Because of the activities of a section of the Christian faith anti-abortion lobby, new laws were recently introduced implementing the creation of safe zones around some medical clinics.
The law is known as the Abortion Services (Safe Access Zones) Act (Northern Ireland) 2023, which received Royal Assent on 6th February this year. Under this law, anti-abortion protests and other behaviours are prohibited within any Safe Access Zone once it has been established, and this may be enforced by the PSNI.
These Safe Access Zones were introduced across Northern Ireland on 29th September. A section of Christian fundamentalism views such zones as a denial of freedom of expression, but could it be a question that as a result of the behaviour of the lunatic fringe of the Christian faith at anti-abortion demonstrations, Christianity has only itself to blame for the introduction of such laws?
Many of the health clinics previously targeted by militant fundamentalist protests because of their abortion services also provide care on other services, such as blood disorders and helping women who have lost babies through miscarriage.
For many couples, including Christian couples, the loss of the unborn child through miscarriage can cause as much grief, pain and mental suffering as the loss of a child after it has been born.
Another interesting statistic to ponder, if it could be found, would be the number of Christians, especially born again believers, who privately have either had terminations themselves or paid for family members or friends to have abortions ‘on the quiet’ whilst publicly adopting a pro-life stance?
How would a couple feel, especially a Christian couple, if they were attending one of these medical clinics to be treated for the physical and mental effects of a miscarriage - having just lost their precious baby - and were confronted with a mob of militant fundamentalists waving placards containing photos of unborn babies?
And its not just a case of the protection and welfare of the folk attending such medical clinics, but also the well-being and safety of the staff themselves who work in such centres.
The key question is - when does peaceful Christian protest become militant fundamentalist intimidation? More significantly, has the Christian pro-life movement been infiltrated by the ultra-Calvinistic wing or ultra-conservative Catholic lobby of Christian fundamentalism?
If theological fascism is slowly, but surely beginning to dominate the anti-abortion lobby, how can Christians generally claim the faith is being persecuted when the activities of militant fundamentalism’s lunatic fringe brought these laws on themselves?
Put bluntly, the Christian faith can claim it needs its rights protected, but who protects folk from the excesses of militant fundamentalism? Broadly speaking, many Christian prayer meetings pray for what they term ‘the persecuted Church.’ But what about prayers for victims who have been persecuted by the Church?
How many people over the years have gone cold in their Christian faith or abandoned it completely because of a bad experience either in a church, or been persecuted by folk who called themselves Christians?
During my own spiritual journey, especially during church services where there would be prayers of intercession, the persecuted church would often be remembered.
But as a young teenage Christian, I remember being punched in the face by a Presbyterian elder in Sunday school, and the kicking I got to my lower back in a church hall simply for being the Presbyterian minister’s son.
As a teenage Christian in the 1970s, I would think to myself:
I don’t need to go to Soviet Russia or communist China to get persecuted; all I have to do is walk a few yards into the Presbyterian church hall and I’ll get all the persecution I want!
Having endured that mincing mill as a young Christian minister’s son, I can fully understand why so many folk abandon their faith. I have chosen not to abandon mine.
The big danger is that it would be so, so easy to judge the Christian faith based on the actions of folk. That’s why it is equally important for true Bible-believing Christians to take a firm stand against the actions of militant fundamentalism.
Such actions by theological fascism have resulted in these new safe zone laws. Another key question remains - what section of society will these militant fundamentalists turn their attention to next?
Will there have to be safe zones imposed outside post primary schools and colleges in the New Year when teachers have to deliver lessons on Relationships and Sex Education (RSE)?
Just as militant fundamentalists used online social media abuse to target politicians in the abortion debate, will the same online abuse now be heaped on teachers delivering the RSE curriculum?
Militant fundamentalist targeting of the media has already kicked off with past online abuse accusing those who work in the media of being part of a satanic deception. I wonder does this online abuse against the ‘media’ include the numerous Christian magazines, radio stations and TV channels?
The bottom line is that if we Christians cannot police our own activities, we cannot complain when society brings in new laws to protect itself from the excesses of militant fundamentalism and theological fascism.
Follow Dr John Coulter on Twitter @JohnAHCoulter
Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.