Government Must Protect Right of Christians to Live by Faith

|PIC1|The Sexual Orientation Regulations were upheld by the House of Lords this week and many Christians have voiced their alarm at what affect their coming into being will have on their freedom to live according to their faith.

Christian groups have warned that Christian printers will not be allowed to refuse to print homosexual material, while Christian bed and breakfast owners will be forced to accommodate homosexual couples; the Church of England, meanwhile, is concerned that its priests may be sued if they do not perform blessing ceremonies for same-sex couples. Pastors, largely in the black church community, have vowed they would rather go to jail than be compelled to let out their properties to pro-gay groups.

If Christians think these are simply worst case scenarios, they should at the very least be concerned by the ill-boding that such legislation suggests for Christians in the public sphere. Christians are undoubtedly facing tougher times and the public sphere is a place where new checks and balances are making the job of being Christian (as opposed to merely identifying oneself as Christian) increasingly difficult.

The cases in point are numerous: Exeter University's Evangelical Christian Union is currently embroiled in a court battle with the university's guild after the latter stripped the ECU of its membership on the basis that it was too exclusive; we have just passed through yet another Christmas season during which Christians have had to fight for the right to celebrate their own festival on their own terms; one local council in London has even threatened to withdraw funds from a Polish family centre if it changes its name to include the word 'Christian'.

But the line between public and private for people of faith, Christian or otherwise, cannot be so simply demarcated as some behind the pro-secularist agenda would like to have it. For Christians, it is simply impossible to believe, think, feel, breathe and practise one thing behind the closed doors of the church or home only to leave all that behind when they hit the public square. A Christian is a Christian, whether in public or in private.

This is where it may help to remind those driving the secularist/PC agenda of what faith actually is. Faith does not simply mean a belief that God exists. Faith is not simply a word. It is a life. Faith in God is faith in the Bible, and any faith in that requires simultaneously that His Word is lived by. Faith may start in the heart but it ends in the strivings of the hands and feet and the utterances of the mouth. In other words, it ends in actions.

In short, living according to one's faith implies a great deal of careful navigation through the throngs of daily life but it is this navigation that the government must protect. Implicit in Christian living is the necessity for Christians to live according to their consciences, as shaped by the Bible.

We live in an age of equal rights and of course everyone has the right against unfair subjection to discrimination or violence. But the current climate makes it not unjustified to feel that some rights are regarded as more equal than others. The battle today seems not to be over whether those rights exist but over who has the greater right to have them realised, or which right will prove the first among equals.

The government must make sure that the law is at work to promote all rights with equal attentiveness and that a careful balance is struck between the right of those seeking to live by a particular sexual orientation - or otherwise - and those seeking to live according to their faith and conscience.