Wednesday, April 14, 2010

051. UK: understanding religious liberty.

Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 051 | Wed 14 April 2010

UK: UNDERSTANDING RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

Earlier this month, Christian nurse Shirley Chaplin (54) lost her appeal against the National Health Service (NHS) which demanded she remove the small cross she had worn around her neck throughout her 30-year nursing career. When she refused she was demoted to a desk job. An employment tribunal panel ruled that the health department was right to demand her 'jewellery' be removed as it could 'scratch patients'. Subsequent to this however, the department ruled that Sikh nurses may wear bangles, and Muslim nurses may be exempted from the NHS dress code mandating that doctors and nurses wear short sleeves to help prevent the spread of deadly hospital superbugs. Similarly, Scotland Yard has decreed that Muslims will not be charged with criminal assault if they throw shoes at police, regarding this not as criminal assault, but a form of Islamic ritual protest. Many Britons are confused and troubled by the way their historic freedom to exercise their Christian belief is being eroded while minority rights are being advanced.

Most Westerners simply don't appreciate the degree to which their freedoms are intrinsically linked to Judeo-Christian culture. Nor do they appreciate the degree to which that culture is dependent upon a Biblical foundation. Consider this as an illustration: Judeo-Christian culture is a tree that grows out of Biblical soil and religious freedom is a fruit of that tree.

Throughout history, whenever a community has stopped attending to its Biblical foundation, the culture has declined and its fruits have failed. The only way to restore the fruits is to revive the culture. And the only way to revive the culture is to attend to the foundations.

Religious freedom was integral to the Protestant Reformation (1517). The Reformation not only advanced Biblical truth but the right of individuals to read it in their own language (championed in London by John Wycliffe as early as 1377) and exercise it without persecution. Britain's historic human rights advocacy and missionary endeavours were the fruits of a post-Reformation Protestant culture that promoted the Bible.

Rip the foundations away, however, and the tree and its fruit go with it. Even if the foundations are eroded only slowly and subversively, the tree eventually withers and dies as its roots cannot provide sustenance or stability. And everyone knows that a transplanted tree will not successfully take root, grow and fruit unless the soil is good in the first place. Furthermore, the post-Reformation Protestant culture of Christian liberty is so dynamic that unless that soil is right it will not be able to sustain or support it. Even when the soil is good, if the roots are withered through neglect and drought, renewal of the plant through the restoration of its root system will only be possible through considerable struggle and long-term diligent care.

This is the situation facing the UK. Foundations long neglected are being both subversively eroded and openly demolished, for UK elites determined some time ago (undemocratically) that evolution mandates a transition to a 'post-Christian' culture. Therefore renovations are in order. However, it is coming as a shock to many to learn that 'fruits' long taken for granted -- such as religious liberty, benevolence and 'manners' -- are withering and disappearing before their very eyes. It is also coming as a shock to many in the demolition crew that they do not have control of the situation. Before they even get a chance to build their utopia, other builders with stakes in the game are moving in as soon as a space opens up. Furthermore, these new builders (some very dangerous) are winning hearts and minds amongst the UK's identity-challenged youth.

The controversial Equality Bill -- which will challenge Christian consciences and criminalise Christian values -- completed its progression through the UK parliament on 6 April and now merely awaits Royal Assent to become law. (For more about the Equality Bill watch Religious Liberty Monitoring.)

Whilst many voices are declaring that the UK is already 'post-Christian', that is not the case. The UK is in transition. This is why we can still implore: 'Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die.' (Revelation 3:2a ESV)


WE PRAY THAT, IN GRACE AND MERCY, GOD WILL:

* bring revival to the British Church, so that by repentance and through the empowering of the Holy Spirit, she might have the vision, wisdom and courage to face the struggle ahead, as well as the vision, strength and perseverance to see it through.

'LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.' (Habakkuk 3:2 NIV)

* bless the gospel witness of all his servants throughout the UK, so that testimony spoken in faith and obedience will be used by the Holy Spirit to convert multitudes.

'For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes . . .' (Romans 1:16a ESV)

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SUMMARY TO USE IN BULLETINS UNABLE TO RUN THE WHOLE ARTICLE
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RELIGIOUS LIBERTY CHALLENGED IN THE UK

On 6 April the UK parliament passed the controversial Equality Bill which will challenge Christian consciences. Freedom to exercise Christian beliefs is being eroded by laws that criminalise Christian values to advance minority ones. Religious freedom is a fruit of Judeo-Christian culture that grows out of and is sustained by Biblical foundations. As the foundations are eroded the culture suffers and its fruits fail. UK culture is in transition and some Britons are realising it is not for the better. Religious liberty is in decline. (For instance a Christian nurse has been banned from wearing a small cross around her neck as 'jewellery' that might 'scratch patients', whereas Sikh nurses may wear bangles for their religious reasons.) Please pray for a revival that will energise the Church for the long struggle ahead.