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The criminalisation of Christianity and the destruction of civilisation

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Cultural apologist and church leader Dr Joe Boot discusses current challenges to Christian freedom in the United Kingdom, urging Christians to "stand with Christ and with Scripture" in the face of opposition.
 

The English Constitution

Undoubtedly one of the greatest statesman of the twentieth century, and defenders of Christian civilisation, was Sir Winston Churchill. He once defined civilisation as:
 
a society based upon the opinion of civilians. It means that violence, the rule of warriors and despotic chiefs, the conditions of camps and warfare, of riot and tyranny, give place to Parliaments where laws are made, and independent courts of justice in which over long periods those laws are maintained. That is civilization – and in its soil grow continually freedom, comfort, and culture. When civilization reigns, in any country, a wider and less harassed life is afforded the masses of the people. The traditions of the past are cherished, and the inheritance bequeathed to us by former wise or valiant men becomes a rich estate to be enjoyed and used by all. [1]
 
Part of that rich estate, affording the civilians of Britain (and later the entire Anglosphere) a less “harassed” life, was Magna Carta, widely regarded as the foundational text of the British constitution and guaranteeing basic freedoms that reflected the customs of the people. This year (2015) is the 800th anniversary of that great Charter. The legal codes of Saxon England, which prepared the way for the Charter, had made it clear that because all people are subject to God, even kings were subject to the law – something church leaders pointed out to rulers whenever they felt it necessary. At the foundations of English law were the laws of King Alfred, which began by citing the Ten Commandments and various other Old Testament laws. The Bible makes clear that every person, including rulers, judges and kings, is subject to the higher laws of God (Ex. 18:24-26; Deut. 17:8-13; Ps. 2; Rom. 13:1-5). This understanding helped to form a particularly English tradition of kingship. As Philip Quenby has put it:
 
From the moment it was granted, Magna Carta held out the promise of freedom – freedom from arbitrary rule, freedom from oppression, freedom from tyranny. That was the clear implication of clause 39, which spoke of no free man being imprisoned except by the judgment of his peers or due process of law. Those provisions in their turn opened the door to other freedoms such as freedom of conscience; for what greater tyranny could there be than trying to dictate what men and women should think, of seeking to rule the inner life as well as the outer? As soon as the Great Charter set about curtailing arbitrary or disproportionate exercise of royal power, the logic of a society which was not only formed by Christian values but had these embedded at the very heart of its laws, and as a central determinant of the relationship between citizen and state, made a compelling case for the Charter’s original liberties to be extended and then extended again. [2]
 
Given this exceptional heritage, it is of the gravest concern today that the Christian understanding of the relationship of citizen to state and of the state and citizen to God is being rapidly destroyed in the West. The outrageous absurdity in the incremental growth of oppression and harassment is that it is being done in the name of freedom, and, specifically in the U.K, of ‘British values’. This is outrageous because, as the English historian Daniel Hannan has pointed out, as far as continental European thought is concerned: “The idea that the individual should be as free as possible from state coercion…is regarded as the ultimate Anglophone fetish.” [3]
 
For much of the non-Anglosphere, the idea that small government and the absence of state regulation in most areas of life might be the right and just state of affairs is largely seen as ridiculous. For anyone to appeal to the idea of ‘British values’, then, is to invoke the historic building blocks of precious English liberty: biblical law, Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, a reformed church, a parliament and monarch under Christ, evangelical piety, the elevation of freedom, the rule of law, the presumption of innocence, trial by jury and an Englishman’s home as his castle. Indeed, the opening lines of the British hymn to liberty, “Rule Britannia”, speak of faith in a God-ordained destiny: “When Britain first at Heaven’s command, / Arose from out the azure main.” Britain and her commonwealth have not always lived up to the moral responsibility and obligation inherent in God’s gracious gifts of freedom bequeathed by the gospel, but these are nonetheless her historic values by any sane historical judgement. At the popular level, one need only tune into the Rugby World Cup to hear the English fans singing “Swing Low Swing Chariot”, or the professional performers singing “Jerusalem”, to catch the keynote of traditional British values. This is not mere nostalgia. This Judeo-Christian tradition is seen in our systems of rule; it is there in our architecture; it is engraved in our historic monuments and documents; it is manifest by the spires at the centre of every English village; and it rings out in our songs, even when men do not remember their significance. Historic British values were perhaps expressed best by William Wordsworth when he wrote: “We must be free or die, who speak the tongue / That Shakespeare spake, the faith and morals hold / Which Milton held.”
 

