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Why I’m saying ‘Bah Humbug’ to Polly Toynbee’s ignorant anti-Christian crusade

By: David Robertson | 14th November 2018 – This article 

The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee wants you to “beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts”. David Robertson responds

Why I’m saying ‘Bah Humbug’ to Polly Toynbee’s ignorant anti-Christian crusade

This article was first published on Premier Christianity yesterday. 

It’s that time of year. The time when we all get ready for Christmas – as though we were preparing for a 12-month siege. The time when Polly Toynbee, vice president of the Humanist Society and professional anti-Christian, has her Grinch-like attack on Christianity. Whether its hating Narnia because the last thing she needs is someone to die for her sins, or attacks on American fundamentalist evangelicals, Toynbee never fails to disappoint. 

Her latest diatribe in The Guardian is entitled “This Christmas, beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts”. It warns the faithful secularists of that most dangerous of organisations, Samaritan’s Purse and specifically, their Christmas shoebox appeal – which, much to Toynbee’s horror is being supported by Café Nero, Shoe Zone, Barratt Homes, Glamorgan cricket team and Cardiff Blues rugby club. Furthermore this appeal is taken up by many schools across the UK, which in Toynbee’s narrow world should only be allowed to disseminate secular humanist doctrines.

So what does our fearless columnist find so objectionable?

Apparently these shoeboxes are pro-Trump, Islamaphobic and anti-gay. The shoeboxes themselves contain no written material, although they are often delivered with a book of Bible stories called The Greatest Gift. Having read through the whole Bible over 100 times I have yet to find anything in it which could be regarded as pro-Trump. As for Islamaphobic or homophobic, Toynbee needs to take a basic logic 101 course so that she can grasp that disagreeing with something, or having a different point of view, does not necessarily mean that one is phobic about it. If she sticks to her own criteria then she is guilty of Christophobia, Brexitphobia, Narniaphobia and Toryphobia! Not to mention shocking prejudice fueled by ignorance.

Polly tries to suggest that she is the intrepid journalist who has uncovered the “pernicious hidden agenda” of Samaritans Purse. (So hidden that it’s clearly stated on their website how they want to share the love of Christ).

She also struggles to grasp the concept that sharing the love of Christ does not mean presenting Franklin Graham (the president of Samaritans Purse) as the Messiah, nor does it mean endorsing his political views.

But what about the accusations of Islamaphobia and proselytizing? There is a great deal of hypocrisy in this complaint – not least because Toynbee as a secular feminist has herself spoken out against aspects of Islam and seeks on a daily basis to proselytize in the name of her secular faith. But there is also a great deal of ignorance in Toynbee’s complaint. The example she uses is of shoeboxes being sent to Muslim Albania.

As it happens I have just returned from an IFES conference where I met a number of Albanians – including a wonderful intelligent lady who was converted from a Muslim background. 25 years ago – when Albania was recovering from being made the poorest country in Europe by the secular Marxists, there was only one known family of evangelical Christians in the whole country. Now there are over 18,000. The church is growing and developing in that country. Indeed as a general axiom it seems as though when the Church develops, so does the country. If Toynbee wants to remove the Church from liberal, secular Western democracies then she should ask if herself, if my fantasy is ever enacted, will those societies continue to be either liberal or democratic?

If she wishes to defend Muslims from proselytism then to be consistent that must include the proselytism of Western liberals. I look forward to her objections to Western governments and charities tying aid into pro-abortion policies! But consistency like logic is not the strongest virtue among the Humanist faithful.

A number of years ago in my hometown in Dundee, my sister witnessed a young Pakistani boy being viciously beaten in a racist attack. In response to that my small church decided to set up a ministry to demonstrate the love of Christ to Asian people in our city. One of the local Imams asked to meet with me because he was concerned that this was an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity.

I told the Imam, “We are only seeking to bring the good news of Jesus and show the love of Christ – to all people. We realised that we were being discriminatory by leaving out Asian people from our ministry, so we set up our Asian outreach. We are not trying to convert anyone because we cannot. Only God can convert”. The Imam replied: “I agree with my brother…only God can convert…I have no problem with these people.” Sometimes Calvinist theology has its advantages! 

