Take heart! When that secular, vulgar, sex-fuelled reality programme, Big Brother, was down to its last three survivors, two of us were practising Christians – one Catholic, one Evangelical – who had borne open witness to Christ throughout.
Often the modern view is that it is not safe to express Christian views and that people will be offended, but as St Paul said, we believe and therefore speak. Each Sunday the Christians in the Big Brother house held a prayer meeting and each time we were joined by one or two unbelievers who wanted peace and time out from the fray.
It was not something I had expected, having earlier negotiated access to the Bible for 20 minutes each Sunday. (In the Big Brother house the written word is forbidden. There is no reading material available and pens and paper are also prohibited.) I had wanted this in what I expected to be the absence of collective worship, and was delighted to find that it had been an unnecessary precaution.
I had stuck to the Church’s teaching of opposing both abortion and gay marriage in the debates (though I would hold those views even were I an atheist), and again there was a general expectation that that would finish me off, but I lasted to the end and was the competition’s runner-up.
Unpicking the threads of the tapestry which saw Christians do well in this most unlikely programme is a complex exercise, but the first strand was undoubtedly freedom of speech. Many would have disagreed with my views but in this age of political correctness they were only too happy to defend my freedom to both hold and express them.
In every interview I gave after those four gruelling weeks were over, I hailed the public vote as a demonstration in favour of free speech, but of course it is still inaccessible to millions of workers whose jobs can be put in jeopardy just by saying “God bless” or offering to pray for somebody. MPs can say what they like in Parliament and so can reality TV stars, but the cases of the Ashers bakers, Adrian Smith of Trafford Housing and Bryan Barkley of the Red Cross (to name just three among many) show that some are more equal than others.
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