On Friday I had the privilege of doing another ‘Unbelievable’ programme with Justin Brierley. The other guest was Jonathan Bartley, founder of Ecclesia and co-leader of the Green Party in England and Wales – another professing Christian. We were there to discuss whether, in the light of the Tim Farron affair, Christians are being excluded from public life in the UK. Although it was a good discussion I found the whole experience depressing and a warning about what is happening to the church across the UK. (You can hear the whole programme by clicking here
So why did I find it depressing? Jonathan Bartley was lovely – intelligent, articulate and a delight to meet. Justin is still one of the best hosts and presenters you will ever come across. I don’t think there was any real hostility and the discussion was interesting. However I went away with a feeling of real spiritual heaviness and sorrow. I have been trying to work out why. Perhaps if I highlight some of the things that were said it will help.
- “I have no problem with gay sex. I do not think gay sex is a sin…my view is as biblical as his…the majority of people who listen to this programme will have a different view because they are Christians” This is a narrative that is becoming depressingly familiar. In direct contradiction of the teaching of Christ, people who profess to be Christians are saying black is white. The Christian teaching, that all sex outside marriage is wrong (and that marriage is between a man and a woman) is now dismissed as just one possible Christian teaching. We are left with smorgasbord Christianity.
- “This is because of a massive history of oppression associated with those kind of views…” I’m getting fed up of people using the bullying/oppression card as a reason to bully others to accept their views. The world isn’t as black and white as saying that because some people who are associated with your view treated others badly in the past, then you are responsible and you have to accept our point of view now. I don’t believe in oppressing anyone…and I don’t agree that holding a biblical view of sex and sexuality is oppressive. In fact I would argue the opposite. I also don’t believe that those who hounded Tim Farron did so because they were concerned about making up for oppression from the past. The same people have kept remarkably silent about the real oppression of gays that is occurring in Muslim countries (after all they don’t want to be accused of homophobia).
- “What about Jacob Rees-Moog? Mark Pritchard? Jonathan thought that simply because there were about 20 MPs (out of 650) (according to him) who openly held the traditional biblical view, this meant that there was no discrimination against Christians who actually hold to the teaching of Christ. But of course it does nothing of the sort. He would not accept that because there are black, gay, and women MPs there is no discrimination – so why make Christians the exception?
- ‘Policies set democratically by the members” – The problem with this is that you are not allowed to be a member if you disagree with the policies. And so the Greens, like many authoritarian parties, have become circular. Our members decide our policies but you are not allowed to be a member if you disagree. It was explicitly made clear that for people with views like mine, even though we might be ‘Green’, “The Green Party is not the place for them.”
- “It’s about justice, looking after the planet, freedom and equality…other Christians may belong to different parties….their faith is different to mine”…. This disturbed me because it is about the politicization of Christianity. The identification of Christianity with the Green party is as wrong as the identification of Christianity with Right Wing Republicanism in the USA. Apart from the sound bite truisms (who is really going to be against looking after the planet, freedom and equality?), it’s the arrogance and the exclusivity of it.
- “Trying hard not to crack up laughing at the Green party being told it is establishment “ – Jonathan and his colleagues like to think they are ‘radical’ etc. but they are really the new establishment. Wanting to get rid of bishops from the House of Lords, is not really all that radical. What would be really radical would be suggesting that the traditional Christian teaching concerning the family should be encouraged by government. Its so easy to be radical about things in the past…what is much harder is to challenge the current zeitgeist.
- “And then they say, this is persecution…my brothers and sisters this is not persecution. If you want to see persecution…you go to North Korea, you go to China”. It’s the double standard here that appalls me. On the one hand Christians are told to shut up about persecution because its far, far worse in North Korea and China (true)….but if anyone were to say to the MeToo women, ‘my sisters, this is not persecution….if you want to see persecution go to Saudi Arabia”, they would be laughed out of court. Why the double standards?
- “Being the voice of the voiceless”… This is a phrase I am so tired of hearing……its usually said by powerful middle class people who have nothing to lose by speaking out (it doesn’t really affect them) and have a lot to gain by their virtue signaling. To be arrogantly asked ‘why don’t you do it?” was depressing. Not least because I think I do….but also because I don’t like the concept as it is used by todays politicians. Every bishop, trendy political leader and social commentator, says that this is what they are doing. My question is why not give the voiceless, voices? Why not let people speak? Why do you have to speak for them? And who is speaking out for the working victims of those devastated by the middle class social liberalism imposed on the whole of society?
- “Eugenics abortion is abhorrent…when they are views that are abhorrent and will oppress” – The question is who gets to decide what views are abhorrent and oppressive? I agree completely with Jonathan that eugenics abortion is abhorrent, but then I think that the killing of any child in the womb is abhorrent. I also think that much of current day abortion is effectively eugenics against the poor. Can’t afford to have a child, get rid of her!
But all the above does not explain my heaviness. Maybe I was tired? Maybe there were other factors? I certainly sensed a sorrow and weariness in Jonathan. But I think the main reason is this. I am saddened that the devil is sowing such confusion amongst Christians, at a time when we need clarity and unity. I am getting tired of being told that when you argue for a biblical position, its just one of many possible ‘biblical’ positions. There are of course issues where there is genuine disagreement by brothers and sisters over interpretation of the Bible. But these are always over secondary issues. The Bible is absolutely clear about the main issues (although of course leaving room for many questions). Ironically I met with a Roman Catholic Archbishop last week who agreed with me on this. What our new evangelical Protestant liberals are doing is using evangelical language to promote the 19th Century Protestant liberalism that has destroyed many churches.
I regretted not challenging Jonathan more on his claim that his position was just as biblical. I was intimidated by fear that I would be accused (as often happens) of not being nice enough. I had just been told that Steve Chalke, although he would be writing a response to my article, was not prepared to discuss or debate with me. He prefers to push the narrative that he is being ‘biblical’ and that I am just being nasty. The Anti-Christ Message of Steve Chalke The Chalke Response
That by the way is a narrative that gets picked up on the message boards and in the personal stuff that gets sent to me. Here are a couple of examples:
“Robertson is the voice of the church in decline; the voice of a generation that is dying off. He and people of a like mind speak out and then are dismayed that people treat them as oddities.”
“You are feeling marginalized by the same Christian community that once embraced you. You are quickly becoming the ‘wee flea’ that most Christians wish to shake off. They distance themselves from many of the immoral views that you have chosen to cling to. Justin rarely hosts you anymore for that (ALL your ‘backward’ moral standards ) reason imo.
Maybe they are right? Maybe I am being ‘marginalised’ (although I was never aware of being particularly ‘embraced’)? And maybe it is deserved? I could be wrong. But my conviction is that the real marginalised are those who seek to uphold the teachings of Christ and honour his Word. In todays society it costs the Chalkes and Bartleys of this world nothing to uphold the values of that society and morph them with Christianity. For those of us who refuse to do that, we may be treated as ‘oddities’ and ‘immoral’, but then so were Christ and the disciples! Yesterday I preached His word to a packed church (so much for dying off!) and today I have to answer a string of e-mails from people seeking to become Christians, Christians who are confused by the teachings of Chalke et al, and those who have been damaged by legalism and authoritarianism…. I have nothing to give them except the Christ of the Bible. Here we stand we can do no other….but sometimes its wearisome!