Christian Evangelicals - The Silent Majority

Speak up please! That’s the stern message which controversial commentator, Dr John Coulter, issues today in his Fearless Flying Column to the vast majority of conservative evangelical Christians across Northern Ireland - the so-called Silent Majority. 

The Silent Majority of conservative evangelical Christians in Northern Ireland need to adopt some sound Biblical advice and stop hiding their lights under bushels - in practice, such Christians need to show We Are the majority opinion in this Province.

The same-sex marriage lobby, pro-abortion lobby and LGBTQ+ rights lobby all have a first-rate publicity machine which constantly pumps out their messages across both traditional and social media.

If you took the LGBTQ+ well-oiled propaganda operation at face value, you could conclude that the overwhelming majority of Northern Ireland’s estimated 1.8 million citizens were not heterosexual in their sexual orientation.

At most, the LGBTQ+ community makes up under 3 per cent of the Northern Ireland population - but they sure know how to mobilise public opinion behind their points of view. So why can’t conservative evangelical Christians take a leaf out of the LGBTQ+ campaigning strategy and stop being the Silent Majority who mumble from the comfort of their sitting rooms?

The Liberal Left within mainstream Irish Presbyterianism was defeated democratically in last month’s General Assembly votes on same-sex marriage and relations with the ultra-liberal Church of Scotland. Yet look at the massive publicity drive by just over 200 Presbyterians with their campaign to undo the General Assembly’s position under the banner ‘A Cry from the Heart’.

Do these 200-plus signatories represent the entire mainstream Presbyterian Church in Ireland? If they did, then the ‘Cry from the Heart’ lobby would have won the day in the General Assembly votes, and Irish Presbyterianism would be no better off theologically than the numerically insignificant Non-Subscribing Presbyterian denomination (also known as the Unitarians) or the increasingly ultra-liberal Church of Scotland.

LGBTQ+ Pride parades are steadily becoming as big attendance-wise as St Patrick’s Day and Twelfth parades in Northern Ireland. But if a Heterosexual Pride Day or March for Biblical Marriage was organised in Northern Ireland, how many conservative evangelical Christians would have the courage to stand up for their faith and identity and turn out to march?

I’m not a gambling man, but I’d put heavy money the Silent Majority would win the day again and many conservative evangelical Christians would adopt the same stance as the ‘stay at home’ Garden Centre Prods on polling days in numerous Unionist constituencies.

Even as a commentator, I’ve noticed there are numerous Liberal Left colleagues who can express their honestly held opinions, arguments and criticisms in a very grammatically competent manner - but how many commentators like myself would dare to put our heads above the parapets and openly admit we are Right-wing conservative evangelical Christians?

As a journalist who believes passionately in the concept of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, I fully defend the right of those on the Liberal Left to criticise my work. That’s what having a free Press in a democracy is all about.

If I take a snap-shot of my four decades in journalism - namely the 14 years I wrote the Fearless Flying Column in the Irish Daily Star - I was attacked on an almost weekly basis by bloggers from the Liberal Left. That is their democratic right to express their honestly held opinions on my work - for what they are worth!

I was told on occasions that the attacks were allegedly deliberately organised and orchestrated; names involved in this alleged conspiracy were booted around like a World Cup football.

Again, even if there was legal or ethical substance to these allegations, it is still their right to criticise, even if that criticism is nothing more than a communist-style rant!

Has it also become a case in the modern digital era that conservative evangelical Christians, while quite content to voice their opinions in the whispering safety of the church pew, mid-week Bible study, and their own sitting rooms, are too afraid to stand up for their faith for fear of retribution from social media trolls?

The Achilles’ Heel of the conservative evangelical Christian position is that they cannot cope with a deluge of criticism, hence them being dubbed, The Silent Majority.

In the quietness of the church hall, they will whisper their total opposition to same-sex marriage from a Biblical point of view, but in public - like the disciple Peter denying Christ before the crucifixion, they will adopt a ‘live and let live’ attitude or more commonly, keep quiet.

The same malaise is happening in Unionist politics. Many political representatives and activists have become fixated with the so-called mythical ‘centre ground’. Where is this ‘middle ground’? Or is it a case that traditional Right-wing Unionists have actually begun to swallow the ‘centre ground must prevail’ propaganda of the Alliance Party?

To understand this apparent fixation with the so-called ‘centre ground’, people need to focus on two major changes within the body politic in Northern Ireland.

Firstly, the two main Unionist parties - the DUP and UUP - have edged away from their traditional voters bases within the Protestant community - namely, the Loyal Orders, the marching band scene, and more importantly, the Protestant denominations as well as the Protestant working class.

If you, as a political party, have naturally sneaked away from traditional voter bases, where are you going to get votes from? This has naturally sparked the charm offensive within the DUP towards the Muslim and LGBTQ+ communities, and the UUP trying to suck up to what would be naturally Alliance voters.

Secondly, Unionists have been caught napping by the leadership strategy of Naomi Long of Alliance. During the conflict era and peace process era, the leaderships of John Alderdice and David Ford very much revolved around the concept - let’s all work and live together! Alliance was an aspiration party rather than a movement with a definite agenda.

Naomi Long is putting ideological meat on those party bones created by Alderdice and Ford. She is transforming Alliance into a genuinely unique liberal party with a very clear agenda. More importantly, Long and especially her colleagues within Presbyterianism, have been constantly encouraging their supporters to ‘speak up and speak out’.

Joining, voting and supporting Alliance is now no longer about wanting to be involved with cop-out politics. It is about pushing a clear definite ideology and liberal manifesto.

Just as the 200+ Presbyterians who signed their wee letter of protest do not represent the entire denomination or even the theology of Presbyterianism, so too, Alliance does not represent the majority political thinking of Christians.

But the bottom line is that we conservative evangelical Christians needs to learn from the examples of Long’s Alliance and the 200+ ‘Cry from the Heart’ activists in Presbyterianism - we need to come from behind our safe sofas, leave our comfort zones, mobilise our supporters - and get them out to vote!

Conservative evangelical Christians cannot moan about the secularist, pluralist, and Liberal Left drift in society if they are not prepared to organise themselves. 

Dr John Coulter is a former Religious Affairs Correspondent at the Belfast News Letter, a former Director of Operations at Christian Communication Network Television. 

Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter. @JohnAHCoulter

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Anthony McIntyre

Former IRA prisoner, spent 18 years in Long Kesh. Free Speech advocate, writer, historian, humanist, and researcher.

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