As those desperately flicking through the TV channels for wholesome holiday programming will have noticed, the Beeb is inflicting more than the usual holy madness on us this Easter.
One lowlight will be an ‘investigation’ of Christian ‘persecution’ in the UK by Nicky Campbell tomorrow night.
This is all kicked off by the recent extraordinary, and I would opine dishonest, whinings of George Carey, the last Archbishop of Canterbury to be directly appointed by a Prime Minister against Anglican wishes back in the days when Anglicans had some moral backbone, because Thatcher didn’t want an earnest herbert in a dick-shaped hat going on about poverty, injustice, striking miners and all that.
The Anglicans must have got the message, as ever since they’ve voluntarily appointed numpties who would so rather hang on to undemocratic privilege and public cash that Blair and Broon never need to slap them down. Sure, they make token grumbles about Iraq or Afghanistan, but have they ever refused MOD cash paid to Anglican chaplains or stopped the Church Commissioners investing in the arms trade?
It seems even the decent end of the Christian community are tired of Gormless George and his whines, judging from an item on Ekklesia by Jonathan Bartley entitled Five questions for assessing Nicky Campbell’s documentary on ‘persecution’ of UK Christians.
Bartley is the reasonable Christian who sometimes guests on Big Questions, Campbell’s Sunday morning BBC One religious discussion programme. They need one sometimes, as otherwise it would be a complete freak show, the televisual equivalent of seeing chimps tug their todgers at the zoo (or, for Manx readers, a normal morning in the House of Keys or Legislative Council).
After asking Campbell what’s planned, Bartley doubted the programme will be balanced, and worries in particular that the approach will be historical, while it should, as he puts it so eloquently: “address the context of post-Christendom – which is neither secularisation, nor post-Christian - but which is crucial to understanding what is going on.”
He mentions Ekklesia’s own work on the topic, which sounds much more worthy of serious analysis (even by godless heathen) and suggests five questions for viewers to consider while watching.
"1. Will the claims of ‘persecution’ be properly scrutinised? There has been so much misinformation about what local councils, hospitals, schools and other bodies have been doing/saying. The claims make great headlines, but upon further scrutiny – including talking to the bodies involved - the claims often have little substance. There are certainly disagreements, but they are often of a different nature to the way they are being presented. Will the documentary interview the public bodies involved and get the story from their perspective? (It is sometimes the case that the people involved in the bodies are themselves Christians).
2. Will there be a proper account of why some Christians feel marginalised? Specifically, will the context of post-Christendom be taken into account? The churches have had centuries of special privilege, with Christianity being a dominant narrative. Religion is relocating and finding a new place in society. This is making many Christians feel unsettled and making others fearful. This is being fuelled by many of the reports in the press and media.
3. Will the documentary scrutinise the work of pressure groups like the Lawyer’s Christian Fellowship, Christian Concern for our Nation and the Christian Institute, who have been feeding the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph with stories, sometimes with dire consequences? Will there be examination of their ideology and what is driving their efforts, which we have suggested involves a radicalisation as a response to post-Christendom? Will the links to what is going on in the US also be made?
4. Will the documentary look at mediation efforts to sort out the disputes? What has often been happening is that positions quickly become entrenched and there is little chance of amicable resolution following misunderstandings or mistakes. This is often because pressure groups get involved and raise the stakes, giving stories to the media. I know for a fact that the documentary makers spoke to a top QC who is not just an evangelical Christian, but one of the most experienced commercial mediators in the country.
5. Will the documentary primarily frame the debates as a simplistic conflict of rights, or accept that the situation is far more complex? Will it bring in different Christian perspectives which do not see this primarily as about one person trumping another? "
Are Christians Being Persecuted? is on BBC One at 10.50pm on Easter Sunday, and Bartley’s Ekklesia piece is at http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/11670 for those who want to see the argument in full.
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