The dust is settling on the report in the Sunday Telegraph which quoted “equalities boss” Trevor Phillips on the relationship between Christians and modern society. There’s been discussion elsewhere on the internet about whether or not Christians are more militant, more persecuted and less well-integrated to British culture than Muslims. I’m more interested in the following paragraph from the Telegraph’s report:
Trevor Phillips warned that “an old time religion incompatible with modern society” is driving the revival in the Anglican and Catholic Churches and clashing with mainstream views, especially on homosexuality. [Sunday Telegraph 19th June 2011]
It is interesting that Phillips perceives a revival in the church. I’d like to know what evidence he has for this. And, is this a revival of belief or a revival in numbers and strength or both?
More interesting is the implication that “modern society” and “mainstream views” have an intrinsic authority. The Telegraph report implies that these values transcend the individual and have an authority which is greater than the biblical authority which shapes Christian values. It appears that Phillips believes that what society at large thinks/feels has supreme authority; that members of a society are expected to uphold the values of that society and that the values are created by…the members of society. This is clearly a circular argument. We must ask, on what basis do the values of a society have authority. Says who?
The report cites the old chestnut of homosexuality as an example of the clash of biblical values with the values of the culture. But there are many other current mainstream British cultural values which Christians clash with; sacrificial generosity clashes with wealth accumulation; the giving of time clashes with a vanishing volunteer base; value and support for family and community clash with individualism and the fragmentation of society; moderation clashes with all things hedonistic (just compare Glastonbury, T in the Park and other festivals with Soul Survivor, New Wine or Keswick festivals); the value of human life and dignity clashes with a care industry which seems increasingly uncaring even ruthless. That’s enough to make the point that many biblical values are positive and the report should acknowledge this. Why single out negative attitudes to homosexuality?
I’d like to read the whole report. The Telegraph may have been deliberately controversial. At first glance, however, Phillips appears to have a remarkably one-sided perspective. Not great for someone in charge of equality.