A British hotel replaces the in-room Gideon Bibles with copies of Fifty Shades of Grey (aka Mommy porn). A Christian organization is banned by the Advertising Standards Authority from announcing that God can heal sickness today. And a recent poll indicates that only 37% of people in England say they have always believed in God, as opposed to 81% of Americans. Christian England, what has become of you?
The hotel in question was the Damson Dene Hotel in Cumbria, Northwest England, and the idea to replace the Bibles with the racy novel came earlier this month from Wayne Bartholomew, general manager of the hotel and “reportedly a choir member at his local church.” (One wonders what kind of church Mr. Bartholomew attends.)
But that is just one hotel, and there was some outrage over the general manager’s decision. What happened to a Christian group in Bath England in February was far more telling. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) banned a ministry named Healing on the Streets Bath from announcing on its website and in leaflets that God can heal today, ruling that “this is a ‘misleading’ ad which could sow ‘false hope’ amongst sections of the public.” And the ASA made this decision despite the fact that the message of healing in Jesus’ name is as old as the Gospels while the group simply offered to pray for sick people without making any guarantees. (Saying “can” is different than saying “will.”)
Cutting-edge columnist Brendan O'Neill could not resist taking a swipe at the ASA’s ban, writing, “The ASA has been itching to ban the words ‘God heals’ for quite a while. Last June, it rapped the knuckles of a church in Nottingham for putting up a poster that said ‘God can heal you today!’ after the church was grassed up to the ASA by some snitch in Nottingham’s Secular Society. And now it has actually banned a Christian group from proselytising about God’s healing powers. What next? Should we ban groups from declaring that ‘Jesus loves you!’, considering that is probably also technically untrue and could promote ‘false hope’?”
Not to be outdone, in June, “Three church groups [were] suspended from preaching at a secondary school after a leaflet containing homophobic scripture was delivered to homes in Walthamstow.”
In other words, because the leaflets contained a Bible verse that spoke against homosexual practice (part of a list of ten sinful behaviors in the verse; see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), they were suspended from using a public school for their meetings. (It should also be noted that the verse was one of several on the leaflet, and homosexual practice was absolutely not the focus of the leaflet.)
Remarkably, all three church groups denied distributing the leaflets, with one theory being that it was the work of a “rogue parishioner.” The spokesman for one of the church groups stated that, “It is ill advised to put that sort of thing on a leaflet and we would certainly never do it,” while a local atheist who received the leaflet said, “People who preach this sort of thing shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a school.” Perhaps verses like this should just be cut out of the Bible to avoid all offense?
And then there was the case of Eunice and Owen Johns, a Christian couple in their 60’s who had cared for 15 foster children in the past. Last year, England’s High Court ruled that they could no longer take in children after a gay activist organization brought a complaint against them, concerned that kids in their care could be “infected” with Christianity.
As Eunice Johns explained, “All we wanted to do was to offer a loving home to a child in need. We have a good track record as foster parents, but because we are Christians with mainstream views on sexual ethics, we are apparently unsuitable as foster parents.”
In May, the courts again ruled that the Johns’ could not provide care for a 16th child. As Eunice stated, “The judges have suggested that our views might harm children.” (She had previously told a social worker who pressed her about her faith that she would provide love and care for a child who identified as homosexual but would not tell the child that homosexuality was “okay.”) She continued, “We have been told by the Equality and Human Rights Commission that our moral views may ‘infect’ a child. We do not believe that this is so.”
Ironically, the initial court ruling against the Johns’ came down just weeks after magazine covers around the world breathlessly announced the news that Elton John and his partner David Furnish now had a baby boy, all of which leads me to ask: Christian England, home of men like John Bunyan, John Wesley, William Wilberforce, G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, and C. S. Lewis, home of cities named Christ Church and of once-Christian universities like Oxford and Cambridge, what has become of you?
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
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