Of Frogs, Water and European Persecution

17 07 2009

Living in another culture for any extended period is a strange experience. For me it has been a process of both being dulled and sharpened in terms of my perception of home. The dulling process has more to do with issues of visuality and sense – for instance I get surprised when I look at photos of home by just how green it all is. There is a slight tendency to forget the dimensions and essence of Ireland and the UK.

However, the sharpening process is what I’m more interested in for the sake of this post. Someone has quite astutely likened being in a culture to a frog in hot water. Supposedly if you place a frog in a pan and slowly boil the water around, it will not perceive the change until it is too late. If, however, you wait to place the frog in the pan until the water is boiling then it will notice very quickly and hop out! I feel like I’ve been out of the UK/Ireland pan for a while, and when I’m in touch with the seething waters of its religious/spiritual culture I feel the burn a little more keenly than when I lived in Ireland.

An example of this is the moral deterioration of law and culture in the UK. I praise God for The Christian Institute and the stirling work they do in terms of Christian advocacy. I receive a weekly prayer email from them, highlighting news stories of concern to Christians. This weeks reads like a tragically escalating barometer of what is happening in the UK. The headlines, centre around sex education in the UK encouraging more activity for teenagers, the steady stifling encroachment of ‘equality’ laws, the BBC’s pondering of whether ‘Thought for the Day’ on Radio 4 should also include secular and humanist contributions, and an MP’s call to let Westminster dictate abortion laws for Northern Ireland.

The anti-Christian ball which began to roll in the UK generations ago is gathering momentum, and as I watch its slowly invasive trajectory into the arena of faith, practice and liberty of speech, from an ‘outsider’s’ perspective it looks as though persecution is not far away.

I write this from Peru, where the culture is utterly different. While this country and its evangelical church has much that it must address in terms of morality, integrity and witness, the issues affecting Britain, Ireland and Europe are not current here…yet. Postmodernism is present here, but more like a live culture in a lab than a pervasive influence on how people think (although that will be for a limited time only). God is still assumed as a reality by most people, and one is very free to share Christ with much less fear of opposition.

No doubt the clouds are gathering in Western Europe, and this will be both bad and good for the church. Bad in a material sense, in that the water in which evangelical witness has been slowly marinating will suddenly feel unbearably hot in the not too distant future. But it will also be good in terms of making the Church, and individual Christians come to terms with the fact that their faith is profoundly counter-cultural, and that it requires the virtues of honesty, integrity, courage and conviction.

And so I watch the UK and Ireland in a fast forward rush to moral and spiritual oblivion. How interesting it will be to watch the Church’s response from a distance, and to pray that the spiritual realism and resolve required for this hour might be found and exercised.

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