We were all gathered together in the church hall, when the minister picked up the microphone, fixed us with his most intimidating gaze, and asked, ‘who reads the Bible on an electronic device?’
There was an awkward silence. People tried to avoid his eye. I sat, rooted to the spot in terror, thinking, ‘so this is how it ends’. In my paranoia, I even wondered whether he would be able to tell me for a Kindle-user, just by looking. ‘Put up your hands if you have the Bible on an electronic device’, he ordered in his most threateningly reasonable tone. Still, no one moved. None dared.
And then it happened. A miracle. In the finest ever ‘I’m Spartacus’ move, his wife raised her hand. The whole atmosphere changed in an instant, and suddenly hands were in the air all over the room.
I held my breath. What would happen? Surely this show of defiance could not go unpunished. Yet, what could he do when his own wife had openly admitted to using modern technology herself?
Finally, he spoke.
‘I see’, was all he said.
And then I also saw. Sitting there, with a wireless microphone in his hand, he could hardly castigate his congregation for indulging in the odd Bible app. Especially when his own household was patently guilty of making forays into the modern age.
I wondered whether this was history in the making, a momentous event that would be recorded forever as the night the Wee Frees in Stornoway were finally forced into the 21st century.
But then I remembered – no, of course, that could not be. It had already happened . . . sometime around the end of 1999, I think.
However, it is important to be fair. People cannot help conceiving ill-informed ideas about an organisation that is secretive, and a closed shop. Besides, if it seeks to exercise power and control over an entire community, surely its leadership could be more transparent, less misogynistic,kinder, less controlling . . .
That same day, the membership had been told not to read anything written by me, and not to show anything written by me to others. The decree was issued online with no right of reply, and with an Orwelllian postscript that it would be removed from view in due course.
Who did this, you ask – the Moderator, surely would be the only one with that level of power. Or maybe the Presbytery – was it them? Surely no individual minister would be so egomaniacal as to exert his authority in this way . . .
Oh, you mistake me; I’m not talking about the Free Church. My local elder used to visit the house once a month to check the contents of my bookcase, right enough, but they’ve reduced the visits now to three-monthly. I cunningly hid all my offensively heretical books behind the Diary of Kenneth MacRae and Leabhar Aithghearr nan Ceist, which seemed to satisfy him.
No, it isn’t the Free Church telling its members what to read and what not to read. The organisation which seeks to ban certain writers, and to control what its membership looks at online is not the repressive Wee Frees; it’s the tolerant, welcoming people ‘of all faiths and none’ Western Isles Secular Society.
Yes, like a tinpot dictator, one of their administrators has prohibited my blog from being read by WISS members, or shared to the group.
The reason, of course, is that the last time it was dragged back there, the unruly hordes picked over it and in a frenzy of hatred, unwittingly revealed their true colours.
I was variously described as ‘disgusting’, ‘rude’, ‘racist’, ‘spiritually immature’, a ‘zealot’, ‘an embarrassment to the fellowship of the church’, and an egomaniac in pursuit of martyrdom.
Officially, they must not read it, speak about it or do so much as coimhead an taobh a tha mi because I am an intransigent troll.
But, in reality, they must not read it because there’s a danger in being exposed to the truth. Some things are only recognised as broken when they are held up against the light.So, it is safer to preserve them in darkness.
The secularist response to that blog has made me pity them more than ever. Though they hissed and spat, and even tried to use Scripture against me, it isn’t me they fear at all; it’s Christ.
He is so inconvenient, shaking the foundations of their fictional world. And because they don’t want Him, they attack any who try to speak about who He is and what He’s done. They won’t silence Him, though. If Christ intends that any or all of that Society should hear Him and bend the knee, then hear Him and bend the knee they shall.
It shouldn’t surprise me that the Western Isles secularists have obeyed this edict not to read my work; these are the same people who want their own children ‘protected’ from the Bible because it doesn’t tally with their world view. If they are prepared to attempt silencing the voice of God, I can hardly expect special treatment.
Let me not, though, hear any further suggestions that they are the voice of reason and tolerance, over against the oppression and control of the Free Church.
One has afforded me a voice; one has silenced me. The leaders of one have encouraged me to think for myself; the leaders of the other have suggested that I am incapable of such a thing.
They don’t want Truth. Pilate asked what it was, even as it stood before Him; they are not prepared to risk Christ getting that close.
One day, I hope they’ll be grateful that it was never up to them.