Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Scottish Government Consultation on Same Sex Marriage

The closing date for submissions to the Scottish Government's consultation on redefining Marriage is Friday 9th December. You can take part in this on-line via the websites of The Scottish Government or The Christian Institute. Those have an interest and concerns about the changes being proposed should take the opportunity to make their views known.

Below is a slighly reduced version of a letter I have sent to my consistuency MP & MSP on the subject.

Dear Tom / Nicola

Scottish Government Consultation on Same Sex Marriage

I am writing to you on the above subject as a Christian Minister but also as a father and citizen...

The arguments against the redefinition of Marriage to include homosexual partnerships have been well made by groups such as ‘The Christian Institute’ and ‘Care for Scotland’. You will not be surprised that I share their concerns, and would want to express my own apprehension that a trans-political institution of a universal and historic nature (stretching back millennia) should be thought of as something for an individual government to redefine.

Indeed the move to redefine marriage seems wholly unnecessary as there is already provision for those who wish to legally bind themselves to one another in a Civil Partnership. Even if you have no issue regarding homosexuality it is obviously not the same as heterosexuality and therefore it is hardly discriminatory to recognise that difference. It seems that words are being manipulated to make ideological points – why not redefine the word ‘uncle’ to mean ‘cousin’ to suit those who are uncles but would like to be cousins?!

There are many other concerns that could be raised, both philosophical and practical. However, one major concern is the increasing sense of threat and imposition that Christians (dare I say, evangelical Christians) feel towards them in our society. That many Christians have little confidence that a redefinition of Marriage will not simply be the first step in ultimately forcing Christian Churches to conduct Same Sex Marriages should be no surprise. The Civil Partnership legislation was introduced with guarantees that they would remain an entirely secular provision – a few years later this consultation is underway with a view to legislating for them to be conducted in religious premises.

Christians are wise enough to know that their views on such matters are out of step with many in the political and indeed media world. We also realise that for many in wider society this is not an issue they necessarily feel strongly about. However, the right of people to practise their religious beliefs without imposition and threat is the cornerstone of a truly free society. It might be argued that Christians have not always extended such rights to others at times (including homosexual people) and that is something we must acknowledge. However the danger is that now ‘the boot’s on the other foot’ that such unfairness is simply perpetuated in the other direction.

Current trends in our society regrettably suggest that is the ‘direction of travel’. Recently I sat with a Bulgarian pastor at a conference in Hungary. As a young Christian in 1970’s Bulgaria he was not allowed to attend university because of his Christian beliefs. He was not alone in suffering such exclusion at that time in ‘Iron Curtain’ countries – many children from Christian families were denied education, selected out for extra Communist indoctrination or even removed from their parents. Sanctions taken because Christianity was deemed to be an unacceptable challenge to the prevailing political ideology.

In our own society we read about cafe owners being cautioned by the police for displaying Bible verses, and people being disciplined by employers for expressing reasoned disagreement with homosexual practise. A lovely Christian couple, I know of, who applied to be adoptive parents in Glasgow were, despite being cleared for adoption, subsequently ‘interrogated’ on several occasions regarding their views on homosexuality. Despite clearly stating they believed that all people should be treated with respect, tolerance and kindness, they were told informally that their Christian beliefs were going against them actually having children placed. They wondered, as I did, if had they been Muslims they would have had such scrutiny or been told their religion was a problem...

So as a Christian Minister, a father and one of your constituents can I ask you to use the influence you have to counsel against the redefinition of Marriage – and in doing so both uphold its historic and universally understood premise, and prevent a further move destined to alienate large numbers of Christians among others in our society.

Thank you for your time in this matter and for your hard work generally.

Yours sincerely

Andrew Hunter
Senior Staff Worker

Greenview Evangelical Church

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holding the Queen's umbrella

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds
James 1:2

James begins his letter by facing two realities – we will face trials, not ‘if’ but ‘whenever’. Secondly, those trials will take different shapes at different times for different people – ‘trials of many kinds’.

Yet his opening exhortation is to consider facing such trials as ‘pure joy’. We might be forgiven for thinking James’ pastoral skills sound a little pious and simplistic. Is this just some crass ‘cheer up, could be worse, look on the bright side’ advice to make us cringe in the presence of real suffering and desperate difficulties?

Well no – because James isn’t saying ‘enjoy’ your trials or that there is masochistic pleasure to be found in our sufferings. Rather he is encouraging us to put our afflictions in a bigger context – to see that they have a purpose and indeed their very presence is a sign of God’s favour to us.

Imagine being asked to hold the Queen’s umbrella as she does a walk-about on a wet afternoon. You patiently follow Her Majesty keeping her covered from the rain, your arm aches and you yourself are increasingly getting soaked and chilled by the weather battering your unprotected self. At the end of day you’re asked what you did today – you answer, 'I held an umbrella up for 2 hours, got soaked and have cramp in my arms and shoulders'. ‘What a rubbish job’, comes the response. ‘No’, you quickly reply, 'it was a privilege, a joy to have done it’.

The ‘joy’ was not in the umbrella holding – but in the knowledge of who you were holding it for and the effect it was having.

We face trials of many kinds not because life is just a lottery of random ups and downs – but under the sovereignty of God. He allows His people to pass through difficulties precisely because He loves them and is working out great things for them. Further to be ‘asked’ by God to bear burdens is a mark of God’s special regard for someone: ‘Have you considered my servant Job? There is no-one on earth like him’ (Job 1:8). Job faced his trials not because he was a guy in the wrong place at the wrong time – but because God had a purpose to be worked out through them and was able to trust Job with such a calling. And there is no greater honour that that.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Isn't Christianity just a crutch for weak people?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.

If Jesus was God, how come he got Crucified?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.

Doesn't science contradict the Bible?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.

Doesn't religion just cause conflict & division?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.

If God is good why does he allow suffering?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.

Where did God come from?

One of a series of Panels for an 'Apologetics' Display Board I made for use at Community Events etc. Click on panel for bigger size.