The modern Free Church of Scotland was born as an effort to keep the post-Declaratory Act Free Church alive. But this effort was ill-conceived in its beginning, and its ending is even worse. Its thoroughly corrupted condition is illustrated in the theology being promoted by Donald Macleod, the principal and professor of Systematic Theology in the Free Church College (the Seminary of the Free Church of Scotland in Edinburgh). Consider these excerpts from an article written by Donald Macleod that appeared in the West Highland Free Press (Scotland):
“West Highland Free Press, Friday 13 May 2005
The Highlands are now a Labour-free zone. That's not altogether surprising.
There are still people like myself whose party loyalty goes deeper than the record of the last government, but most are not so tolerant. They judged New Labour on the last couple of years and deserted in droves. This had little to do with education or health. People focused on other headline issues. The war in Iraq, student tuition fees and Charles Clarke's perceived repeal of fundamental constitutional liberties drove thousands of students, academics, 'Guardian' readers and the generally Bolshie into the arms of the Lib Dems all over the country. They won't stay there long. But the darkest moment of the night was the announcement that Calum MacDonald had lost his seat in Na h-Eileanan an Iar. It wasn't simply the defeat itself, but the manner of it and the nature of the campaign which preceded it.
…Then there is a deeper worry: the role played by religion. There is no doubt that the self-consciously Christian vote went, very deliberately, against Calum.
Two things lay behind this. One was the persistent insinuation that Labour is an atheistic party, in more or less the same sense as the Free Press is an atheistic paper. The sheer irrationality of this is enough to drive one to despair. Calling Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ruth Kelly and Calum MacDonald atheists is ridiculous. Christians who try to make such malicious nonsense stick are bearing blatant false witness. Christians who believe them are showing a terrifying gullibility.
The other thing that lay behind the Christian swing against Labour was the publication of what purported to be Calum MacDonald’s voting record in the House of Commons. "Purported" is the operative word. Nothing was published as to Calum's voting record on defence, foreign policy, education, health, pensions, transport, the environment, prisons, or the Post Office. Instead, the "record" confined itself to Calum's voting on key "Christian" issues. At first glance it is a long list. In reality, it boils down to two issues: abortion and homosexuality.
But what have we come to when the question whether someone is a Christian is determined by their stance on two issues never even referred to by Jesus? Had I been an MP, I like to think I would have voted on these occasions when Calum was absent, but I would have been in even deeper trouble: I would have tended to vote on the "liberal" side. Does that make me an atheist?
Imaginea Question Meeting on the Friday of a Communion Season in Lewis 30 years ago. The Question is: What are the marks of those who have passed from death to life? It is inconceivable that elder after eider would have risen to deliver himself of the sentiment that the marks of grace are that you are pro-life and that you are homo-phobic.
What is the real concern behind those so-called Christian values? On the face of things the Christian Right simply want “laws against abortion and laws against homosexuals". That means one simple thing: criminalise these activities. This, we are asked to believe, is now the supreme and overriding concern of a Christian MP: declare homosexual acts a crime; declare same-sex partnerships a crime, like bigamy; declare embryo research a crime; declare abortion a crime.
The end result would be prisons full of gays. For the "abortion doctors" we would need gallows, since they are "murderers" (a concept slightly befogged by the fact that God Himself permits 50 per cent of pregnancies to abort spontaneously. Why is the Christian Right doing so little to end this "natural" Slaughter of the Innocents? Calum's misfortune was that he had a voting record. His SNP opponent. Angus MacNeil, had, of course, no record. But had the Western Isles Labour Party been prepared to engage in a religious war it might have dug out, perhaps, Alex Salmond's voting record? Did the SNP oppose the repeal of Section 28?
Anyway, the result was two fascinating anomalies.
First, the Presbyterian Right handed over custody of its heritage, including the Sabbath, to Angus MacNeil from Barra. All the signs are that Angus has what it takes to be a good MP (shame about the Separatism). But, spokesman for the Lewis Christian Right?
Secondly, over 1,048 priceless votes went to the Reverend George Hargreaves, representing Operation Christian Vote. Now, had this happened in America's Bible Belt it would have been no surprise. There they sing and clap and dance and prophesy and speak in tongues for all they're worth, expecting the Rapture before tea-time. But this was Lewis, where even an average elder can spot an Arminian at 1,000 paces, where a hymn is a heresy, a guitar is of the devil, Rapture is a medical term and women keep silent in the churches. A candidate, besides, whose Christianity did not prevent him threatening to sue his opponent; whose policy on the economy was to wait on the Lord; and whose policy on windmills was: "Whatever the people want!"
Now, where did I hear that before? "What," said Pilate to the people, "shall we do with Jesus?"
There is, I firmly believe, such a thing as a Christian political programme, but it has little to do with abortion or gays. It was stated most simply by Thomas Chalmers: to raise the living standards of those in the basement of society. That should have been the issue in the Western Isles, as elsewhere: which party is most likely to run our economy, our security forces and our public services in a way that will enable every man, woman and child to fulfil their potential as creatures made in the image of God?
Mr MacNeil may be that man, and we wish him well, as Calum did. But unfortunately that is not the ticket on which he was elected. He was elected to put an end to government by the ungodly, to end abortion, to outlaw gay marriages and to protect the Lewis Sabbath. If the country goes down die tubes, tough luck.”
It would seem Mr. Macleod cannot stomach that the civil magistrate should suppress abortion and sodomy. One can only imagine what he would think of the agenda of the Reformation Party !