Apologetics Evangelism Newspaper/Magazine Articles The Church in Scotland

An Encouraging Tale- The Herald and Christianity in the Public (George) Square!

Imagine the scene.  After a visit to a man with cancer, I was walking down Byres road in Glasgow, heading for the subway to travel to speak at Creationfest in George Square.  I was feeling a bit discouraged after a tough week.  I was especially discouraged by a nasty, vicious and lying letter from the Secular Society published in the Dundee Courier, the continued backlash from Stephen Green’s supporters, the continued consiousness of my own weakness and sin – and of course the horribleness of cancer and death.  How do I preach in the open air in George Square?  How can I tell of Christ in ten minutes?  Should I even be doing it?  (the question there is not whether it should be done, but whether I am the person to do it)….

And then...I picked up the Herald newspaper and read this astonishing article from Kevin McKenna.  Remember this is a journalist writing in a secular newspaper.  You can read it and the comments that follow (the usual vitriol and abuse from the secularists – which kind of prove the point of the article – but they havn’t the nous to see that!).  The text of the article is beneath.

The WItchfinder General is Alive and Kicking in 21st Century

The Witchfinder General is Alive and Kicking in 21st Century 

During the national debate on our constitutional future two years ago many of us felt Scotland, as a nation, had acquitted itself very well. In the eyes of overseas observers the Scottish independence referendum had set the gold standard for similar campaigns around the globe in the future. During this period I encountered several journalists from foreign publications and each expressed their admiration at how dramatic, yet civilised, the process was turning out to be. These men and women had witnessed almost 90 per cent of the eligible population turning out to vote and marvelled at how many of them had become energised by the process.

For the first time many people, whom politics had left uninterested or with feelings of alienation, felt included. It seemed Scotland’s claim to be an enlightened democracy that valued diversity, equality and fairness was not an over-stated one. Since then Scotland has set more gold standards in implementing equality for our LGBTI community and in welcoming refugees into our midst.

Yet, a feeling persists that many who value progress such as this and have campaigned for it would nonetheless deprive Scotland’s Christian community of similar rights.

I don’t intend to get involved in the non-story of the Unionists’ feverish imaginations regarding the fate of Stephen Daisley last week. Mr Daisley is an editor of STV’s online content and an extremely good essayist, whose output has occasionally caused consternation among the SNP and their devotees. Of these there have been very few recently, leading some to think the SNP forced STV to silence him, despite there being not a scintilla of evidence to justify such a claim.

What I found most interesting about this social media spat – and not a little disturbing – was that Mr Daisley’s anti-abortion views were held to be “extremist”. For, in modern Scotland, several reasonable, Christian positions are now deemed to be outrageous and beyond the pale in the new secular, orthodoxy of this country that is supposed to value diversity.
This is the language of the witch-finder general and it is beginning to cast its shadow all over the country. Such though, is life in this one Scotland of many cultures where, it seems, some cultures are held to be less than others.
There are lots of reasons I found this article astonishing.  I’m sure you can work them out….(and I’m not talking about yours truly being called ‘charismatic and urbane’!)….but for me the most astonishing thing is the timing.  I was on my way walking to speak the Gospel in the public square ( and you don’t get much more public in Scotland than George Square), wondering if I should do it, and the Lord send this encouraging token.  You may wonder if I am reading too much into it, but for me it was a real blessing.
As was the whole Creationfest.  I know that for some Christians the notion of a music/skate park/speaking festival in the midst of Scotland’s biggest city sounds twee, American and not something that will reach Scottish people, but I have a different view.  Firstly I am reminded of Moody’s rejoinder to those who complained about his style of evangelism – “you may well be right, but I prefer the way I do evangelism, to the way you don’t”!   Creationfest may not be your cup of tea, but I want to know what is?  What are we doing to reach the lost millions in Scotland’s cities, towns and villages?
I think Creationfest was an excellent public square event because under the wise leadership of Brian Brodersen and Calvary Chapel, it was well organised, all the music I heard was top quality (and I am writing this on the train before hearing the Simon Kennedy Band and Brian Macleod – although I did hear Stephen Henderson another musician from St Peters – changed days that the Free Church was able to provide three participants in this type of event!), the stalls were good and,  although I didn’t partake, I’m sure the skateboarding was fun!.  Futhermore it was free!    It was a tremendous witness.
For me preaching in the open air in today’s society with people walking past with ear phones, always in a hurry to get some where and the constant noise of traffic, is not easy. But when the set up is as good as Creationfest was, it is well worth doing. And of course the Lord’s word will not return to him empty.
I especially enjoyed the seminar in Glasgow City Church (confusingly there are two churches in Glasgow with the same name, but this was the non-Free Church one).  The attendance and response at this seminar only confirmed my view that there are many of the Lord’s people who are frustrated and looking for the church leaderships to provide guidance, training and above all leadership in outreach.
As  I write this on the slow train to Dundee (apparently stopping at every small town in the Central Belt) I can only hope and pray that as the Dundee, Celtic, Aberdeen and Hearts fans all walk past George Square right now (6pm) they would hear the sounds of the Simon Kennedy Band and stop to enquire, what is going on?
I am deeply grateful to those who organised, prayed and worked so hard. May the Lord grant that their labours are not in vain.


