It is a truth universally acknowledged that the 21st century British take their lead from Americans. Look at the war in Iraq, and the failed attempts of the BBC at US-style sci-fi. And look at how the formerly mild-mannered British Christians are starting to ape the politics of their more aggressive North American counterparts. The Christian Institute, an organisation previously featured in Rebel Scum for their support of the dread Lillian Ladele, runs a propaganda website that feeds stories to unquestioning outlets such as the Daily Mail and the Telegraph, who then re-run said content without questioning it. The stated aim of the Institute’s work is to show how Christians are being persecuted and their rights taken away. What this means in effect is that Christians should be free to persecute others based on whatever random quote from the Bible they can drudge up to support them.
Traditionally, the Americans have been the pit-bull terriers of Christ, tearing up everything in their path and crapping over the aftermath. The British have been the fluffy bunnies of Christ, hopping around the field and leaving behind little hard pellets in the form of sermons. The latest round of religious fervor in response to an uncertain world post-9/11 has seen British Christian organisations taking point from the Americans. The Christian Right in the US has perfected the art of recasting itself as a victim. It is the passive-aggressive in extremis. The rantings and ravings of Linda Harvey, the subject of last month’s Rebel Scum, are founded on this cynical use of marketing tactics. The real key is to make an unsupportable claim and then bolster it with a quotation, or ‘truth’, from the Bible. Any Scripture will do, even if the letter does contradict the later teachings of Christ. The intricacies of theology do not concern them.
The unsupportable generalisation is the way at The Christian Institute. Take this example from the About Us page: “The Christian Institute is a nondenominational Christian charity committed to upholding the truths of the Bible. We believe that the Bible is the supreme authority for all of life and we hold to the inerrancy of Scripture. We are committed to upholding the sanctity of life from conception.” Inerrancy? In other words, nothing in the Bible is wrong. So what truths do they follow? Do they love their neighbour, or do they support the idea of mass genocide when it’s perceived to be for the greater good, i.e. as their God did when he drowned everything that wasn’t sanctioned to fit into Noah’s boat. Incidentally, I find it shocking that this is a story they are happy to tell to children. It’s far more twisted than post-watershed ITV crime dramas, or all the gay storylines on soaps that gets the Institute into such a lather. So, what do they believe?
The ‘What We Believe’ page is straight-forward and painfully naïve:
• Governments exist to restrain evil
• Marriage is sacred
• Parents have a God-given authority over their children
• Drug taking is wrong
•‘ Harm reduction’ approaches are un-Christian
• Life is sacred from conception
• Gambling is wrong
The aim here, as it is in their propaganda stories, is to generate an atmosphere of fear and anxiety, a rule by prohibition. “The Politically Correct Brigade is out to get you! They’ll take away your Cross and divert funding from Cancer charities to Gay Pride Parades.” When Tesco decided to support London Pride in 2011 the situation got very heated. The Christian Institute jumped at the chance to once again generate fear, and wrote as if the UK is a theocracy. In the opening salvos neither side behaved particularly well. Tesco will now not be funding Pride again.
In 2009 the Institute supported a Christian woman whose child was told off by her head teacher for, as the Institute framed it, talking about her beliefs. What actually happened was that the child had been scaring the hell out of other children with stories of fire and brimstone and damnation. But the Institute again fought for the right of the Christian to persecute others. There is an excellent article by Terry Sanderson on the National Secular Society website about this incident, how the Christian Institute manipulate the press, and how their rule of thumb is that the Christians should be free to persecute whomever they wish. Read the article here
The danger that the UK will become even more like the US is a very real and a very scary one. It is already there in the military misadventures, in the erosion of the NHS, and even the fact that the British now clap at the end of each song in musical theatre instead of waiting until the interval. Religion is a major player in the political life of the US, which makes a mockery of the out-dated republican Constitution. (Thomas Jefferson, as it happens, wanted a Constitutional Convention at most every 50 years on the grounds that one cannot expect a man to wear a boy’s jacket.) It is not a major player in the UK and we should therefore take a stand against propaganda outfits like the Christian Institute and expose their manipulation of news whenever necessary.