From triple helix - winter 2013 - What we can learn from the BHA [p05]
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Review by John Martin
CMF Head of Communications
The British Humanist Association used to be a bit of a joke. In recent years, however, its forays into the marketplace of ideas have become much more venomous. What we should never accuse it of is lack of courage. Who would have dared unsettle British sensibilities, as the BHA has done, by taking a swipe at Remembrance Day (1) or by launching a legal challenge to plans for a Christian coronation? (2)
We may not like the BHA very much but we can learn from observing them. Christians need to see off their arguments and point out the flaws in their assumptions. As well, we need to resist unconsciously adopting their rhetoric – like using the hackneyed phrase 'our increasingly secular society'. It is a nonsense: faith is not fading away. The trend is moving in the opposite direction, much to the chagrin of those who predicted otherwise.
We can learn from the BHA's example. Firstly, we can learn from their persistence. They don't give up. They don't they mind if they ruffle feathers in making a point. Secondly, they are honest about their motivation. They don't dissemble or cloak their commitment to eradicate religion from public life. (3) Thirdly, they know how to use the media. It doesn't matter that their membership would struggle to fill Lord's cricket ground, or how many people agree with them. They know how to press the right buttons to achieve media attention so that they get people talking about their ideas. A clear example of this was the Atheist Bus Campaign, (4) where the BHA generated significant media attention by paying for London buses to carry the slogan 'There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life'. The BHA is an excellent example of what a determined media-savvy minority can do.
This brings us to the issue of how Christians go about public witness. Lesslie Newbigin, missionary and strategist, observed on returning from service in India that a hallmark of British Christianity was timidity. The gospel, he often said, is public truth: the fact that Jesus is Lord will one day ensure that all human beings and systems of thought will face divine judgment. That is a mandate to engage confidently in debates about how our world is shaped – including refuting the BHA's much touted untruth that faith is fading away in the 21st century.
Review by Steve Fouch CMF Head of Allied Professions Ministries