Jesus mentioned the stones speaking out when the Pharisees told his disciples to keep quiet (Luke 19:40). Someone, or something, must testify to the truth, and if the disciples will not be permitted, then the very rocks will speak out. This bit of irony is typical of Jesus in his criticism of the religious leaders of the day.
As Darrell Bock comments, “Creation is aware of Jesus, but the leadership of the nation is not. That which is lifeless knows life when it sees it, even though that which is living does not. Luke portrays their rejection as a tragic, stinging indictment of their lack of judgment.”
Jesus also spoke about the lack of recognition that he received from his own people: “A prophet is not without honour except in his own country” (Mark 6:4). Jesus describes the hostile reception he received in his own homeland. Many followers of Jesus have experienced similar treatment.
These two passages nicely summarise what is taking place in the West in general and the UK in particular. Indeed, the UK is in a very precarious state at the moment. And those who should be guiding the nation through the fog are in fact often contributing to the malaise.
I have mentioned three sad episodes recently on this site: the case of a British Bishop comparing global warming scepticism with paedophilia; a British vicar who penned a new collection of Bible stories, informing us along the way that no one knows what they actually mean; and the head of the Anglican church suggesting that aspects of sharia law may be inevitable in the UK.
When the religious leaders of the day abandon their prophetic role, and instead become part of the problem, then things are in a very sad condition indeed. Fortunately God is able to raise up stones to utter prophetic words of truth and sense into the situation. And in this case, it took an import from Pakistan – of all places – to get the job done.
Writing in the June issue of standpoint.online, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali, the Bishop of Rochester, has said the collapse of Christianity is resulting in the ruin of Britain and the decline of the family. He said the British disease of secularism and “endless self-indulgence” has left the nation defenceless against the rise of radical Islam. With the collapse of Christianity, militant Islam is poised to rush in and fill the moral and spiritual vacuum.
His lengthy prophetic piece is well worth reading, and I can only present snippets of it here. He reminds his readers of the central role which Christianity played in forming the nation: “as with the rest of Europe, it cannot be gainsaid that the very idea of a unified people under God living in a ‘golden chain’ of social harmony has everything to do with the arrival and flourishing of Christianity in these parts. It is impossible to imagine how else a rabble of mutually hostile tribes, fiefdoms and kingdoms could have become a nation conscious of its identity and able to make an impact on the world.”
He goes on to describe the very real ways in which Christian influence led directly to so many of the great and noble features of English life, governance and society.
“One was the discovery of conscience. If the individual is morally and spiritually responsible before God, then we have to think also of how conscience is formed by the Word of God and the Church’s proclamation of it so that freedom can be exercised responsibly. Another result was the emergence of the idea that because human beings were moral agents, their consent was needed in the business of governance. It is not enough now simply to draw on notions of God’s justice for patterns of government. We need also the consent of the governed who have been made in God’s image (a term which comes into the foreground). This dual emphasis on conscience and consent led to people being seen as citizens rather than merely as subjects.”
This has been played out in many ways, and has borne great fruit. Consider the notion of freedom:
“The idea of liberation is as fundamental in the Bible as that of creation. The freeing of enslaved Israel from its captors has inspired many other captive or oppressed peoples to struggle for their freedom. Freedom, however, has to do not only with political or social liberation. It also has to do with respect for conscience. Once again, this is rooted in the insight of Reformation times that everyone had the right to read the Word of God in their own language and to be formed by it. The freedom and the responsibility of such a citizen are closely related to the development of conscience in the light of the Scriptures.”
So too equality: “Equality is another leading value which we use in a just ordering of society. On the face of it, human beings are not equal: they are rich and poor, black and white, differently abled, male and female. So what is our basis for saying they are equal? During the period of white settlement in Australia, Christian missionaries, in the face of settler opposition, again and again referred to Acts xvii 26: ‘Out of one blood hath he made all the nations of men’ as the basis for the equality of the aboriginal peoples with the white and Asian inhabitants. Equality, then, is also rooted in the biblical world-view and extends to the whole of humanity. It is not restricted to those who may belong to a particular faith, ideology or ethnicity.”
But secularisation has changed all this: “It is this situation that has created the moral and spiritual vacuum in which we now find ourselves. While the Christian consensus was dissolved, nothing else, except perhaps endless self-indulgence, was put in its place. Happily Marxism, in its various forms, has been shown to be the philosophical, historical and economic nonsense that it always was. But we are now confronted by another equally serious ideology, that of radical Islamism, which also claims to be comprehensive in scope. What resources do we have to face yet another ideological battle?”
While the Archbishop of Canterbury may think the arrival of sharia law to be inevitable, the Bishop of Rochester is less confident, and is more willing to call us back to our religious roots. The Bishop concludes, “Christian faith has been central to the emergence of our nation and its development. We cannot really understand the nature and achievements of British society without reference to it. In a plural, multi-faith and multicultural society, it can still provide the resources for both supporting and providing a critique of public life in this country. We have argued that it is necessary to understand where we have come from, to guide us to where we are going, and to bring us back when we wander too far from the path of national destiny.”
Why it must take a Pakistani-born believer to speak some common sense into the UK scene is unclear, but many are glad that he did. If the church in the UK is going downhill fast, then we must be grateful that some voices of sanity still prevail. The UK, like the rest of the world, needs more prophetic voices like that of the Bishop. May he inspire many more to speak out.