God speaks to me in different ways, sometimes it is a thought that comes into my head and I wonder where it came from; at other times, it will be someone or often a number of people saying “I wonder if God is saying……”, sometimes God speaks to me through things I come across that speak powerfully to me.
That has happened in the last few weeks, it started with an interview by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the Today programme following the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London. His point is that to combat religious extremism, people must be able to “put themselves in the shoes of religious believers”, which they struggle to do because of a lack of religious literacy.
I came across a similar, but developed point in an academic paper from the Jubilee Centre, a Christian thinktank, written by Colin Chapman. He says we need to “Recognise the role that Christians can play as peacemakers.” And develops this to say
“One of the major problems in Western democracies is that since the link between religion and state has either been totally severed or become almost meaningless, Western governments find themselves at a loss in dealing with Muslims and Islam. Secular politicians can take strong measures to safeguard the rights of every community and to protect their countries from terrorism carried out in the name of Islam. But they simply don’t have the worldview or the language to enable them to engage in a meaningful dialogue with Muslims who want to bring God into the public sphere. In this situation, Western Christians may have a significant role as interpreters, because they ought to be able to understand and sympathise with both sides – with God-fearing Muslims on the one hand (with whom they share many moral values) and secular Westerners on the other (because this is the world in which they have been living). If there is genuine trust between Christians and Muslims, Christians may be able to act as peacemakers and bridge-builders.”
I then read a column in the Times by Alice Thomson entitled “Surge in faith can’t be allowed to divide us”. In the article, it was clear she didn’t understand people of faith. She says,
“No one should be allowed to promote sexism, racism, homophobia or violence under the guise of their faith in this country. Women are never inferior, gay relationships are not abhorrent, no religion is superior and practices such as female genital mutilation need to be condemned by everyone as medieval. Tolerance must go both ways; the religious must also respect their secular neighbours.”
Don’t get me wrong, I hope I am not a sexist or a racist etc. However, the point is that people of faith cannot be told what to believe, whatever faith we adhere too, we believe we submit to a higher power. No one can say that no religion is superior, they are either true or false, right or wrong. I respect other people’s faith, even her secular faith, but they can’t all be true! Surely true is superior to false.
She also says, “Proselytising seems wrong” however secularists don’t seem to realise that they follow a religion and have a faith themselves and try very hard to convince others to share that faith. The article itself is a form of proselytising for secular faith and she clearly thinks that her secular faith is superior.
All this has convinced me that as Christians we have a vital part to play within our society. Our calling to be salt and light has never been more relevant. We need to play a crucial role as peacemakers. We need to understand where people are coming from, we then need to build true friendships across faith boundaries, respecting each other, not imposing our beliefs but seeking to convince them of what we perceive to be truth.
Written by Tony Thompson