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A call to mission in our society

Our society is changing and becoming more secular and individualised. People are now choosing their gender and lifestyle in ways that do not necessarily conform to traditional forms and expectations. The set of attitudes, assumptions and accumulated expectations which shape how people interpret and respond to what they experience are no longer necessarily those of a biblical worldview.

The Bible sets high value on the individual but it also sets people in families and communities. “It is not good for the man to be alone” the Creation story tells us (Genesis 2:18). However, one third of London households are single person households. This not only creates a demand for additional housing but also leaves too many vulnerable people of all ages lonely and inadequately supported. This exaltation of the individual is matched by consumerism.

It is assumed that these individuals must be free to choose who they are, how they live and what they buy. It doesn’t matter there is famine in parts of Africa we must have a wide range of options to choose between. As Rodney Clapp, author of “Families at the Crossroads” observed, “In the post-modern world, heaven is a vast supermarket; hell is a corner shop stocking only one brand of aspirin toilet paper, or more significantly, only one brand of religion, morality or marriage.”

It is but a short step from this individualism to relativism. Everyone does what is right in their own eyes. If the majority, or at least those in office, agree on something, they make a law that decrees it is right or wrong. So legislation is passed to make same-sex marriage possible and abortion legal right up to full term. Roy McCloughry summed up the implications, “We have never had so many choices to make which have such an impact on our world. We have never been more isolated in making them, or less guided by moral considerations. No wonder people are stressed. Post traditional our society may be, but unless we can find some way to form new traditions and codes of conduct appropriate to the global age, we will sink under the weight of the decisions which our late commitment to an arid economic individualism has imposed upon us.”

There is a risk in recognising these trends in British culture that one focuses only on the bad news and the effect is demoralising. There have been other times in our history when biblical values have been challenged, ignored and rejected. For example, in the 18th century “Enlightenment” thinking challenged Christian values and beliefs but Wesley, the Clapham Sect and Lord Shaftesbury resisted them. Prayerful Christians will recall that “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples”. (Psalm 33; 10).  Nor should we overlook the mass of church-based projects in many of the toughest inner city estates where the foodbanks and Christian Action Networks are the only organisations still functioning.

The American sociologist Robert Bellah suggested in his book “The Habits of the Heart”, that when 2% of a society have a new vision, they can change the quality of its culture. We have seen the gay lobby do that. Now it is time for us Christians to forsake our comfort zones to work together to demonstrate the continuing relevance of Christian values and to persuade those who make our laws and public policies to do so with a proper regard for our Maker’s intentions.

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