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Without Christianity we will lose Equality and Tolerance – Article in the Scotsman – 4th September 2015

This is our latest Solas article in the Scotsman –  Scotsman Article on Equality

Time for a return to true liberal values, which tolerate views with which we strongly disagree, writes David Robertson

‘FOR too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens, ‘as long as you obey the law we will leave you alone’.”

These words by the Prime Minister are a real sign of one of the greatest dangers facing our liberal democracy and its values. In a supreme twist of irony David Cameron indicates that he wants to defend “British values” of “freedom, democracy, tolerance and free speech” by restricting the expression of those values. Since when did it become the business of the government to interfere in the lives of citizens who abide by the laws of the country?

This new danger of statist totalitarianism is not something that comes from the fascist right or the communist left – it is now something far more dangerous, it comes from the liberal elites – the “nice’”people who run the country.

The problem is that, in a society that has largely rejected its Christian roots, we cannot expect the Christian fruits, including tolerance and equality, to continue. We try. We speak of British values, but seem unable to define them. And we find that they are re-interpreted and re-enforced by those who wield power as they please. In a world where there is no absolute morality, by definition all morality is subjective and is done largely on the basis of power, money and emotion, rather than reason, evidence and revelation.

With the increasing dumbing down of public discourse, the growing gap between rich and poor, the decline of traditional media and the rise of social media and the internet, the field is wide open for a return to an intolerant and undemocratic society. Let me explain. The rich are able to purchase newspapers, fund politicians and ensure that mainstream media such as TV and radio, stay “on message”. The individual super wealthy, the large corporations, or just the civil servants on massive salaries, are able to buy policies and moralities as they wish. The left has largely given up on any real idea of economic equality and instead has seen “equality” in terms of social and sexual liberalism. The right knows that all they have to do is claim the same social and sexual liberalism and no-one has any real reason, other than personality, to vote for others. Ironically both right and left in politics rely on corporate capitalism, a society built on debt and the promises of a materialist nirvana, to keep their power.

This social liberalism is enforced through a compliant media, an establishment arts culture and mob rule through the internet. It’s become quite easy to see what the “next big thing” is in liberal social causes. First of all a couple of articles are written, or documentaries produced, which question what was previously taboo; then the prophets of our age, the stand up comics, take on the “new radical cause”, the soap operas introduce the subject favourably, the opinion polls tell us “what the people think”, social media kicks in and finally the politicians and judges catch up. Anyone who dares question the new establishment morality is sidelined, abused and mocked.The Marxist writer Brendan O’Neil, writing in the Irish Times about the Irish Same Sex Marriage referendum. summed up one example well: “There’s a profound irony here: Ireland’s political class calls for a Yes vote to prove that Ireland has moved on from its intolerant religious past, and yet some of that old intolerance is being rehabilitated by the very people backing gay marriage. They shush dissent and demonise their opponents as effectively as any priest used to do, only in the name of Gays rather than God.” He went on to point out that the sacralisation of the Yes vote and the demonisation of the No vote prevented debate and especially on social media, where those who expressed doubt about gay marriage were driven offline. Anyone who has experienced the self-righteous fury of the new fundamentalists on the twittersphere will understand.

In the past week I have met a public servant who has been threatened with the sack by their employer because they were too open about their faith in the public arena (even though this was outwith their work), talked to a politician who is scared to talk about their faith because of the abuse and questions that follow on social media, and had a leading Scottish actor tell me that “there is no debate” on the latest shibboleth issue, who then went on to furiously inform his “diverse” group of friends (who all think the same thing) that anyone who disagreed with him was a bigot. Dave Thompson, the retiring Highland MSP, spoke at a Solas meeting last month of the intimidation that Christians in politics face. In a pluralistic, democratic society this should not be. But as long as we make idols of money, power and fame and rely on the immediate, the emotional and the selfish, what else can we expect?

My concern is that we have a government that passively tolerates poverty, whilst actively seeking to socially engineer. We have a media that is too reliant on corporate advertising and a politics too cowed by fear. I would love to see a return to good old-fashioned liberalism, to the kind of tolerance that actually tolerates people with whom one does not disagree. Sometimes we don’t know what we have until we lose it. Unless we speak out now in defence of traditional Christian liberal values, we will find ourselves living in a state where it will be soon be impossible to do so.

• David Robertson, Solas CPC



  1. Christianity does not offer equality. Unless you mean, all Christians are equal? What about those who do not share your faith? You were against the equality of same sex marriage so do not make a claim to equality.

    My morality is based on reason and evidence. Revelation that requires two millennia of theology and interpretation of has nothing to do with it. The fact that two people who read to the bible with no pre-learning or set interpretations will come to take different meanings from the Bible demonstrates it is not a source of equality.

    You don’t say why the rich are keen for an anti-Christian message. Makes me wonder about Fox News, the Koch Brothers support for evangelical Christian politicians, Hobby Lobby that won its case in SCOTUS by claiming it was a religious person. In the UK I am sure the Daily Mail is on your side when it comes to “moral issues”. The Times and the Telegraph will not be far behind. The rich and powerful media are not setting a “message” that is different from yours.

