Best-selling historian and author Tom Holland responds to the...
The Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee wants you to "beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts". David Robertson responds
It’s that time of year. The time when we all get ready for Christmas - as though we were preparing for a 12-month siege. The time when Polly Toynbee, vice president of the Humanist Society and professional anti-Christian, has her Grinch-like attack on Christianity. Whether its hating Narnia because the last thing she needs is someone to die for her sins, or attacks on American fundamentalist evangelicals, Toynbee never fails to disappoint.
Her latest diatribe in The Guardian is entitled "This Christmas, beware evangelical Christians bearing gifts". It warns the faithful secularists of that most dangerous of organisations, Samaritan’s Purse and specifically, their Christmas shoebox appeal – which, much to Toynbee’s horror is being supported by Café Nero, Shoe Zone, Barratt Homes, Glamorgan cricket team and Cardiff Blues rugby club. Furthermore this appeal is taken up by many schools across the UK, which in Toynbee’s narrow world should only be allowed to disseminate secular humanist doctrines.
So what does our fearless columnist find so objectionable?
Apparently these shoeboxes are pro-Trump, Islamaphobic and anti-gay. The shoeboxes themselves contain no written material, although they are often delivered with a book of Bible stories called The Greatest Gift. Having read through the whole Bible over 100 times I have yet to find anything in it which could be regarded as pro-Trump. As for Islamaphobic or homophobic, Toynbee needs to take a basic logic 101 course so that she can grasp that disagreeing with something, or having a different point of view, does not necessarily mean that one is phobic about it. If she sticks to her own criteria then she is guilty of Christophobia, Brexitphobia, Narniaphobia and Toryphobia! Not to mention shocking prejudice fueled by ignorance.
Polly tries to suggest that she is the intrepid journalist who has uncovered the "pernicious hidden agenda" of Samaritans Purse. (So hidden that it's clearly stated on their website how they want to share the love of Christ).
She also struggles to grasp the concept that sharing the love of Christ does not mean presenting Franklin Graham (the president of Samaritans Purse) as the Messiah, nor does it mean endorsing his political views.
But what about the accusations of Islamaphobia and proselytizing? There is a great deal of hypocrisy in this complaint – not least because Toynbee as a secular feminist has herself spoken out against aspects of Islam and seeks on a daily basis to proselytize in the name of her secular faith. But there is also a great deal of ignorance in Toynbee’s complaint. The example she uses is of shoeboxes being sent to Muslim Albania.
As it happens I have just returned from an IFES conference where I met a number of Albanians – including a wonderful intelligent lady who was converted from a Muslim background. 25 years ago – when Albania was recovering from being made the poorest country in Europe by the secular Marxists, there was only one known family of evangelical Christians in the whole country. Now there are over 18,000. The church is growing and developing in that country. Indeed as a general axiom it seems as though when the Church develops, so does the country. If Toynbee wants to remove the Church from liberal, secular Western democracies then she should ask if herself, if my fantasy is ever enacted, will those societies continue to be either liberal or democratic?
If she wishes to defend Muslims from proselytism then to be consistent that must include the proselytism of Western liberals. I look forward to her objections to Western governments and charities tying aid into pro-abortion policies! But consistency like logic is not the strongest virtue among the Humanist faithful.
A number of years ago in my hometown in Dundee, my sister witnessed a young Pakistani boy being viciously beaten in a racist attack. In response to that my small church decided to set up a ministry to demonstrate the love of Christ to Asian people in our city. One of the local Imams asked to meet with me because he was concerned that this was an attempt to convert Muslims to Christianity.
I told the Imam, “We are only seeking to bring the good news of Jesus and show the love of Christ – to all people. We realised that we were being discriminatory by leaving out Asian people from our ministry, so we set up our Asian outreach. We are not trying to convert anyone because we cannot. Only God can convert”. The Imam replied: "I agree with my brother…only God can convert…I have no problem with these people." Sometimes Calvinist theology has its advantages!
No one has to give to Samaritans Purse (we don’t – our church supports the Blytheswood shoebox appeal). The Humanists could easily send their own shoeboxes without any material. But they won’t. The more militant Humanists are so scared that anyone would challenge their ideological monopoly that they would rather see children go without than run the risk that they might actually hear about Jesus at Christmas. Bah Humbug!
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For more information about the Operation Christmas Child campaign from Samaritan's Purse visit samaritans-purse.org.uk
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