Christians in the United Kingdom are not being persecuted as much as they think. Nevertheless, they do need to stand up in certain situations to safeguard their rights.
That’s the opinion of Mark Greene, executive director of the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity, who spoke to The Baptist Times.
In October, Greene published an essay titled “The Great Divide,” which highlighted the way Christians focus more energy and resources on church activities rather than areas where they spend most of their time, such as the workplace.
He called for a “whole-life discipleship,” which encourages and equips Christians to fully live out the gospel in places and with people they know best.
The call came amid a climate where some British Christians are getting into trouble with equality legislation after expressing their views; a number of cases ended up in court or employment tribunals.
The rise in such incidents in part prompted the Not Ashamed campaign, launched in December and fronted by former Archbishop Lord Carey, who spoke of the Christian faith being “stealthily and subtly” brushed aside in public life.
The campaign encourages Christians to stand up for Jesus Christ and attracted widespread publicity and the support of thousands.
Greene said while it was important to make a distinction between “timely, appropriate, spirit-impelled opportunities to lay out the gospel” and standing up for what seems to be an infringement of one’s legal and social rights, in certain cases it was absolutely right to challenge the authorities.
“Should we be seeking to ensure that the law does not move in a direction which is inimical to faith in general and Christianity in particular, because we have our own agenda as the host religion of the country?” Greene asked.
“The answer is I think we should pursue that with all our might. I found myself personally in quite a lot of sympathy in some cases. It seems to be utterly OK to celebrate Winterval, which I find ridiculous, but not OK to say ‘Happy Christmas.’
“In reality a lot of the people who say these things are not Muslims, Hindus or Jews. So the secularists in the name of other religions are pushing a narrow agenda.”
The key is choosing which battle to pursue, discerning the situation and, where possible, offering a creative solution, Greene said.
“The zeal with which you pursue your cause could actually end up being a pyrrhic victory, which ruins your cause. You win a battle but lose the war.
“So sometimes if we froth at the mouth and go overboard on a really small issue, then no. But it depends on who the opposition is. You’ve got to choose your battles, and that’s about understanding the heart of your opponent.”
He continued, “Lots of Human Resources departments are terrified of these issues. They are not really trying to do down Christianity; they’re just trying to create peace. A lot of HR is about conflict avoidance.
“We need to look at that in some of these cases. Is that HR department trying to oppress me? Or if I talk to them and give a reasonable alternative, will they be fine?”
He added there were two types of force at the heart of what Christians in Great Britain believe to be elements of persecution.
One is the “rules of our company” force. “You can do this, do that, these are the rules of our company. We have a dress code that we want you to abide by.”
The other was “a mood, more a sense that you are not allowed to do something” when in fact this isn’t the case. He cited the example of Christian teachers, as relayed to him by experts in education: some believe they are not allowed to talk about their faith in the classroom.
“It’s not true,” said Greene. “They may not be able to proselytize, but they’re not banned from talking about their faith.
“It’s almost as if they have an unwritten contract, there is something unwritten that you do not talk about these things.
“In an atmosphere where we think we’re not allowed to talk about something, feel suppressed, that requires a particular type of boldness and discernment.”
The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity is a partner of the Baptist Union of Great Britain’s Crossingplaces initiative.
To find out more about its work or to order a copy of “The Great Divide,” visit www.licc.org.uk.
This article appeared originally in The Baptist Times of Great Britain.