Responding to a BBC survey which shows that up to a third of UK Christians feel they are discriminated against, the think-tank Ekklesia has said that that “retreating into a persecution mentality” is unhelpful – and that loss of historic privileges is an opportunity to recover the core gospel message of justice and equality.
“Some Christians do feel discriminated against, but Christians are also privileged – with 26 bishops in the house of Lords, an established church, tax breaks and blasphemy laws protecting them, for example,” commented Ekklesia’s Jonathan Bartley – whose 2006 book Faith and Politics After Christendom first analysed the “negative” response of some in the church to their increasing minority status.
“The reason a sizable minority of Christians, especially more conservative ones, are feeling ‘got at’ is because the historic privilege and influence of the churches is being eroded in the public sphere” added Ekklesia co-director Simon Barrow.
“But this demonstrates how easy it has been, during the era of Christendom, for Christians to mistake their own power for the gospel message – which involves Jesus embodying God’s special concern for those at the margins, not demanding special treatment for religion,” the think-tank says.
Ekklesia argues that loss of automatic privileges, the challenges of pluralism in public life, and the criticism churches face over discrimination in schools and services is “a historic opportunity for them to recover a vision of the Christian message as rooted in justice and equality. Self-interest and trying to grab power back is an unhelpful response – a counter-witness, even.”
The think-tank also warns against the dangers of “the politics of competitive grievance”.
Full press release: Crying 'discrimination' harms churches' message.