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Are Christians in Britain an unacknowledged majority or a persecuted minority? Some are trying to say they are both!
My colleague Jonathan Bartley summed it up well in an article last year in the New Statesman:
"Hardly a month seems to go by these days without a high profile story in the newspapers concerning another Christian who is feeling discriminated against or claims by church leaders that Christianity is being ‘marginalised’," he wrote.
That was in May 2008, well before the latest instances - the cases of the headteacher (http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8662), the nurse (http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8511) and registrar (http://ekklesia.co.uk/node/8232) - all of which have been dramtised and misrepresented by those eager to cry "persecution".
Jonathan continued: "It is not well known, but it is often the same people who are fuelling the scare stories of Christian marginalisation that appear in the papers. A small collection of lobby groups, these usual suspects are actively seeking out potential cases of discrimination which they can then publicise, make a political campaign out of, or pursue in the courts. They are also drawing advice and training from the US, where similar strategies have been pursued.
"What is behind their zeal? Their agenda is a desperate attempt to win back, or at least try to maintain, many of the special privileges and exemptions that Christianity has previously enjoyed, but which society is no longer willing to grant. Their argument is that since Britain is a 'Christian country', their faith, and its adherents, should have special recognition and dispensation.
"But they are faced with an internal contradiction which virtually guarantees their failure - and helps to explain why their have had so little success.
"On the one hand they advance their arguments by citing the 70% of the country which identified with Christianity at the last census. This majority position, they argue, means that Christianity should still be given pride of place. However in the next breath, they plead Christians as a vulnerable and persecuted minority in need of special protections - which entirely undermines their case.
"Their dilemma will not be resolved anytime soon. But this won’t end the conviction that drives them. Indeed, every failure only serves to reinforce their conviction that Christians are being marginalised and sidelined, and that they must fight even harder!
"So prepare for a lot more of the same in the months to come – but don’t be afraid to treat the headlines with the scepticism they deserve.
"Meanwhile, there's an important job for Christians to be doing. Not shoring up privilege (hardly a suitable occupation for followers of Jesus), but putting the self-giving, neighbour-loving dynamic of the Gospel into action in the public arena."Tweet