The end of Christian charity?
The National Secular Society (NSS) released a “report” titled “For the public interest? – the case to suppress the advancement of religion as a charitable purpose”. The fact that the NSS wants to remove religion from charity goes hand in hand with the announcement that the Pope is Catholic and that Greta Thunberg wants to protect the environment as a shocking revelation. But are they right? After reading the report, the answer is clearly no. Rather, it reads like a political propaganda leaflet with a list of demands based on a series of allegations and defamations. And it reflects the rather sad, illogical and intolerant pettiness for which secular activists have become famous. The report is also revealing in that it shows the kind of tactics the NSS uses in its war on religion.
1. Disinformation and distortion. For example, “For the Public Interest” relies on the selective use of statistics – there are lies, religious lies and secular statistics. One of the reasons they put forward for suppressing religion is that “a majority of Britons no longer belong to any religion”. However, the latest official statistics from the 2011 survey are only 25% religion. It is arguably higher today, but not as high as suggested by the selective use of opinion polls by the NSS.
These should always be taken with a pinch of salt – not least because it all depends on the sample size, methodology and questions. A 2006 Guardian poll asked “What religion do you yourself belong to?” 64% responding “Christian” and 26% saying none. In the same poll, 63% said they were not religious and only 33% said they were! I wonder what number the NSS would use?
The logic behind their position is somewhat flawed. Are they saying that if a majority of people profess some kind of religion, they would be happy if religious charities exist? The arrogance of the report is demonstrated in that it states that the views of the NSS are the views of British public opinion (while again offering no evidence for this).
2. Fear and demonization. The report also seeks to stir up prejudice and hatred by instilling fear of religion and by branding all religions responsible for the wrongs of a particular religious group.
“There is some justification for the dominant apathetic or negative attitudes towards religion. The UK has suffered significant acts of religious terrorism, resulting in massive loss of life,” they write.
It reminds me of the accusation I used to hear from most fundamentalist atheists – repeated to the point of nausea because someone somewhere told them it was witty: âAtheists don’t fly planes in buildings. To which the answer was “neither the Presbyterians, nor the Baptists, nor the Catholics nor the Charismatics!” The NSS uses the concept of harm – as defined by itself – to argue that those who do harm should be banned from being charities.
3. Exclusivity and narrow-mindedness. The NSS is also concerned that some religious charities may oppose some of their core values. In the report, they warn that some religious charities oppose abortion. They warn of the dangers of charities like the Evangelical Alliance, CARE, Living Out and Affinity that do not share the sexual doctrines of the NSS. The NSS wants to ban “extremist” political and religious charities, but the NSS’s definition of “extreme” seems to be “anyone who does not agree with our point of view” – which in itself seems to be. a somewhat extreme point of view.
An example of this is their attack on the British and Foreign Bible Society. They reveal the shocking reports that the BFBS exists to distribute Bibles – much of which is done in foreign countries (the NSS does not seem at all keen on the idea of ââBritish religious charities helping foreigners).
“How does the British public really benefit from the massive distribution of Bibles in the UK and abroad?” the NSS asks.
Aside from the fact that Christians do not share such contempt for “foreigners,” the statement presupposes that the distribution of the Bible is of no use to the public. Yet, as Vishal Mangalwadi demonstrates in The book that made your world, the Bible has been the source of most of the liberal Western values ââthat the NSS says it wants. It is Christianity that is turning the world upside down. I suspect that the British public would benefit greatly if the Chinese and North Korean regimes became more Christian!
4. Mockery and abuse. Another tactic is to mock and belittle. For example, the report criticizes the Charity Commission for not accepting the Jedi as a religion.
5. Intolerance and blind faith. The report tells us: âIf religion were abolished as a charitable purpose, then the effect on society in the UK would be positive.
The NSS is convinced that if only everyone took their stand, we would live in a secular paradise, although we have no evidence of this.
“For the Public Interest” is filled with this kind of intolerance, irrationality and self-righteousness. And the NSS calls itself “religiously neutral”, which makes as much sense as asserting that the Communist or Fascist parties are politically neutral.
Interestingly, the NSS cannot see any public benefit from religious charities. They cannot understand that religion, which has been the basis of community for most of human history, can âproduce tangible results for communitiesâ. Try telling that to the builder who told me his business would be willing to build a church in the middle of any of their new subdivisions as it helps build community and adds value to their homes!
How should the Church respond to such intolerance and prejudice? We need to be aware of what the NSS are doing and make sure we counteract their lobbying. But arguing with the NSS is a bit like arguing with a conspiracy theorist – they’re impervious to reason and counter-argument because everything we say has to be part of the conspiracy. The NSS exists only for one purpose: to attack religion. Therefore, in their eyes, nothing good can come from religion to the whole community.
The only way to overcome this is to go back to the original meaning of the word “charity”. In 1 Corinthians 13, what is translated in the KJV version as “charity” is in modern translations more precisely translated as “love”. We overcome hate with love. When the NSS argues that there is no benefit to the community in religious charity, we must prove them wrong by our actions. We are salt and light in our communities. Without it, they will become tasteless and gloomy. A bit like the joyless and miserable society that will be that inspired by the NSS.
David Robertson works as an evangelist with churches in Sydney, Australia, where he leads the ASK project. He blogs on The little chip.