Forsaking Freedom

In light of these historic realities, it is difficult today, when addressing increasingly oppressive state legislation, strategies and proposals, to know whether one is dealing with ignorance, idiocy, malevolence, or all of the above in the corridors of power. Recently, there has been some press coverage of counter-extremism measures due to go through Parliament later this year, which include provision for ‘Extremism Disruption Orders’ (EDOs), the purpose of which is ostensibly the curbing of views and activities believed to go against ‘British values’. Yet what seems to elude many of the contemporary political class and cultural elite is even an elementary understanding of what historic British values actually are – values that were exported to the entire Anglosphere! In the name of ‘British values’, new measures that are supposed to be addressing the widespread problem of Islamic terrorism and radicalisation in the U.K are threatening to strip away ancient liberties that could lead to the preaching of the Christian gospel as the only way of salvation and vocal opposition to same-sex ‘marriage’ or abortion being classified as ‘un-British’ and subject to criminal penalties. These Orwellian recommendations represent a most dangerous overreach of the state, since the document in question defines the extremism it is targeting as “the vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” In the name of law, these plans could actually overthrow the rule of law; in the name of liberty, seek the removal of liberties; and in the name of respect and tolerance, openly persecute Christians.
 
By way of illustration, one ‘British values monitor’ (read, member of the thought-police) has claimed people will be able to believe homosexuality is wrong in their heads, but speaking that conviction out loud could be illegal under the new proposals. Polly Harrow, Head of Safeguarding and Prevent at Kirklees College in Huddersfield, made these comments on a BBC Radio 4 Today programme report on the government's counter-extremism policy. She says the British values strategy is seeking “not just tolerance but acceptance of difference in others.” For Harrow and her overlords, British values are “fundamental equality and diversity”, [4] which involves accepting everything – except Christianity, of course. This language of ‘equality and diversity’ does not have reference to historic English liberties, but to the diametrically opposed progressivist European doctrines of cultural Marxism that have been steadily undermining Christian civilisation in the Anglosphere for the last fifty years. This is seen in the fact that the British government reportedly intends to tie its new legislation to various protected characteristics under the Equality Act, like sexual orientation. [5] Supposedly, these measures will target people whom the government says will promote or justify hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation and the like, but who are not currently breaking any law! Under vague and broad powers, the British state wants to give courts the ability to slap an Extremism Disruption Order on someone upon application by the police. Of course, if the court’s order is then breached (by speaking or assembly or social media), the penalty could include a prison sentence of several years! Out goes freedom of conscience, speech, assembly, the rule of law and trial by one’s peers; in comes the arbitrary oppression of the totalitarian state. These proposed measures are even more destructive of liberty than what the British government tried to do in 2014, when it sought to outlaw ‘being annoying’ in a public space. Thankfully the House of Lords destroyed that farcical law before it could be imposed. [6]
 
Yet this is not all. Draft documents seen by the Sunday Telegraph suggested that the Home Office, as part of its intended action on extremism, planned to require all religious figures to enrol in a ‘national register’ of faith leaders and be subjected to government-specified training and security checks. The Home Office intended to require all faiths to maintain a ‘national register’ of approved faith leaders with the state determining the minimum level of training and checks they would be required to have in order to join the register. Such registration would have been compulsory for all who wished to work with the public sector, including universities. These requirements would therefore have covered the vast majority of priests, pastors, clerics, rabbis and imams. [7] While the government has since backtracked on this particular element of their counter-extremism strategy, the fact that a register of this kind was ever under serious consideration indicates the changing mentality and the lengths to which the modern state is willing to go. This would have been, in essence, an attempt to control the church (not just mosques) by ‘licensing’ state-approved religious leaders, with the rest banned from engaging the public sector at all – an area every Christian pastor’s ministry touches. To seek to undo the liberties of Magna Carta on the 800th anniversary of that foundational Charter is not mere idiocy, it is perverse. Thankfully there were some who spoke out against it, including many non-Christians, who feared the loss of free speech. And in one amusing incident a Conservative peer told the Lords that these draconian orders might open the door to “idiot police forces arresting a couple of ladies from the Women’s Institute and a traditionalist Church of England vicar who has said something radical - for example, that he actually believes in God.” [8]
 

