The word ‘secular’ is one that is used in many different ways. For many it is simply about political secularism – the separation of church and state. The trouble is that such a simplistic definition depends on what you mean by church and state. For the more militant secularist the state is defined as almost everything – education, politics, healthcare, law etc. and as a result ‘separation’ of church and state becomes exclusion of religion from all areas of public life. This is why there are some people who are keen to use secularism as a guise for their militant atheist, anti-theist or more often just anti Christian agenda. The Scottish Secular Society are a classic example of that. They object to being called atheist (and given the record of atheist regimes in the world one can understand why a secular political organisation does not want to be called atheist) and technically they may well be right. But they are obsessively anti-religious. You will search long and hard to find articles about secular politics on their FB page – but every day you will get a plethora of anti-religious articles and posts. On their FB page today and several other days there are numerous stories about the ‘Catholic fanatic/extremist/Pope Benedict fan’ Jim Murphy, the candidate for the new Scottish Labour leadership job – there is an attack on the Free Church and on Archbishop Welby and so on it goes. SSS like to claim they are not anti-religious. That’s true in the same way that the BNP claim they are not anti-black. Their actions speak louder than their claims. I find it particularly disturbing this constant referral to Jim Murphy as Catholic – what does that have to do with anything? It comes worryingly close to the kind of anti-Catholic sectarianism that plagued the West of Scotland – perhaps it still does?
A Tragic Death
This weekend however they reached a new low, when one of their leaders posted an article on the death of five year old Scott Chirashi. The details of this story are horrendous but suffice it to say that this five-year-old boy was found stabbed to death in his home in Alva and as a result his mother has been taken into custody. We don’t know what happened but that does not stop Secular Scotland seeking to apportion blame. Garry Otton one of their administrators immediately posted below the link to the story, both the Face Book and web pages of Alva Baptist church. Why? What possible relevance could this have to the story? The mother and child attended Alva Baptist Church since they moved to the village a year ago. But why would SSS post this as a relevant factor? Because it is a crude attempt to link the church and Christianity with this horrific crime.
Garry explains, “Let there be an enquiry into these extreme churches.” Thereby making the link between this horrendous murder and the church. Paul Braterman a much more sensible and balanced SSS member then tries to correct Garry’s implications, after first of all pointing out that Alva was ‘creationist’ – “I don’t see anything in Alva Baptist’s record that makes it more extreme than any other 6-day literalist church, nor any link between this bizarre act of insanity and anything the church might have taught. It’s like blaming atheism for Columbine”. But Garry is not letting go that easily – first of all he plays the homophobia card. – That can easily be said when seen through the perspective of a straight man. For victims of these punishing regimes they are extreme. (That’s you told Paul – because you are straight you don’t understand or have the right to comment), before going on to state “ I agree, mental illness is the most obvious factor, but the extreme fundamentalism that manifests from these places in the shape of sexism, homophobia and abuse is control that manifests in punishment. The consequences have been well documented.” This latter remark is ‘liked’ by another Secularist official who often appears in the press as a spokesperson for secularism, Alaister McBay, who really should know better and who also is allowing his prejudices to colour his rationality.
My first reaction is all of this is one of immense sorrow. First of all for the family, the mentally ill mother and the community and church in Alva. I know the minister and I know that this is an incredibly hard thing to deal with. That should first and foremost be our priority. I was in touch with the minister yesterday and we are of course praying for all involved. And we do more than pray. Unlike SSS we don’t insist that everyone who comes to our churches believes everything we believe. Our doors are open to all, and that is why you will find that the poor, the sick and yes, the mentally ill, are welcome within our churches (I should not need to state this but its a logical point that seems to be missed by some – just because someone who is mentally ill comes to our churches, it does not necessarily follow that their mental illness was caused by the church!).
But there is also a real sadness at the behaviour of SSS. How did someone get so bitter and twisted that they are prepared to use the tragic death of a five year old boy, to further their anti–Christian agenda? (Sadly its not the first time that the prejudices of some SSS members have allowed them to use and exploit some of the weaker members of society – and I doubt it will be the last). And how sad that the rest of SSS are willing to let this continue in their name. Some will say that there is not a direct link made. Please. We are not that stupid. Can you imagine if a member of the BNP was reporting this story and then put immediately afterwards, the mother was black, what kind of outrage (rightly) there would be? Guilt by association is a well-used tactic. And one that SSS continually plays. If SSS wishes us to take seriously their claims that they are not anti-religious they need to put their own house in order. And maybe they could start posting some stories about secular politics and stop all the anti-religious, anti-Christian and anti-Catholic rants and guilt by association stories. It would make for a pleasant change.
Footnote: After this was posted I expected SSS to take down the offending posts and to tell Garry to cool it. Not at all. Instead they posted this up on their page and the jeering mob joined in the mockery – the usual questioning of my sanity etc. With at least one person joining in the mockery without having even read the article. Nothing like rational thinking (and reading). But what is absolutely chilling is that there are several posts directly linking Alva Baptist Church to ritual killing and implying that they are responsible! When you have to deal with this level of irrationality, prejudice and hatred is it little wonder that we regard SSS as militant! And also incredibly dangerous. Because we live in such a dumbed down society that yes – there are those who will believe that Baptists engage in ritual killing…..we are not so far away from the early Christians who were accused by the Romans of sacrificing children and drinking their blood – because of the communion. It is such ignorance which leads to such gross intolerance. I can understand a couple of very disturbed individuals behaving like this – but to have the whole society follow like sheep into the black pit of prejudice and irrational hatred is really quite shocking…and depressing….if anyone needs proof of the total depravity of humanity just read SSS!