No one has to give to Samaritans Purse (we don’t – our church supports the Blytheswood shoebox appeal). The Humanists could easily send their own shoeboxes without any material. But they won’t. The more militant Humanists are so scared that anyone would challenge their ideological monopoly that they would rather see children go without than run the risk that they might actually hear about Jesus at Christmas. Bah Humbug!

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For more information about the Operation Christmas Child campaign from Samaritan’s Purse visit samaritans-purse.org.uk



  1. “Only God can convert”.

    That doctrine is not peculiar to Calvinism. Or Evangelicalism. Or Prorestantism. It is “mere Christian”, accepted on both sides of the Reformation.; and, I assume, by Jews. It is always encouraging to find Muslims, Hindus, etc., having their own reasons to believe some of what Christians confess to be true.

  2. It sounds like “your” Polly and “our” Donald (Asia Trump) are actually kissing cousins (do you have that expression in Scotland?), because their rhetorical flourishes are the same style, though they differ in content. But this is hardly surprising, considering that Nazis made a WWII pact with Communists, uniting two of the three greatest butchers (Mao being the other) in history in common cause, and then they ate each other, the normal end of such unholy alliances. Every extremist is united in having their strings pulled by the spirit of totalitarianism. But the sovereign Lord is in control. If He can use Nebuchadnezzar to discipline his people, why not Trump?

  3. People are of course entitled to their opinions and as we’ve recently seen free speech is still considered worthy of protection, I do feel though these pretences of concern regarding shoeboxes (I read the article and am glad it’s being looked at here) are really far fetched and miss the point. Of all the things going on in the world, this hardly seems a pressing matter for one of our best newspapers to cover and while they will say it’s all in a days work, if that’s the best they can come up with, I still think that particular edition will have it’s finest moment on a nail by the privy.

  4. Funny the humanists are not campaigning to ban Santa – a fictitious character who secretly enters people’s homes and leaves presents for children!! This shocking cynicism is the spirit of the anti-Christ surely! If people say they are motivated by the love of Christ to give these beautiful boxes to children and adults in need – then why is that making the humanists so mad? One Christmas box given to a little child who has nothing – could bring immeasurable joy – show that child that someone cares and could give a needy child enough hope to get them through to adulthood and be something beautiful they would never forget. It may also give them the clear message that God loves them and that makes a world of a difference to a child in need. Pernicious agenda is that of those humanists objecting publicly, who would actively work to rob needy children of some joy and prevent the little children from coming to Christ. Shame, shame on them! Christ reigns and loves these needy children. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” May His name be praised forevermore.

    1. At worst Santa may be more frugal with the gifts he leaves under the tree if a child has been naughty. God on the other hand may send the child to hell.

      How does the knowledge that a god loves them make a world of difference to a needy child , could you explain this to me? Is it because the child is too young to stop and think, “Does he? Why does he allow me to be in need then?”

      1. John, not sure about God sending children to hell. There’s a theology around that – which I won’t go into. Hell is, no doubt, a difficult concept but we all stand condemned – to hell. God’s love is such that he doesn’t want us to go to hell. He has provided a way to escape by sending his son to die in our place. I know you don’t get it – but that is the gospel. Many do get it! If Christians are so deluded – as you seemingly must think they are – then why does that bother you? With reference to Santa – I wasn’t referring to the value of the gifts – but to the deception. These humanists are bothered by the Christmas boxes which they think are an insidious means to bribe a child into Christianity. Santa, by that standard, could be also seen as an insidious means to trick a child into thinking there is a benevolent, omniscient, omnipresent being only to be told later that it is untrue. You don’t know for sure that God and Christ do not exist but you do know that Santa doesn’t . Why be bothered about Christ and not about Santa? Can you explain the level of animosity and anger there is against God and Christ? Why is that? Can you explain your own anger against God and Christ?

        You would know, with a small amount of reflection, that there is plenty to go around – in terms of food and resources needed for adequate shelter, clothing etc. You would know, that we live in an incredibly injust world, full of greed and selfishness. We will all answer to God for that.

        It is worth mentioning – that those who bandy about the idea – that those who are pro-life don’t care much about the children when they are born – are also complaining that those very people who are pro-life are involved in giving needy children gifts at Christmas. I might turn it around the other way – that many who are pro-choice, as they like to call it, – would see those very children, who are the recipients of the Christmas boxes – aborted before they were ever born – because their parents cannot meet their needs. Thankfully, God doesn’t see it like that.

