If you follow certain news sources, you will be fed a non-stop diet of articles giving the impression that:
- The Church of England is rapidly going to hell in a handbasket, and
- Christian freedoms are rapidly being eroded in the West.
There are two problems with this.
The first problem is that these news items never give you the whole picture.
- When it comes to the Church of England, there are plenty of good things going on. But you won’t read about that in the news. And be careful not to confuse part of the Church of England with the whole Church of England. General Synod is not the whole Church of England. Bishops and archbishops are not the whole Church of England. Very few news stories are about the whole Church of England (its ministers and congregations as a whole, or its constitutional documents).
- When it comes to Christian freedoms, there are plenty of Christians living out their faith in society, acting as salt and light, making a real difference, and not meeting any real hindrance. But you won’t read about that in the news.
The only way to know whether things are getting better or worse is to weigh up the good things against the bad things over a period of time. But you will never get that picture if all you are seeing is a constant stream of examples of the bad things that are happening. Anecdotal evidence is still anecdotal evidence, even if you have a lot of anecdotes!
The second problem is that there is often another explanation.
- When it comes to the Church of England, when bishops and archbishops fail to take action about something, for example, remember that they have an impossible job to do. So cut them some slack! Most of their work is unseen by the public eye. Past lessons have taught us that heresy trials and the like simply do not work. So it might be that the action you would like them to take would be counterproductive. Sometimes we need to play the long game, and put up with things being less than ideal for the time being.
- When it comes to Christian freedoms, we need to remember that freedom of speech is not absolute. And this is particularly true when a believer is representing an organisation before the public. We can’t just disregard our responsibilities to our employers, say whatever we like, and then cry foul when we get into trouble. Ask yourself: in this specific case, were the person’s actions really defensible?
None of this is to deny that the Church of England might be rapidly going to hell in a handbasket, or that Christian freedoms might be rapidly eroding in the West. But let’s not reach that conclusion too quickly. It’s almost certainly not as bad as you might think.