. Did God tell them to do that? I don’t know, I have not heard from God on that issue. But on a practical level, we won’t be getting rid of Trident, we will be moving them south and loosing any say on if, and in what circumstances they are used. It may improve their peace of mind, but I can’t see how it makes the world a safer place. What is really lacking from the no campaign is any real enthusiasm for what we can do together. Britain, united, has a big voice in the world, and an armed forces that could really be used for good. Yet all I hear from both sides is rather selfish talk about what this means either way for us. Why can’t we build a country that gets out into the world to help with humanitarian help? I know we already do, but I honestly think there is a much bigger role for us in that area, especially for the armed forces.
    I hope everyone keeps debating these issues right through next week. After that it is too late. Let’s do it respectfully!

  4. I fear that “kingdom confusion” affects not just the politics of evangelical Christians. Mistaking one’s denomination, or “church” as it gets called, with the Kingdom of God is a similar mistake, as is mistaking one’s aesthetic preferences.

  5. I hear what you say about your feeling of being “disappointed” with comments from other Christians talking of you “slipping… arrogant… not quite sound… denying the gospel”. If there is any “intimidation” the perhaps it is worth discussing with view to resolving in Christ.

    Your feeling is an indication of something in need of attention.

    Therefore can I ask about comment I made a little while ago? I wrote. “I fail to see what you have claimed, that “Elton John really has nothing to teach the Church”. That seems like proselyting to me and little to do with the Gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ… I learn things from people who are gay all the time and people learn from me. That is my empirical reality. ” http://theweeflea.wordpress.com/2014/07/31/jesus-is-alive-article-in-the-scotsman/#comments

    Clearly in this comment, I expressed a view that what you mentioned about Elton John seemed to me to have little to do with the gospel. Would you classify this comment under me claiming that you are “denying the gospel” and would you regard that as “intimidation”?

    If so then how may anyone express thoughts as invited by you in such a way that you would receive and be open to correction which you have stated “of course” you would welcome?

    I hear what you have mentioned about so called “street preachers” talking about homosexuality as “sin” and I know you will be keen not to do similar or create what you have described as a “train wreck” for everyone else to have to deal with but to communicate the gospel appropriately.

    I look forward to addressing any issue of intimidation and communication of the gospel in the interest of understanding, unity, for Christ’s, and the gospel’s sake.

    Kind Regards


  6. David

    I agree with you.
    About how we should approach the referendum, and each other, with respect.

    But regarding the issue, forgive the Daily Mail reference, but I think Michael Gove’s plea is the best I have read – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2754158/Don-t-make-parents-foreigners-children-In-emotional-plea-MICHAEL-GOVE-says-Scottish-moral-values-learned-boy-Aberdeen-make-Britain-great.html

    I can’t vote, but if I could, my vote would now be “no”. As the date has drawn closer, I have changed. I used to feel that the heart said “yes” but the head said “no”; Michael Gove makes a very strong case that for a Scot, born and bred, the heart should say “no”, and for good reasons. I now agree with him. I urge you and your readers to read Michael Gove’s plea, and consider it’s worth.


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