    (however, your general economic analysis is broadly correct)

    Debate is always important and should be conducted civilly (even if it is one-sided here on your blog – you never debate anyone). However, the debate needs to have proper evidence and consideration. Laying down a point by saying “The Bible says so” is not really much of an argument for non-believers. You really need to understand this part. Any claim to biblical special knowledge on an issue is irrelevant to non-believers. Previous privilege given to religion alone is no longer available to you. That is actual equality right there. You are free to have your beliefs, but do not foist them on people who do not want them. Do not, for a second, think that your belief is any more special than mine when it comes to having ideas and opinions. That is equality.

    No-one should be threatened with the sack just because they express their faith outside of work. If their Christianity is of a strand that is very much defining itself as being against a great many things then they need to make sure they are not against their employer or customers/clients as that would be an interesting conflict of interest (you would not be happy, for example, if a Free Church minister stated away from their ministry that gay sex was ok provided they weren’t members of the Free Church.).

    I find “bigot” a very interesting word. In British English it refers to a state of mind where a person is obstinately, irrationally, or unfairly intolerant of ideas, opinions, or beliefs that differ from their own, and intolerant of the people who hold them. In American English, the term can be used similarly; however, it can also be used to refer to intolerance towards a group of people in general based on their group characteristics such as race, religion, national origin, gender, gender identity, disability, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status.

    Its clearly been mixed up in the UK to include both definitions really. And to call someone a bigot can get close to becoming a bigot at the same time. When does difference of opinions become intolerance. Certainly denying people equality is on the road to being a bigot I would say.

    If a MSP does have a belief then they should be comfortable saying so. They should also accept, as should you, that people might not support said politician because of their religious views. In a plural democratic society that has to be allow, surely?

    I agree that we need more tolerance in society. An equal society where no group of people can claim privilege over others. I actually want a humanist society. A humanist society would be a secular one and one where your faith, your church rules and the right to believe what you want are protected. You should always be free to say that you and your Church are against things that are not Biblically approved. However, a humanist society would also support same sex marriage and individual autonomy including trans and other self-defined identities. Your “traditional Christian liberal values” (a delicious oxymoron there) would not allow that equality.

    1. Douglas…..far too much here to respond to…some of what you write I agree with. However lets just stick to the one point….are you for ‘equal’ marriage for polygamists? or incest?

  2. I find it quite fascinating that Solas (Christian) and Brendan O’Neill (Marxixst, atheist, editor of Spiked) are singing from the same hymn sheet on this issue (if you will pardon the metaphor). A Marxist writer defending religious freedom of expression – whatever next!

    “On both sides of the Atlantic, fundamental freedoms are under threat. Hate-speech laws continue to proliferate; universities are beset by campus speech codes; the religious are told that their faith is discriminatory; and the press is besieged by the easily offended. ” (O’Neill, Spiked Editorial, September 2105)

  3. Once again David Robertson has sounded a warning about the consequences of the failure of Scotland’s Christian leaders to stand up for the faith. When will Christian leaders take their heads out of the sand and start to take a public stand for Christ. They must either step up to the plate or stand down!!!!!!

  4. I find myself passionately in agreement with a lot of what concerns you David.

    At the same time can I caution about your use of the term “liberal” in keeping with what you talk of “I often get things wrong and appreciate correction?” The idea of being “liberal”, of having an affinity with liberation – the exodus narrative of Israel’s freedom from slavery is not a bad thing. The sense of crossing over to Jordan and into the promised land has been influence for great people like Martin Luther King. So it’s not liberal/conservative politics that is our main concern but how these politics are manifested.

    We want to embrace difference and variety but not allow diversity of views to be the cause of tribalism and insensitive discrimination towards “the other”.

    So yes in the sense of being “nice” if I have understood you correctly it is not dissimilar to how I passionately dislike the appearance of correctness but it masking cowardice and facilitating a luke warm middle class polite elite where there is power favouring the few to the detriment of many. It seems that frequently to be welcomed as a Christian leader, it requires one to be risk-adverse, “non-threatening”, affirming and supportive, even if in doing so this enables sin to permeate and have an effect just as yeast does on the rising of dough in bread.

    On the other hand David, one of the issues you have commented in the Free Church is that of pride. Of course this sin is not exclusive to the “wee frees” (I use that term endearingly as a nickname and not derogatorily) but in principle can be prevalent in any denomination or in the wider society in Scotland.

    So do we lose equality and tolerance with the absence of Christianity? I suppose that depends to what extent Christianity is representative of the love of Jesus and to what extent it is representative of the ego with pride and fear determining the cause of events. Also to what extent the wider culture gives off the fragrance of God’s common grace or not. For as you have rightly said, take away the presence of God and what you have is hell on earth.

    Thank God, he is not done with humanity yet and that he is patient and abounding in grace, not wanting to see anyone perish.

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