  1. Thanks David for highlighting the ‘Witchfinder General is Alive and Kicking in the 21st C’ article which was fantastic on two accounts: 1/ Its analysis on the how there is an ever growing attempt by many secularists to marginalise the Christian voice in secular society and 2/ Its timely encouragement to you. As someone once said, ‘God’s trains are never late!’ I totally agree with using all means necessary to herald the Good News of Jesus Christ and believe we honour Him best when we pray about, prepare for and present that message as best we can. Thank you also for your openness and honesty regarding your own shortcomings and struggles in these days when much has been written and said about you. I will pray for you brother and pray by God’s you continue to declare the Word of God fearlessly. I will also pray the same for myself. Blessings

  2. Another tactic used by the anti-Christian brigade (although it also used to refer to anybody else the liberal elite dislikes) is to call someone ‘controversial’. The ‘controversial’ Donald Trump but Hilary Clinton wouldn’t be described in that way. The ‘controversial’ David Robertson, next, I imagine, but never ‘the controversial Richard Dawkins’.
    On another matter, while I applaud the aims of Creationfest can I ask why it felt it necessary to use a German name? (Fest is German for festival.) It seems to be becoming more and more common to use the German word rather than the English word. I was therefore, quite amused to find a Musikfestival on a recent visit to Austria.

  3. Great to hear you made it to the big smoke, and got home again! Didn’t even know this event was on, but sounds like a great opportunity to preach in George Square – can’t think of too many people better placed to do it David, so we can give thanks to the Lord he encouraged you just at the right moment.

  4. I’m always mystified by the “if people want a Catholic (or w/e) school then let them pay”. Um, they already pay. Taxes. Like atheist parents, evangelical parents, Muslim parents, and so on. The argument that government-funded schools must be “neutral” (read: functionally atheist), and faith schools must be private, really means that the freedom to bring up your children with what you believe to be true and good exists for the wealthy only. Liberal and tolerant it isn’t.

  5. I also was hugely encouraged by Kevin McKenna’s Herald article. The serendipitous nature and timing of it almost restored my faith in journalism – almost!
    God moves in mysterious ways and sometimes meets us in our times of greatest need – I’m sure your road to Emmaus moment on your way to Creationfest set your heart on fire. Keep up the good work David! Scotland and the Scottish Church need your prophetic voice.

  6. Dear David,

    I hope you know that you need not fear whatever the Scottish Secular Society will do. In my brief time time with them, one of their leaders shared with me what the SSS don’t want to know about themselves publicly – that there are significant numbers with their ranks that fear being marginalised as a “fringe atheist group.” What started off as a group inclusive to “religion” with good approaches to equality has gone the way that all groups go with equality – like the pigs in George Orwells Animal Farm of some being more equal to others and trying to set themselves up as the standard, just as the pigs claimed they were to be the leaders of the farm – after all they were the most intelligent and what good would it do for the farm to not be led by the most intelligent?

    Yes, sometimes you are like a bull in a china shop with how you go about things – but you already know that. Of course any of your sin past present or future is covered and you know that too. Part of being as much in the public as you are is that you are more exposed. For example I’m glad that social media wasn’t around when I was younger. So I got to do all my stupid stuff without it being indelibly recorded for all to see. Now when I do something stupid, it’s tempered by the wisdom that decades of life experience affords.

    It’s only a matter of time before secularist organisations implode over issues such as Catholic schools. It’s not just and attack on Christianity that the attempt to abolish denominational schools is doing. It’s an attack on any family that wants their children for be well educated. For, if the standard of education across the board is lowered by banishing schools that consistently perform higher than others then that is of disadvantage to and parents with aspirations for their children and and children with aspirations. It would be better for non-denominational schools to learn from denomination schools to up the standard of education for all than an average being made dumber by eliminating high performing schools.

    Secularists may not care about Christianity and want to abolish it in public life limiting it to something private, and they may very well have some degree of success in this. But when it comes to limiting the well being of children and giving them the best chance in life it’s not just the so called “religious” that they are taking on but the whole of society. What I would say to any organisation who does that – good luck with that one – the people of Scotland might have something to say about that.

    Keep fighting the good fight David of the gospel of Jesus, of making things beautiful.

  7. Found the Herald article interesting but with one or two errors. For example, I find the claim about being subjugated whilst writing in a national newspaper novel and inaccurate. And the vast array of media outlets you use David hardly says you have no voice either.

    I am interested in the outcomes achieved by some Catholic schools. I would like to see a proper study of them to see if there is a link between faith and school results. It would be interesting for all sides I think. It would also look at parental demographics, it would also look at actual data of where the pupils lived as opposed to where the school is (cause of the barriers to local pupil entry) and the parental engagement in the school. If it were the religious curriculum that gave rise to positive outcomes then that would be something that humanists and others would need to cope with and assess. If it were a range of differences around schooling (e.g. teachers with a paranoid fear of pupils discerning their actual beliefs), parental engagement with children and parental income then that is a different policy response.

