PM plugs evangelical booklet on 'sharing the gospel'
Why is the Prime Minister giving a plug to evangelical Christian groups seeking to proselytise in the workplace? A weird exchange at today’s PMQs raises the question.
When asked by Fiona Bruce MP – a stalwart lobbyist for Christianity in parliament – if she welcomes a report by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship about how the rights to ‘speak about one’s faith, responsibly, respectfully and without fear, are as strong today as ever’, the Prime Minister replied:
“My honourable friend raises an important issue, which matters to both her and me.
And I think that the phrase that was used by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship was, ‘the jealously guarded principle’ of that ability to speak freely, as she says, respectfully and responsibly about one’s religion.
I’m happy to welcome the publication of this report and its findings.
Of course we’re now into the season of Advent, and we have a very strong tradition in this country of religious tolerance and freedom of speech, and our Christian heritage is something we can all be proud of.
I’m sure that we would all want to ensure that people at work do feel able to speak about their faith, and also feel quite able to speak freely about Christmas.”
The report in question, Speak Up, is not a report so much as a set of guidelines for evangelicals looking to spread the good news without falling foul of the law.
It was produced jointly by the Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship (LCF) and the Evangelical Alliance, two Christian lobby groups which are explicit about their mission to proselytise.
As the bio page of Speak Up says, the LCF seeks to ‘encourage and equip’ its over 2,000 members, who are lawyers and law students, ‘to speak about Jesus Christ and live out the good news of the gospel within the legal profession’.
It adds: ‘By developing relevant resources and providing opportunities for building relationships, the LCF seeks to put Jesus Christ and biblical truth at the centre of our lives and witness in the law.’
The Evangelical Alliance seeks to ensure Christians ‘listen to and are heard by government, media and society’, and its work includes ‘lobbying the government for a better society’.
It’s website says ‘we believe … The divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Old and New Testament Scriptures, which are the written Word of God’.
What does the report say?
The report itself has to be read in this context. It offers Christians guidelines (which it makes clear are not legal advice) on how to talk about their religion so more people follow it or adopt its ideas.
As Speak Up‘s introduction says:
“As Christians, it’s our responsibility to share the good news …
We know what a difference the gospel has made to our lives, and we should be passionate about seeing as many people as possible know this transforming good news, as well. …
We should grab hold of this opportunity and tell our friends, families, neighbours and colleagues about the life-changing good news we have received.”
In the conclusion, Dr David Landrum, advocacy director for the Evangelical Alliance, writes:
“The lost need the gospel, so we need to be intentional about sharing it. We hope that this resource will inform followers of Christ about the freedoms we have to do this, and encourage confident and fruitful evangelism in every area of public life.“
The report has sections on ‘sharing the gospel at work’, ‘sharing the gospel in public’, and ‘sharing the gospel on social media’. It includes advice on where you can talk about people’s ‘sexual orientation’ and how far you can go.
The report doesn’t appear to call for any rule-bending, and does seem like a good faith (excuse the pun) attempt to inform people about their rights and the law. But it does so in order that they know how best to ‘share the gospel’ as part of a clear political agenda.
How political? A Dispatches investigation in 2008, In the Name of God, found Andrea Williams, then LCF public policy director, called the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill the work of the devil, supported banning abortion, considered homosexuality sinful and was a young earth creationist. Williams no-longer works for the LCF.
But both groups are committed to seeing their views shape public policy, with the help of friendly MPs like Fiona Bruce. How nice for the Prime Minister to give them a boost under the banner of the non-existent ‘Christmas wars’!
With less than 59 per cent of Brits identifying as Christian (most of them Anglican), and at least a quarter ticking ‘no religion’ on the census form, this is a strange move for a PM who wants a society that ‘works for everyone’.
Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.