Once upon a time, in a university Department meeting, I found myself defending a proposal I had made for a new M.A. course.
This was a course on the Oxford inklings; amongst whom were JRR Tolkien, CS Lewis and Charles Williams. A book I had recently published had received a good review in the TLS, and got some favourable attention in America.
After I made the proposal to the meeting, there was silence. Then one by one a series of objections were made by my colleagues. I liked my colleagues. They were a creative hard-working and interesting group of people.
The questions came, and I answered each one and dealt with the objections, criticisms and hesitations. I had the strange experience of knowing that I had won the arguments but had somehow lost the meeting.
I decided it would be better to be frank. I asked my colleagues why, having won the arguments, as I thought I had, I appeared to have lost the discussion?
There was silence for moment and then one of the more passionate, effusive and honest, burst out unable to contain his frustration any longer.
“For God’s sake Gav, (knowing I was a priest as well as an academic, my colleagues always took care to use language they knew I would feel at home with, that was congruent with my culture and beliefs.)
– if this course had been about Virginia Wolfe and a host of supporting Lesbian fellow travellers, we would have been all over it in a supportive rash. But they are men. White men, white Christian men, white bloody Christian men who worked in bloody Oxford- for Christ’s sake (bless him for making me feel culturally included again). What did you expect?”
Resorting impotently to the bleeding obvious, I muttered “But that’s just prejudice; what’s more though, it’s prejudice you soon won’t be able to afford. You’ll need the overseas fees to pay your salaries.”
How wrong I was. The Government soon introduced compulsory student fees, and the universities were largely protected from the ravages of consumer demand.
But if I lost a good course, that was nothing compared to what has recently happened to Felix Ngole.
He was an MA student studying for a career in social work at the University of Sheffield. But he has been purged, and thrown off the course.
He made a Facebook comment from a Christian point of view.
In 2015, during a Facebook chat that followed a news story on Kentucky Clerk, Kim Davis, Felix expressed the view that “same sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not. It is God’s words, and man’s sentiments would not change His words”.
Two months passed, and then suddenly he received an email from a university official telling him that his comments were being investigated.
In February 2016, he was summoned to appear before a Social Work ‘Fitness to Practise’ committee. They examined him and removed him from his MA course. He was expelled.
He has, thank goodness fought back, with the help of Christian Concern. His lawyers have made the point that the chairperson of the committee, a professor, was a long standing and an eminent LGBT activist.
Whilst they didn’t go so far as to accuse her of purging her department and her university of a social worker who happened to be a practicing orthodox Christian, they did point out that she had failed to ‘declare an interest’ as chairwoman of the committee; which is legalise for “we suspect you of prejudice.”
The prejudice of course is intended to be hidden by progressive cultural values; the expression and forced imposition of inclusivity, egalitarianism and gay-rights.
But they words are euphemisms. They don’t mean what they say.
What they really mean is something else.
Inclusion means “we are going to exclude Christians.’
Egalitarianism means “we are going to impose a hierarchy of values on you which has no room for Christians. Especially no room for you if you are a Christian who is male, and straight; and, we are going to put an end to free speech.”
Felix is black, but in the currency of oppression that is being exercised, that wasn’t enough to save him from the social offence of being Christian, straight and a man.
And ‘gay rights’ means, – we are going to pursue a policy that undermines the relationship between parents and their biological children, distorts the patterns of social relationship that have created the most stability and social glue, and socially, politically and professionally exclude anyone who dares to object.
This is a purge. It’s more than a purge, it’s a putsch, a political coup. Felix’s attempt to express himself in debate in university and in public was closed down. He was purged from his education and his chosen caring career.
Christians and democrats need to wake up. It is not just politicians like Fallon, (who got caught in the headlights) or Rees-Mogg who stared them down. It’s the small people too.
Where was the Bishop of Sheffield when a black, Christian would-be social worker was excluded from the most prominent university in the Diocese? Where was the Diocese of Sheffield when a Christian in public education was robbed of his right to free speech? Where are the bishops of the Church of England when yet one more orthodox practising Christian is mowed down by the progressive leftish convoy of attrition that they have hitched themselves to?
Perhaps they have been misled by the simplistic smearing of a pseudo-ethical icing on the toxic cake of egalitarianism?
But so far for Felix, as for so many Christian victims who have bene robbed of their jobs or their freedom of speech, the bishops and Christian leaders remained silent.
Let Felix give you his warning: –
“I was born in Cameroon, under a dictatorship, where free speech was heavily censored. I had always been led to believe that in the UK people could share their beliefs and opinions without fear of persecution from public authorities. Of all places, I would expect universities to be places for free exchange of ideas and debate. It is shocking that, as a student, I can be thrown out just for believing in the Bible.
“I find it unbelievable that the person presiding over the disciplinary panel was a ‘proud’ Lesbian and a veteran LGBT activist, and that fact was never disclosed to me.
“I am also amazed by how the university has handled the visit of the controversial Islamic speaker.
“I am shocked by this new evidence. As far as I can see, the university is guilty of appalling double standards.
“Students go to university to discuss, debate and learn. We are seeing people banned from speaking at debating societies, and pressure groups banning anyone who dares to disagree with the liberal agenda being set by them. My case highlights the complicity of the liberal elite in this worrying movement.
“Instead of banning Christian students, universities should concern themselves with the increasing censorship of Christian belief and lack of religious literacy. Britain has led the world in education and is now in danger of becoming a laughing stock”.
Chillingly, it is more serious than that. We can cope with being a laughing stock. We can’t cope with having freedom of speech or freedom of employment removed from us.
The problem with being an accommodationist to a political movement that publicly wills your destruction, is that you become what Lenin dismissively described as a ‘useful idiot’.
In the 1930’s in Germany, another ideological state tried to seduce the Church into being complicit, by asking them to support a few values they were attracted by. But it was only to sedate their Christian consciences and gain their acquiescence until the political climate had changed to one strong enough to silence all Christian opposition.
Bonhoeffer saw what was really happening and refused the sedation.
He gave birth to the ‘Confessing Church.’
Felix Ngole and other victims of the progressive left, still camouflaging itself in euphemisms, deserves support from a Church that will speak out in defence of its faith, and the freedom of speech which is always a precondition of sharing that faith.
If we don’t have the equivalent of a ‘Confessing Church in the UK’, for Felix and so many others, past and to come, it’s time we did.