Many of our civic institutions have been taken over by an ideology which is fundamentally anti-democratic, anti-factual and intolerant—in the name of tolerance. The State, having replaced God, has become the source of all morality and values. If you don’t agree with those values you are not one of ‘the people’. You are untermenschen. You are out.
This week, something of great significance has happened in the UK. Something that has implications far beyond its shores and that will affect the Church and Western democracy for years to come. Future historians will look back and see this incident as an indication of the decline of Western democracy and it’s replacement with an authoritarian ideology far removed from the liberal democracy birthed from Christianity.
We are not talking about the day that the UK finally left the EU – important though that is. No, this week an incident happened that at first sight seems trivial. Franklin Graham was first of all banned from the Liverpool ACC, then Sheffield and most chillingly of all, from the Glasgow SEC.
A seminal moment is when a new idea or concept is sowed and results in the growth of that concept in the future. So why is the Graham ban a seminal moment?
It’s not a question of whether the Church should invite him or engage in this kind of stadium outreach. That is an in-house debate for the Church.
It’s not because the mob has got its victim. This is not the first time this happened and it won’t be the last. Twitter rage, online petitions and social media campaigns are effective weapons to have in such a dumbed down, irrational and unforgiving society.
It’s not because of the usual contradictory statements made by the various bodies refusing the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The formula is always the same – it’s against their values, not wanting division and representing all our society (except of course those who hold to the Christian, Islamic and Jewish view of marriage). The mantra of banning those you don’t agree with in the name of tolerance and diversity is now accepted as self-evidently reasonable by those who have given up on real tolerance and diversity – and logic.
It’s not because of the compliant clergy. Again, this is nothing new. The Bishop of Sheffield, Pete Wilcox, said in November: “Mr Graham’s rhetoric is repeatedly and unnecessarily inflammatory and in my opinion represents a risk to the social cohesion of our city.”
The Rev Bryan Kerr, a Church of Scotland minister in Lanark, said Graham’s views “do not sit comfortably with many Christians in Scotland”.
He said: “These views, and many more like them, are not shared by all Christians as Mr Graham would have people believe. Franklin Graham isn’t the voice of Christianity.”
Even more astonishingly, he then went on to organise a petition seeking to get Graham banned.
Tozer’s comment is as relevant now as it was when he made it 65 years ago: “The church goes along with everything and stands against nothing – until she is convinced that it is the safe and popular thing to do; then she passes her courageous resolutions and issues her world-shaking manifestos – all in accord with the world’s newest venture – whatever it may be.”
All of the above has been all too common in the UK today – and in other Western countries and churches. The big difference this time – and one that has almost slipped by unnoticed – is the reason given by Glasgow City Council for it’s demand that Graham not be permitted to speak at the SEC (the Council is the major ‘stakeholder’).
Susan Aitken, the SNP Council leader stated that the Mission should not go ahead because it could be breaking the law. She stated that permitting Franklin Graham to speak at the SEC could “fundamentally breach the council’s statutory equalities duties.”
Let’s unpack the code language being used here. When Ms Aitken speaks about ‘equality’, she does not mean economic or financial equality. Last year, she defended Glasgow’s Lord Provost who had spent over £8,000 in two years on personal expenses for her civic duties – including 23 pairs of shoes. There are children in Glasgow who can’t afford shoes. No equality there.