The pragmatism of polytheism

A final irony in all of this is that the British state’s counter-extremism proposals seek broad, invasive powers (asking Britons to simply ‘trust the state’ with a suspension of their civil liberties) to deal with a serious problem that it has created through its own stupidity – the suicidal social experiment of multiculturalism, which has proven an impossible disaster, leaving us with citizens who engage in terror and now, as well, with state coercion. Historically, British values certainly included hospitality to other peoples willing to live under the rule of Christian law, but such values never embraced polytheism! The subversive idea that all beliefs, gods, cultures and practices are ‘equal’ is as dangerous as it is false, and it is only recently, in the face of the rise of political Islam in our back garden, that Westerners are discovering just how false it is. A people with a strong faith and confidence can absorb large numbers of aliens, gaining their allegiance and converting them to their cultural beliefs, as the United States has ably demonstrated in the past. In 1840, when Lord Macaulay was describing what had taken place in North American colonies planted by England, he said: “Our firm belief is that the North owes its great civilization and prosperity chiefly to the moral effect of the Protestant Reformation.” However, when the faith of a dominant majority is undermined and wanes, militant minorities are able to sway and manipulate a whole nation.

The Anglosphere has lost its faith and is no longer able to absorb other peoples and win them to its culture. Polytheism is thus producing a kind of civil and social conflict, and all the modern state has is ‘pragmatism’ to fight with. However, the ‘cures’ that pragmatism offers for polytheistic strife in the West are more deadly than the disease. As one cultural theologian has observed:
 
The modern state has limited and desacralized life by declaring Christianity and the triune God to be matters of private concern and private allegiance. The realm of public life, seen by political theologians as the realm of the state, is a neutral realm…by removing the state from under God, and from a responsibility to God’s moral law, the civil theologians have thereby removed the realm of politics from the realm of meaning into the realm of pragmatism…pragmatism posits a meaningless world in which no [ultimate] criteria exists…the decline of belief that the state must be as much under law and authority as the church has led to a decline in the state’s authority…The modern state increasingly claims total power and at the same time sees increasingly the decay of its authority. Having removed itself from under the authority of God, it has lost authority. More and more authority is replaced with coercion and terror. [9]
 
These latest British proposals, and others like them in the Anglosphere, which are seeking to regulate thought and speech and curtail freedom, are an expression of this pragmatism, manifesting the decline of real authority and the state’s inevitable decay into coercion.
 
The popularised doctrines of the cultural Marxists (political correctness) which dominate the thinking of the intellectual and political class (and therefore the media), seek only a radically privatised Christianity (or its eradication) and an entirely secularised, state-regulated, welfare society – humanism stylised as religious neutrality. Multiculturalism (relativism or polytheism) has been used as a battering ram to indoctrinate Britons and the entire Anglosphere into believing that there is nothing exceptional about Christendom and that we must not just tolerate but accept all other worldviews as equally valid, making the state the ‘neutral’ arbitrator or referee between various cults within an authoritarian political community. This move was designed to facilitate the removal of Christianity and English liberties as the centre of life and meaning, undermining our self-understanding in the Anglosphere and leaving only political pragmatism as the governing social principle. In this worldview, the Christian account of marriage, family and social order under God – along with its concomitants of individual liberty, freedom of conscience, freedom of speech, freedom of the church and the rule of law – must be undermined to create social chaos. Such chaos would ‘require’ the curtailing of historic liberties and greater coercive control, resulting in the creation of a statist socialistic order.
 
With the growth of Islamic populations in the West has inevitably come Islamic social and political thought, which is also statist, coercive and totalitarian. The English liberties of Magna Carta are unknown in the Islamic world and, if expressed at all institutionally, are present because the Anglosphere exported them there. Now, however, the legal creation of Sharia tribunals, the rapid expansion of mosques and Islamic schools, and the implementation of Sharia law in Muslim communities in Britain is helping to create a climate of violence, abuse, terror and hostility to historic British values (that is, Christian values). The effective promotion of multiculturalism has allowed many Muslims to abuse the historic freedoms afforded by Christianity in Britain and cynically use them against their generous hosts. But our faithless politicians do not have the political will or courage to call a spade and spade and acknowledge that their humanistic assault on Christendom in the name of multiculturalism, with its radical secularisation of society, has exposed the Anglosphere to deadly threats.
 
