Oi, Immigrant, Jesus who?

‘Hey, Mr Comedian, we didn’t like that stuff you did,’ some audience members once apparently said to American counterculture comedian Bill Hicks, after he cracked a tasteless anti-Christian joke, ‘We’re Christians.’

‘Well then forgive me,’ Hicks replied. A cute comeback, and, though this might annoy the sadly deceased Hicks’ many passionate atheist followers, a good sermon too. Sadly, the joke depends on the general perception outside our faith that the least likely person in the world to forgive you is a Christian whose religious sensibilities have been offended.

At least that is among the many generalising misconceptions about Christianity. It’s up there with ‘Christianity is about being a good enough person to get into Heaven’ and at least as popular as (in America) ‘Christian = Republican’ or (in Africa) ‘Christian = gay-basher’. In Britain, and particularly England, the perception of Christians might be encapsulated by the phrase: ‘Blessed are the quiche-makers’. And there are good things about our acceptance by mainstream society as a smiling, means-no-harm bunch of do-gooders whose rather antiquated beliefs gave us such British institutions as carol-singing, ‘Christian names’ and some bank holidays. We can speak in their public square and they will come to our church fetes.

It also means that many people assume they understand our religion when in fact they haven’t a clue. Too harsh? Am I not cutting enough slack for our secularised neighbours? Well let’s ask some asylum-seekers.

Last week the Evangelical Alliance criticised UK immigration officials for their ‘ludicrous’ treatment of foreigners seeking asylum here on the grounds that their Christian faith put them in danger. You may remember the recent case of a woman who was going to be sent back to Iran where there was a chance she would be stoned. She, and many others like her, have been judged to be unconvincing in their Christianity. Their asylum applications rejected because they were clearly not real Christians and thus not in danger and not eligible for our protection.

Why? Because (in one case) they did not know that the period before Christmas is called Advent. Other probing Scriptural/theological questions were: ‘How do you cook a turkey at Christmas?’; ‘Identify the forbidden fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden’ and ‘What does the Christmas tree symbolize?’ I trust I am not being too elitist when I assume that most of us know that none of those questions can be answered from the Bible. To be fair, some questions were less dependent on Scripture-knowledge. ‘What will happen around the world in the second coming?’ was the simple question asked of one asylum-seeker. (Answers on a postcard, please. Pre-millennialists need not apply.)

Of course, what these immigration officials are talking about is pseudo-Christian British culture, not our faith. And ultimately it is we, not secular society, who are to blame for their lack of understanding. The EA is quite rightly trying to make amends for how we have ultimately failed our brothers and sisters abroad who foolishly see this as a Christian country. And last week public opinion seemed to be with them. Radio 2 phone-ins featured several people speaking out on behalf of one Iranian woman, making passionate pleas for her to be allowed to stay. Of course, one can’t help but notice that public opinion does not generally seem to be on the side of run-of-the-mill asylum-seekers. You know, the ones just facing plain old vanilla torture or death, not related to their faith. They, according to some of our most popular newspapers, are nothing but a terror-assisting, crime-causing, benefit-thieving drain on our resources. Maybe if we pretend they’re all as Christian as our asylum adjudicators, we could care about the lot of them?

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2 Responses

  1. “It also means that many people assume they understand our religion when in fact they haven’t a clue.”

    How very true. Sadly too many people sit in pews that share the same problem.

  2. […] Originally by jonathanlangley from Baptist Times Newsweek on July 24, 2007, 7:00am capital punishment, false Christianity, homosexuality, Iran jQuery(document).ready(function(){ jQuery(‘.comment-replyto’).click(function(){ var text = jQuery(this).parent().children(‘.comment_body_container’).html(); var current = jQuery(‘textarea#comment’).val(); if(current!=”) current = current + ‘nn’; jQuery(‘textarea#comment’).val(current+”+text+”); return false; }); }); […]

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