Monday, 1 April 2013

Christians in the UK do not suffer persecution

Former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey caused a bit of a stir over the weekend with his attack on the Prime Minister over his ‘aggressive secularisation’ of the UK.  In a Daily Mail article he criticised David Cameron’s support for gay marriage and because of the government’s position on Christian workers sacked for wearing a cross.

The former Archbishop suggested that this undermined Cameron’s commitment to the right of Christians to exercise their faith. He went on to suggest that a significant majority of Christians felt like a ‘persecuted minority.’ Although he acknowledges that ‘few in theUK’ are actually persecuted he clearly suggests that some are and that there is a real danger of this happening.

Now I would normally be the last person to defend Mr Cameron whose political policies are so damaging to the poor. But this is a disturbing article in so many ways. 

Firstly, he seems to show no real grasp of what persecution actually is. Early Christians were imprisoned, tortured and killed because of what they believed. Paul writes to theThessalonians – ‘In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know.’ He tells the Corinthians – ‘Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones.’ That is persecution.

Romanian Pastor, Richard Wurmbrandt was imprisoned for 8 ½ years for standing up for what he believed in. He was then sentenced to a further 25 years for continuing to preach following his release. He was subjected to physical and psychological torture. That is persecution.

Revd Martin Luther King fought for equality in a racially divided America in the 1960s. All of his work was motivated by his faith. He was arrested, beaten and had many death threats. On 3rd April 1968 he said 

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!’


Next day he was shot dead in a Memphis hotel. That is persecution.

Lord Carey redefines persecution, or at least attacks on the right to exercise faith. For him it includes losing the power to tell gay people whether they can or cannot get married. Why is the removal of discrimination a barrier to me exercising my faith?

But that exercise of power was never part of Jesus’ good news. In fact he disappointed many because he refused to take that form of power. The early church knew nothing of that. From the time that the Roman Empire appropriated Christianity the church became a huge source of power. How many millions have been persecuted by the church over its history?


It may be that the church is losing that power. As a Christian I would certainly not see that as a bad thing. I have never seen anything in the teaching of Jesus to support an argument that people should be coerced into any particular lifestyle.

But whatever views we may have, the very fact that we can discuss it openly is telling us something. It is not persecution.