With robust Christian faith gone, the modern state’s only recourse is a pragmatism in which historic English liberties are jettisoned. Out of fear and confusion, they refuse to confront the real threat – Islam – head-on and hide behind extremism measures that will be used by progressives to assault Christianity. The radical forces of Islamisation can be combated by perfectly good laws which already exist. There are already laws against inciting violence and hatred, as well as glorifying terrorism, which could be applied to arrest and prosecute the barbarians in our midst, but they are not adequately used or applied. This leads to the tragic conclusion that, for many elites, the real targets of these new proposals aren’t terrorists, but Christians who refuse to accept the new order. The main problem is not large scale Islamic immigration – that is a symptom of the problem. The real challenge comes from the domestic opponents of liberty, whose cultural relativism has created hard policy and who want the Anglosphere’s political system brought into line with more autocratic foreign models. As Hannan has tellingly warned: The tragedy of our age is that those domestic opponents are succeeding. Having developed and exported the most successful system of government known to the human race, the English-speaking peoples are tiptoeing away from their own creation. [10]
 
Instead of cherishing our history and traditions as a precious inheritance bequeathed to us by former wise or valiant men – a rich estate to be enjoyed and used by all, as Churchill had so eloquently put it – our “Anglosphere identity is seen as a colonial hangover, the patrimony of dead white European males. In every English-speaking country, a multiculturalist establishment hangs back from teaching children that they are heirs to a unique political heritage.” [11]
 

Gospel Liberty

One of the great patriotic songs of my homeland, England, is “Land of Hope and Glory”, a land the progressives of our age want to revolutionise beyond all recognition. The first lines of the chorus of that song read: “Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free, / How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?” Britain truly was used by the grace of God as the mother of social and political freedoms around the world and for the spread of gospel freedom to the nations. The great free nations of the world – the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Singapore and arguably other parts of the former Empire – were nurtured by the Christian freedoms of Magna Carta, English Common law and a Parliament and monarchy that recognised their subordination and accountability to God. This meant an appeal beyond the state to a higher law and, therefore, the recognition of the liberties of all people under God. It is heart-breaking that today the mother of the free is steadily abandoning liberty for coercion.
 
In the face of this, the Christian individual, family and church must hold fast to the freedom bequeathed to us in the gospel. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 asserts, amongst other things, the absolute freedom of the gospel and our authority to preach it and teach it to all men and nations for all time. Christ tells the disciples:
 
All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age. (Matt. 28:18-20)
 
We are authorised by the King of kings himself to disciple nations. To declare the truth of the whole gospel to presidents, princes and common people alike. We are also required to teach all peoples everything God has commanded and we are assured of his presence with us in the task. The immediate relevance of this authority is seen when the apostles were told by their government not to preach the gospel. They refused to comply:
 
After they brought them in, they had them stand before the Sanhedrin and the high priest asked, “Didn’t we strictly order you not to teach in this name? And look, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching”…But Peter and the apostles replied, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5: 27-29)
 
As historic liberties are increasingly denied to Christian individuals and churches, we must stand with Christ and with Scripture. For if the state commands what God forbids, or forbids what God commands, obedience to God and disobedience to the coercive state is the Christian’s duty. Jesus Christ, not Caesar, is Lord, and the only basis of true freedom that the world has ever known has been entrusted to us in the gospel. English liberties are not national or ethnic rights, they are freedoms inherited because of the influence of the Christian faith. If we abandon the biblical truth that undergirds them, these freedoms will not survive our apostasy. Liberty will then be inherited by other peoples who have received and applied the gospel whilst we will be subjected to tyranny. 

The age in which we live is a time of judgment. There remains a window for repentance and change, but it is closing fast. The church still has the opportunity to speak loud and clear for the gospel and for liberty. If we fail to do so, we will be the first generation in 800 years to squander and despise Magna Carta and, more importantly, we will be turning our backs on our Christian forebears and the faith and freedoms for which they paid so great a price. Let us then write the words of Christ in the core of our being: “If you continue in my word, you really are My disciples. You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free… Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free” (John 8:31-32, 36).


Endnotes:
[1] Winston S. Churchill, Civilization in His Blood, Sweat and Tears (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1941), 45-46.
[2] Philip Quenby, “The Case For Christian Freedoms: An Historical Perspective,” in Magna Carta Unravelled: The Case for Christian Freedoms Today (Exeter: Wilberforce Publications, 2015), 56. 
[3] Daniel Hannan, Inventing Freedom: How the English-Speaking Peoples Made the Modern World (New York: Broadside Books, 2013), 6. 
[5] See: Interview with Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute: http://www.crossrhythms.co.uk/articles/life/Extremism_Disruption_Orders/56441/p1/ accessed October 9th, 2015.
[6] Ibid.
[9] R. J. Rushdoony, Sovereignty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007), p. 380-381.
[10] Hannan, Inventing Freedom, 17.
[11] Hannan, Inventing Freedom, 17.

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