This week, several UK churches have been objecting to government attempts to redefine things.
On Tuesday, the Church of England attacked government plans to “redefine” marriage – i.e. to allow same-sex couples some of the same rights as mixed-sex couples.
On Thursday, the Baptist Union, Methodist Church and United Reformed Church (URC) made a joint statement criticising government plans to redefine poverty. David Cameron wants to measure poverty differently. Even the least cynical person in Britain must surely suspect that this is likely to result in statistics showing a lower level of poverty.
None of these churches are wholly united behind these statements. The Church of England statement triggered protests from its own members, especially given the scaremongering warnings about the danger to church-state relations. Some individual Methodists, Baptists and URC members object to their churches’ recent tendency to issue left-wing statements on economics.
The difference here is not only between one denomination and another. It’s also between comments on marriage and comments on economics, and between reactionary statements and progressive ones.
Which of those distinctions affected the media response is open to debate. The Church of England was making headline news on Tuesday. It was a rare case of a religious story being on the front page of at least three national newspapers. In contrast the statement on poverty doesn’t seem to have led to even the smallest article in any national paper.
Much of the public – especially this week – have understandably got the impression that Christian Churches are fall of reactionaries obsessed by sex. If we want people to notice the radical political and economic views that many British Christians now hold, we have to speak about them more loudly, and more effectively. The media also need to be more aware of what’s really going on in British Christianity. They need to notice Christians saying surprising things – about money as well as sex.