    I also find the line about “I believe that, according to my faith, marriage is exclusively a union between a man and a woman.” really odd. That is a faith position and people should not be attacked for their faith positions. It is not bigoted to say what your faith says.

    Of course, the line isn’t really complete. It should read: “I believe that, according to my faith, marriage is exclusively a union between a man and a woman and my faith utterly demands that people who do not share my faith do not get to have a different definition of marriage”.

    That is the bigoted line that most of the religions demanded in Scotland and when it was rejected we now get the persecution complex.

    1. Douglas,

      It is self evident from the article that he is not saying that we have no voice. He is saying that there are those who seek to silence, and that is evident sadly from your own tribe. The attempt to silence by mockery, litigation and threats are real.

      Your last three paragraphs are completely contradictory. If you think about I’m sure you’ll be able to work out why!


      1. There is a difference between forcing the religious to not say anything compared to the religious not being listened to. Saying something doesnt mean it needs to be listened to.

        I would challenge anyone against you saying what your faith says. I would also, probably at the same time, highlight that trying to extend control over people who do not share that faith is objectionable.

        They are only contradictory because the argument put forth by McKenna and others is contradictory. One cannot take an argument about what their own faith is and then extend that faith position over others and then complain when people push back against that extension. A Catholic being against SSM is fine and not wanting it in their church is fine. But saying others cant have it is not fine.

    2. ““I believe that, according to my faith, marriage is exclusively a union between a man and a woman.”… That is a faith position and people should not be attacked for their faith positions.”

      True – if the letter of the law were followed, people would not be discriminated against for a statement such as this. It would be abhorrent as someone being Islamophobic in some other way or anyone being homophobic. But is this the case in reality? And what would be the outcome if someone went to the Equality and Human Rights Commission with a complaint about discrimination in this regard? In practice, would it be treated as equally as other forms of discrimination?

      “It should read: “I believe that, according to my faith, marriage is exclusively a union between a man and a woman and my faith utterly demands that people who do not share my faith do not get to have a different definition of marriage”…That is the bigoted line that most of the religions demanded.”

      Well, that’s laughable. “Religions” don’t demand that at all, at least not Christianity. There’s always a choice, free will. Jesus gave commands, sure such as “follow me” once he showed people something better and people followed of their own volition- not be being frog marched into something, haha.

      I could however be argued, convincingly I would suggest, that making such a statement about “religions” is an example of bigotry, discrimination and defiance of the law as set out in the Equality Act 2010.

      Buy hey, I’m not a lawyer – so what do I know?

      1. “Buy hey, I’m not a lawyer”

        It shows. The Equality 2010 Act doesnt cover statements as above although someone could try to make a claim via something like hate speech I suppose. The 2010 Act covers discrimination and that statement isn’t discrimination. If, in some way, I was in a position to act as a provider of goods, services, employment etc to a Christian that wants to deny equality to non-Christians and I treated them less favourably than other people because of that belief then we would start to get into the territory of that Act.

        You think my statement is laughable. Yet David campaigned and prayed against the free will of others. People who wanted to get married. His definition of marriage was the one he wanted for everyone. Denial of equality is not frog marching people somewhere as you decided to laughably put it. Seeking to deny some people equality because you don’t want them to have it is a bigoted act.

      2. Douglas I assume that you would campaign and argue against the free will of others? Are you not against polygamous marriage? Are you not against two brothers marrying? Or a mother marrying her daughter? What if they want it? do you regard the refusal of society to grant them ‘equal’ marriage to be wrong?

      3. Mr McLellan,

        People with sense of irony can detect the intention of the comment “Buy hey, I’m not a lawyer”.

        Evidently you, Sir, either have not that ability or have that ability, understood the comment as intended and misrepresented it as something else.
        What you have done in saying “should read” has similarly been misrepresenting. Any of these are on you, not anyone else. If you want to try putting that onto others then good luck with that. Readers of this blog might not be as dumb at you possibly think.

        If there were actions of the bigotry that you allege, then they would be many and easily evidenced. Yet you provide no evidence for there claim you are making. The burden of proof is on what is being alleged, And there exists none. therefore it is opinion and any opinion without evidence is dismissable without the need for any evidence. As religion (defined as any religion or lack of religion) is a protected characteristic is under the Equality Act 2010 then the argument the suggestion it could be argued that you have shown bigotry you towards “religions” and added to that that this can be argued as being self- evident in your comment stands, I suggest.

        Yes Sir your statement is laughable about what religions “demand”. What is also laughable is that you seem incapable of perceiving why it is laughable even after having it explained to you why it is. One can only assume, perhaps, some kind of mental deficiency on you part. But hey, I’m not a doctor just as I am not a lawyer.

        Nevertheless, I welcome your comment “if it were the religious curriculum that gave rise to positive outcomes then that would be something that humanists and others would need to cope with and assess.” While at the same time would ask the question why would it have to be something that “humanists and others” would have to “COPE” with (emphasis mine. Wouldn’t either of these groups be welcoming rather than putting up with anything that is in to the benefit of the education standards of children? Or does you comment that these groups are discriminatory to denominational schools?


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