Flat White

Jesus is Lord? Prove it, or we’ll do you for misleading advertising

5 March 2017

10:01 AM

5 March 2017

10:01 AM

Jesus once said that the Pharisees – the self-righteous cultural gatekeepers of his day who looked down on everyone else – were blind guides who, in their misdirected zeal, strained out gnats and swallowed camels. Zealous about all the things they shouldn’t be. Completely oblivious to all the things they should be zealous about.

Well, welcome to the modern day Pharisee, the progressive secular gatekeepers who strained out two gnats this week by convicting two street preachers, Michael Overd and Michael Stockwell, in the UK city of Bristol, and in so doing swallowed a camel of sizeable proportions.

Their conviction follows a fracas that erupted when the pair tag-teamed a sermon on a street corner. Their crime, apart from being a bit bolshie in delivery, was to dare to claim that the Bible says that Jesus is both God and the only way to God, a fairly common Christian doctrine for roughly two thousand years as it happens.

Now you may not agree with that doctrine anymore than a Bristol Rovers fan would agree that a Bristol City fan should be allowed to remain in the city’s CBD, but it’s not like it’s a doctrine that has suddenly popped up unannounced and become the scourge of the Western world.

Or maybe it has. As reported on the Christian Concern web page the two Michaels were found guilty this week under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 at Bristol Magistrates’ Court.

Now I grew up in Northern Ireland and I’ve seen my fair share of street preachers, and to be honest it’s not my cup of tea. All too often they are grim-faced shouty men in unfashionable macs and flat caps.

But here’s the kicker. The prosecution went in for the kill not over the level of decibels or any threat of violence by the pair, but on the basis that the state had decided that their theological position could not be true.

Here’s prosecutor Ian Jackson at his finest:

To say to someone that Jesus is the only God is not a matter of truth. To the extent that they are saying that the only way to God is through Jesus, that cannot be a truth.

In other words, you’re not here to tell us what can and cannot be true. That’s way too dangerous a tool to have at your disposal. No, we are here to tell you what can and cannot be true. We know better. We are the gatekeepers, the repositories of truth and to say otherwise is a direct challenge to the glorious future of freedom for all that the secular state has for those who tow its line.

There once was a time when New York pastor Tim Keller gently goaded philosophical arrogance by using the famed blind men feeling an elephant parable. Each of the men felt part of an elephant, before describing the beast according to the limited part they could feel. Of course, none could see the whole elephant and the point is that that’s what religions are like; they are all grasping around in the dark making totalising truth claims, never realising they cannot see the whole thing.

The sting in the tail, or the trunk as it may be, is that the smug liberal who uses this to pooh-pooh religious dogma is claiming for themselves a totalising perspective on the truth that they do not permit others to have. They are the dogmatic ones! It’s Keller’s gotcha moment, and how we used to laugh at it and figure out how we’d use it at dinner parties with our over confident, unthinking materialist mates. How we’d gently chide our materialist friends who hadn’t ever seen in that way.

Well, it’s no dinner party small talk now, is it? It’s no laughing matter at all. It’s reached a dangerous new level in which the very courts can convict religious promulgators on the basis that what they say cannot be true and therefore must be silenced, while all the while claiming that what the Christians say cannot be true. On what basis? Who gets to decide what truth is? And who gets to decide that because what you say cannot be true, it should not be said?

It should chill anyone interested in free speech, and it should have the local imam hopping up and down in the Christians’ defence. I doubt somehow that it will.

The UK justice system has just strained out a gnat and swallowed an elephant. Here’s hoping it gives them a severe case of indigestion in any subsequent appeal.

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