Last week, in Westminster, the opposition parties took the Prime Minister to task for using the word ‘surrender’ to refer to legislation which Parliament had passed over his objection. They said it was irresponsible and could result in violence.
In the course of the debate, Mhairi Black of the Scottish Nationalists, speaking of the Prime Minister, referred to ‘the absolute Hell he’s going to put on my constituents.’ Her party was so pleased that they highlighted her comments on their Facebook page.
One wonders, if constituents are so foolish as to give any credence to political rhetoric (and so evil as to engage in violence based on that rhetoric), why it is acceptable to tell them that someone is going to ‘put on’ them an ‘absolute Hell?’ I’d think that is more likely to elicit strong emotions and responses than ‘he/she passed a surrender act.’ How can someone who castigates the latter endorse the former?
Normal Political Hypocrisy?
We don’t have to search long for hypocrisy. The pots call the kettles black, and a politicians’ friends and allies encourage it rather than pointing out the inconsistencies. It’s wrong, but it is what politicians do, and it is barely worth noting. Politicians, after all, just do in public what many do in private — completely ignoring our own behaviour while criticising someone else. Politicians may not really be any more foolish or hypocritical than anyone else — we just think so because they play out their absurdity on a bigger stage.
Normally, I wouldn’t even bother with an article about political hypocrisy. It rains in Scotland, the leaves fall in Autumn, the Twitterati rage over silly things, and politicians open their mouths and allow words to emerge. It’s not particularly noteworthy.
This case is worse than most political hypocrisy because of the language chosen. If Ms Black actually believes in an ‘absolute Hell,’ she knows that departing a trading block such as the EU, with or without a withdrawal agreement, bears no relation to eternal torment. If she does not believe in ‘absolute Hell,’ she is (at best) minimising and co-opting someone else’s religious beliefs for (I guess) political gain. Either she does believe in Hell, or she doesn’t — either way you slice it, this rhetoric was offensive to those who believe the Bible.
And yet, for Christians (and probably for other religions that believe in Hell), it is little surprise when politicians disrespect our beliefs. They may engage in bizarre verbal contortions to be seen to ‘respect’ the sensitivities of other groups, but those who take the Bible seriously are often treated with disdain. We believe things that most politicians dislike: that God (not politicians) set the standards of right and wrong by which we must live, and that all will answer to Him. Ms Black’s party, in general, is no better than others in this regard. They want to set the rules, and they aren’t interested in what God said in His Word when it contradicts their values and political goals.
Disrespect for our beliefs is hardly shocking — it comes with the territory. It’s not right for people to behave this way, but pointing it out is hardly likely to make any difference. Besides, this blog isn’t for them — it is for Christians.
The Point(s) for Christians
So why take time to write on all this? Just to upset you or make you feel offended? To let you feel a victim? How would that help? What would it gain? No, if you want to feel victimised you’ve come to the wrong place. Rather, I chose to write about this because it illustrates some important truths that Christians would do well to heed.
- Don’t Trust in Politicians and Government Officials. This demonstrates very clearly that they don’t see things the way committed Christians do. Psalm 146:3 says, ‘Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.’ If they don’t see Hell the way we do, they certainly won’t see many other things the way we do, either.
- Don’t Count on People Treating You or Your Faith Well. Jesus said (John 15:18-19), ‘If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.’ Hopefully, Ms Black (and her party) does not actively, intentionally hate Christians, but the effect of her words comes to the same thing. If you are going to take this Christianity thing seriously, you’d better expect it. You’ve come into the kitchen, it’s hot in here, if you belong here you aren’t allowed to melt.
- Recognise the Hand of the Adversary. II Corinthians 4:4 says, ‘In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.’ In one respect, Ms Black is a victim. Satan (called ‘the god of this world’ in this verse) exists, and he doesn’t want people to believe there actually is a Hell, so he has, for many years, tempted and influenced people to make it a swear word. Who will take it seriously if it is just an interjection thrown in without thought? Ms Black has merely used language that she’s no doubt heard hundreds, or thousands, of times. She’s almost certainly blinded (as that Bible verse says) to what she was saying — it is very unlikely she really thought it through. Satan wants to destroy her, as much as he does everyone else. (See also Why is “Jesus Christ” Used as “Blasphemous Profanity”?)
- Recognise the Urgency of Hell. Judgment certainly IS coming. Hebrews 9:27 says, ‘And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.’ Many of your family members, friends, neighbours, and co-workers are unprepared — and the very fact that Satan is working overtime to make them think Hell is nothing more than a swear word, or political rhetoric, further demonstrates the urgency of the matter. If it didn’t matter, he wouldn’t bother. Last week, almost certainly, someone who lived within 10 miles of you went into eternity forever — have your life and words been a warning to those around you?
- Don’t Get Angry, but Don’t Accommodate. Colossians 4:6 says, ‘Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.’ When you encounter someone who speaks as Ms Black did, speak with grace — but don’t go along with that kind of speech, either. If we act as if it is acceptable, we are acting as if Hell isn’t real, as if God is not the Judge, as if the death of Jesus on the cross was pointless. If Hell weren’t real, if we didn’t need to be rescued from a horrible eternity, Jesus wouldn’t have come to die for us. We can’t be surprised when those who don’t believe the way we do use words that show their lack of faith. We should pray as Jesus did, on that very cross, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’ — but we certainly should never be partakers in such things, or condone them by words, looks, or actions.
Tragically, ‘Absolute Hell’ is likely the future of many of Ms Black’s constituents, and many in the constituencies we live in as well — though it really has nothing to do with Brexit and nothing to do with Prime Minister Johnson. It is incumbent on us to live and speak in ways that do not minimise the danger, and instead point to the solution. While doing so, we need to recognise that those around us don’t see that danger, they won’t speak of it seriously, and they probably haven’t even thought about what they are saying when they speak lightly of eternal matters. We should always respond with grace, but we must always remember we cannot count on them to say or do that which is consistent with God and His Word.
Further, we must beware the seductive trap of political alliances with those whom we are specifically warned against trusting. We may agree with them on some things, we may even give them our votes when we believe it is warranted. But followers of Jesus Christ cannot become followers of political leaders whose goals and values have no eternal weight. We should not believe their rhetoric, for it is not based on Biblical righteousness. That is true even when they don’t happen to use words in a way that reveals that their thoughts are of earth, and not of Heaven.