by Paul Walker
I was interviewed recently on British
Broadcasting Corporation television about a local school in England run by
those who take the Bible's creation story as literal history. I do not
intend to waste time attacking such a position. What concerns me here is
how people with such beliefs are given so much attention by the British
It seems to me that television, radio and newspapers could persuade us
that all Christians accept the literal truth of the Bible. Such is
the power of the media.
If so, uncomfortable consequences follow. People might come to think
that all Christian men subjugate women, or that all Christians regard
homosexuality as evil, for example.
Many Christians do hold these kind of beliefs. But what the British
media seldom if ever broadcast is that this isn't the whole story. My
question is: How often do we hear expressions of faith other than these
Until two years ago I was a regular contributor to Britain's Radio Two.
The early morning Pause For Thought was my slot. I was told that I
was considered one of their top eight contributors.
Then one day I was asked to give five two-minute "thoughts" on
Christmas. I decided to explain how the Jewish writers of the Gospels had
re-worked stories from the Hebrew Scriptures to create their Christmas
accounts. I pointed out that these accounts were never intended as a
record of an historical event. The producer of Pause For Thought,
though not a Christian, was fascinated.
The BBC received many complaints about my broadcast. Similarly, a
Christmas television programme about Jesus� mother Mary made similar
points. It received more complaints than any programme ever before. Soon
afterwards I was told I would not be used again by the BBC - and I haven't
And yet the very same interpretations of the Christmas story have been
the accepted norm of the vast majority of Christian scholars for over half
a century! What's going on?
Richard Holloway, the retired Anglican Archbishop of Scotland, argues
that there is an unspoken conspiracy between some Christians and what he
calls "cultured despisers of religion".
I can only conclude that he is right. The media do not want us to
listen to people who have a rational and intelligent faith. They would
prefer us to hear only from those whose Christian faith is fundamentally
irrational. Their motive? To dismiss all religion.
Their attitude is irreparably harming those interested in matters of
faith. Simplistic expressions of Christianity are, on the face of it,
successful. So they are given more airtime. As a result, many conclude
that being a Christian involves irrational mental gymnastics. Still worse,
they are told that their ability to believe three impossible things before
breakfast affects their eternal destiny. It's hardly surprising if they
conclude that Christianity is pointless.
I suspect that most educated, thinking people are agnostic. That is,
they conclude that deep issues of life don't have simple answers. This is
not to say that religious traditions, sometimes with millennia of thought
behind them, have no genuine contribution to make.
But it is to say that expressions of faith which are not denials of
reason must be allowed at least as much airtime as traditional
expressions. This is vital. Otherwise the Christian religion will become
the sole preserve of those who refuse to face the complexities of life.