Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Free Church?

Our forefathers used to have a blessing for everything. Look through the amazing resource that is ‘Carmina Gadelica’, and you will see blessings for birth and for baptism, yes; but also blessings for milking the cow and for smooring the fire. I have a woodburner myself, but I can still appreciate the beauty of the words. And any maw who has ever experienced the searing pain of smoor in the eye can surely see the need of such a verse.

The point is,  spirituality was woven into their lives. God was their God all the time. These blessings for milking and smooring, and all the tasks that lay in between, spun a thread of faith through each successive day. But then, they were poor, ignorant souls and there was no Equalities Act to tell them that they shouldn’t pray near the cow without first obtaining her permission. After all, what if the cow was a Hindu? No, in their uneducated bliss, they committed their days to God as naturally as breathing. He was with them in the mundane tasks, as well as those which elevate life beyond the ordinary. And in this, they were simply living as closely to His pattern as any pastoral people outside of Eden ever could.

Now, we follow an artificially demarcated week, which would have been utterly alien to our forefathers. God’s time and theirs knitted together; but we have allowed those threads to loosen. And the tricky thing about loose threads is that there will always be someone to worry at them until they fray completely.

Individual Christians are, of course, responsible for their own walk with God, and for guarding against attack. To some, perhaps ‘attack’ evokes images of countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith, where they must worship in secret, in fear of their lives. But I’m not talking of that kind of onslaught; I’m talking of the insidious creep of a worldview which thinks itself accepting, but is highly selective in what it will countenance.

1 Timothy reminds us how dangerous false teaching is. In fact, 1 Timothy could have been written for the very age that we’re living in, when it seems that the only real crime is saying that some forms of human behaviour are simply . . . wrong. To be a Christian in this society means taking a stand for what you believe, when what you believe is foolishness to everyone around you.

Some of the candidates for election to seats in Comhairle nan Eilean are Christians. Then again, so are some of the electorate. I have seen requests for those standing, who have committed their lives to Christ, to be upfront about this with voters. As far as I’m aware, they have not attempted to hide their beliefs, and so I find these demands extraordinary. What particular threat to democracy is posed by a Christian councillor that is not also posed by a secularist one? Or a feminist one? Or a socialist, tea-drinking, banjo-playing one?

By compiling lists of who the Christians are among our politicians, what are we hoping to achieve? Is it not enough to demand the impossible, that they separate their Christianity from their decision-making? We are now going down an even darker road, it seems to me, and one that has been traveled by others before us with no good result. Perhaps the question posed should be modelled along McCarthyist lines: ‘are you now or have you ever been a member of the Free Church?’ Luckily, though, the right to be a councillor AND a Christian is enshrined in the 2010 Equalities Act, which reminds those of us impolite enough to need reminding, that we mustn’t discriminate against people on the grounds of adherence or non-adherence to a particular faith.

Simply ‘allowing’ the election of practicing Christians is not sufficient, however. There has to be an acceptance that they will be followers of Christ, even when they are voting in the Comhairle chamber; true equality understands and respects this. In return, I am sure that they will serve in accordance with these words from Carmina Gadelica’s blessing for kindling the fire:

God, kindle Thou in my heart within

A flame of love to my neighbour,

To my foe, to my friend, to my kindred all,

To the brave, to the knave, to the thrall.

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