Monday, 1 December 2008

Christian Voice - Is it the Voice of Christians?

Christian Voice describes itself as a ministry for fed-up Christians.

“Christian Voice is a ministry for those Christians who are fed up with the way things are, who have had enough of secularist politicians imposing wickedness on the rest of us and who are not satisfied with trying to get ‘Christian influence in a secular world’ because they know ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein’ (Psalm 24:1). If you want instead to lift high the Crown Rights of the King of kings, you have found the right place!” (Christian Voice)

To be fed-up is to have reached the limits of tolerance or patience with somebody or something. It is an expression of exasperation and manifests in ill-considered acts motivated by pique. Such is the case, I fear, with Christian Voice.

Led by the increasingly eponymous Stephen Green, Christian Voice offers Christians an outlet for their frustration with the wickedness of the world and, of course, there is a lot about the world to get upset about – there always has been. The trouble with being fed-up is that it tends to make a person lash out indiscriminately with no strategy and little regard for the consequences. It is an example of what happens when Christians fail to understand what it is to be a Christian in a sinful world, to be Christ to sinners, to be a light in the darkness.

As an example take one of the latest “campaigns” launched by Stephen Green and Christian Voice. Peter Jones, an obscure poet (do you know of a living poet who is not obscure?), was to give a reading of his latest, controversial poetry (have you ever known an obscure poet who hasn’t tried to get attention by courting controversy?) in the Cardiff branch of the Waterstones bookstores. The controversy is Jones’ apparent determination to offend Christians with what can accurately be called blasphemous poetry, defaming the name of the Lord. Just the sort of thing to rile fed-up Christians.

Sure enough, Christian Voice began a campaign to protest the event and it was subsequently cancelled Stephen Green wrote:

‘This is a triumph for the Lord, not for us. The Lord had not even showed me what we should do at Waterstones, only that it should be Christ-like.

'Nor was I even praying for the event be cancelled. But I now know many were, and their prayers have been answered, by a mighty God. We have not even had to go down to the battleground, let alone fight (2Chr 20:17). Just the knowledge that we were on our way has put the fear of God into the opposition.

'But the fact is, we were prepared to go and do something, and it is that which I believe caused Almighty God to take our prayers seriously and perform a miracle.'

Imagine that. A public event cancelled because a group of Christians “put the fear of God” into the organisers. I thought this sort of activity was the preserve of groups like the BNP or KKK.

There followed the sort of publicity in the press and media that an obscure poet could only dream of. There was even an appearance on a Welsh current affairs programme, Dragons Eye. Then the news broke that Peter Black, Liberal Democrat Welsh Assembly Member for West Wales, had issued an invitation to the poet to hold a reading in one of the Assembly rooms in Cardiff. Christian Voice again urged its members to protest the event by writing to all and sundry having to do with Welsh Affairs – and, of course, Peter Black.

I wrote to Mr Black, although it wasn’t the scorching email perhaps envisioned by Stephen Green and, no doubt, sent by his supporters. I simply asked Mr Black what exactly prompted him to invite the poet to recite his controversial verse in such a high profile move. He replied:

"My invitation was as a direct consequence of the cancellation of the Waterstone's event following Christian Voice's protest. Below is the basic response I have been sending to most e-mails:

Thanks for your e-mail. Irrespective of the content and the quality of the poetry Patrick Jones has a right to read and publish it. The Assembly is a secular and public building and as such it is entirely appropriate that an event such as this take place there.

As a Christian myself I value the right to practice my faith in my own way and unhindered by others, equally I believe that those who do not agree with me should be able to have a similar freedom to express themselves, subject only to the law of the land. Christians and those of other beliefs should be robust enough in their faith to take such challenges in their stride without seeking to prohibit opposing views no matter how offensive they may find them. Remember that others may find your views offensive. They have no more right to silence you than you do to ban them. This is a free country. Wales or the UK must never be allowed to become a theocracy.

Just to be clear the invitation to Patrick Jones has not been made on the part of the Liberal Democrats. I am taking this initiative as an individual Assembly Member and doing so in partnership with Lorraine Barrett, who is a Labour Assembly Member. Our only regard is the right to free speech. We have no other motives."

As a Christian I am as offended as the next believer when the Lord’s name is blasphemed but far from achieving his ends, i.e. turning back the attack on Christ, Stephen Green has won an altogether larger audience, an altogether greater reputation for Peter Jones than he would have dreamed possible for an obscure poet, at an obscure poetry reading on a cold, damp winter evening, in a bookshop in Cardiff. Who knows where this will end? Peter Jones, Poet Laureate?

We must be wise, surely, in our Christian witness and protests and being fed-up does not give us licence to bully and intimidate. Whatever we think about the Peter Joneses of this world, however we might grieve over the sinfulness of society, we must remember that we are to be Christ to the lost and not Herod. We must remember that while, of course, our voices of protest must be heard, nevertheless we must be wise in choosing our battles and mustn’t simply react continuously to everything we see that upsets us. We must better understand what it means to be a Christian in a sinful world and remember that Christ suffered much more than a poetry reading, he suffered the shame of the Cross to win bad poets, as well as anyone else who believes, from their sins.

Reading Stephen Green’s web site I find much that is useful and encouraging for Christians who are determined to remain informed. However, I find a continuous spirit of contention and reaction that may well appeal to fed-up Christians but that will go on to create more encouragement to sin than repentance. Let’s be animated about sin and the establishment of the kingdom of God but let’s be wise in our witness and shrewd in choosing our battles.

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