        You may twist, and distort the gospel John – and the motives and behaviour of Christians – but Christ reigns. And that’s for certain. One day everything will be put right. I hope and pray that, for now, I will be on the side of mercy and justice and bringing the power and light of the gospel to a needy world – especially into the dark world of needy, abused and neglected children – because that makes a world of a difference.

    1. SP – Have you read the comments after the article you linked to ? Very mixed. I noticed one from an Eastern European woman – who received one of these boxes as a child and it brought her great joy. Obviously there are issues around these boxes – cultural issues and corrupt adult issues and the mandate to spread the gospel not being the same as giving presents – that is up to the organisers to look into. But you should be more careful with your words – to say they are ‘ultimately unhelpful’ is untrue. These boxes have brought immense joy to many children who have nothing. They have shown many children that someone cares and that God loves them. Maybe not every child, every time. But nothing is perfect. To aim to give a personal Christmas box to a child who has nothing – is a worthwhile thing to do. Maybe it’s time to look at the whole operation and revise it somewhat – but how ‘ultimately helpful’ was your post?

      1. If you are sure that your ‘personal’ box will be useful (or even give pleasure rather than bewilderment or offense); if you can be sure it will not be sold on, that it will not lay burdens on the local church, that it will not compromise indigenous ministry efforts, that it will not communicate that Christmas is about “stuff” rather than Jesus – by all means, go ahead. I love giving presents, it makes me feel good – but I must always be careful to be wise even in generosity. But I’d rather my giving occurs in the context of relationship, working with people I know (in some of the poorest parts of the world) and contributing what will meet genuine needs. My ‘ultimately unhelpful’ expression referred to either meeting real needs or planting sustainable churches (neither of which can be observed in the comments, which yes I had read.) But I’m quite expecting to be judged again; any queries about OCC always seem to provoke impassioned defence. No one wants to believe our efforts at generosity aren’t always quite as helpful as we’d like them to be.

    2. In the U.K. donations to OCC is not presented as for Christian evangelism at all, but only as a means for giving poor children a Christmas present. I’m pretty sure that if it were presented as evangelism then Cafe Nero et al would not be supporting it.

  5. About a decade ago, through my church, I donated Samaritan’s Purse shoe boxes. I remember that I had to donate money for transportation costs and was happy to do so. I was not told at the time that some of this money would be used for evangelism (though I would have been happy for it to) or the eye watering salary (more than $600,000) that Franklin Graham makes from heading up this organisation.

    This year, at a different church, we donated shoeboxes through a different charity which were less eager to take our money and were more transparent about their agenda.

    Given Franklin Graham’s political activities I would now be less happy to donate through Samaritan’s Purse and more concerned about which brand of Christianity they were promoting (presumably one that has no problem with throwing tear gas on families seeking asylum). In general, I assume that there are a lot of people who would happily donate to a charity to help children in poor nations, but who wouldn’t want their money to go to promote far right politics (if that is the case) or to further enrich a millionaire.

    I know (a relatives wife received one as a child) what joy these boxes can bring children, but I do think that there are ethical problems with Samaritan’s Purse, in particular their honesty.

  6. I think the homophobia thing might stem from reports that Samaritan’s Purse requires its volunteers to agree with a statement of beliefs which includes opposing gay rights. I’m not sure quite how strictly this is adhered to as I know of a gay person who has been volunteering for them, but perhaps they just haven’t noticed him!

    1. Really? They are required to sign a statement of beliefs opposing gay rights? Could you confirm what this is? It would be quite extraordinary – unless you have bought into the whole gay rights means SSM narrative…

      1. “We believe God’s plan for human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage, that God created man and woman as unique biological persons made to complete each other,” the statement reads. “God instituted monogamous marriage between male and female as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female. Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:5-6; Mark 10:6-9; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9.”


      1. Of course you wouldn’t Ark! I’m being facetious of course. But nonetheless you did inadvertently promote the biblical mandate for marriage – including biblical verse references. Just shows – the Lord can use anybody!!

      2. Actually, I was highlighting the faith statement for David, as he seemed to doubt it.
        But if you believe Yahweh is using me as a tool … well, how wonderful would that be?
        Of course, it might be another god, or even a demon, or even the Devil himself.
        I mean, how would we know?
        If you were to ask me I would always opt for Satan. He’s my kind of god! Honest.

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