When that bastion of righteousness, the Sun, says Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty (National Council for Civil Liberties), is the most dangerous woman in Britain, we all sit up and take notice. So last month, I went off to meet this fearsome woman.
Why interview Shami Chakrabarti?
Well, she is arguably one of the most influential women in the United Kingdom today. Whichever way you cut it, she is right there in the thick of the arguments about civil liberties, tolerance and religious freedom.
So here’s my take on what is happening here in the United Kingdom, in one respect at least, and then I’ll let you make up your own mind as you watch the interview below.
The old Christendom is disappearing as fast as a rat up a drainpipe. In the old world, the church had a privileged place, and those privileges are being taken away. It’s not unnatural to lament this, especially when some of the court judgments that have gone against Christians have more than a whiff of naked discrimination.
Why was it even considered a disciplinary matter for Caroline Petrie, a Christian nurse, to offer to pray with a patient? Or for a court to decide that Nadia Eweida wasn’t discriminated against when British Airways said she couldn’t wear a cross? Stupidity.
But tread carefully. If you have a lurking sympathy for Christian bed-and-breakfast owners who wish to exclude gay people from their businesses, before long you’ll be back in the 1960s when my parents came from Ireland at a time when the signs read “No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish.” You can’t get your morality at the pick ‘n’ mix counter.
Besides, hasn’t Christendom made us lazy?
Go and live in a country where Christians are an oppressed minority; ordinary people, such as me and other BMS mission workers, suddenly discover the excitement and challenge of mission. Faith grows stronger when you’re up against the odds.
So that’s the background, and the big question is this: Are we going to sit on our rear ends and lament the passing of an era? Or are we ready for a truly missionary encounter with our own culture?
So, go and get a cup of tea and enjoy the interview.
And don’t worry: She doesn’t bite, unless you meet her in court!
David Kerrigan is general director of BMS World Mission. This column first appeared on his blog, Thinking Mission, and is used by permission. BMS World Mission was founded in 1792 in Britain as the Baptist Missionary Society.