Am I Stirring Up Hatred?

I grew up hearing people shout insults and then, when challenged for their hate, retort that 'it's a free country.' They may have been saying nasty things, and they may have been nasty people, but they were quite right - it was a free country. But, as we wake up today following the passing of the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland Bill) in the Scottish Parliament last night, will that still be the case? In all honesty, I'm not entirely sure.

Hate Crime and Free Speech

Undoubtedly, the Bill has been improved since it was introduced to Parliament in April 2020 (see article: Scotland's New Blasphemy Laws - Kinloch Free Church (kinlochfc.org)). However, there are still serious concerns with regards to how it shall be prosecuted. The offending section is Part 2 of the Bill. The explanatory notes summarise the section as follows:

Part 2 creates offences of stirring up hatred against a group of persons based on the group being defined by reference to a listed characteristic (age, disability, race (and related characteristics), religion, sexual orientation, transgender identity and variations in sex characteristics). It also creates offences of possessing inflammatory material with a view to communicating the material in circumstances where there is an intention to stir up hatred or it is likely that hatred would be stirred up.

The sharp edge has arguably been removed from this section by an amendment by Conservative MSP Adam Tomkins which seeks to guard the freedom of speech. In his own words, the amendment would make sure that

You are not committing a hate crime unless you cross that threshold of saying something that is not only offensive, but saying something that a reasonable person would hold to be threatening or abusive in a manner that intends to stir up hatred.

This is certainly a helpful clarification, and it's good that it was included. However, it is not foolproof. For example, where exactly is that threshold? What defines a reasonable person? In our polarised day, what is hatred? What does it look like to stir it up? Many of the key words in this debate have been left worryingly undefined.

Humza Yousaf tried to reassure the man on the street by saying,

To those who think they may accidentally somehow fall foul of the law... because they believe sex is immutable, or they believe an adult man cannot become a female or they campaign for the rights of Palestinians... or those that proselytise that same-sex relationships are sinful, none of these people would fall foul of the stirring up of hatred offence for solely stating their belief - even if they did so in a robust manner ... Why? Because solely stating any belief, which I accept may be offensive to some, is not breaching the criminal threshold.

Interesting use of "proselytise."

So, clearly, at least according to the drafters of the law, 'solely stating any belief ... is not breaching the criminal threshold.' One wonders, then, not only how this crime will be prosecuted, but also who it will satisfy? One group will be constantly looking over their shoulder, worried that they may have broken a taboo, and another group will be frustrated that those who disagree with them, offend them, and therefore arguably hate them, will not be prosecuted, shamed and silenced. How, then, is this Bill going to deal with the, apparently systemic, hatred at the grassroots level of society?

The fact is that you can't have a free speech provision in a Bill that is, in its very essence, designed to curtail free speech, and still expect the Bill to do what it was designed to do in the first place. That is a confusing sentence, but its is a confusing piece of legislation.

Stirring up Hatred

Most people are not in a position in which they could stir up hatred even if they tried. As a minister, however, I feel a bit nervous. It is, after all, my job to stir people up. The Apostle Peter wrote to the Church in his own day saying,

This second epistle, beloved, I now write unto you; in both which I stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance: That ye may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour. (2 Peter 3:1-2)

His intention is to sir up the minds of the people to remember the words of the prophets and the commandments of the apostles. Bear in mind that, in Biblical terminology, to 'remember' something isn't simply to recollect it - it's to act upon it. Peter was stirring up the Church to action.

And so it is with the preacher. Not dissimilar to the comedian who wants to make you laugh, or the singer who wants to move your emotions, so the minister preaches for a response. It is our job to stir you up to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and to go out and live a consistent Christian life in the public sphere while you 'contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.' (Jude 3) Can we still do this?

Examples

With regard to the protected characteristics under this legislation, there are significant points of tension. In terms of religion, I will continue to preach that faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the only way to Heaven. I will encourage my congregation to promote this view and to witness to people of all faiths to embrace Biblical Christianity. Is this stirring up hatred?

With regards to sexual orientation, I will teach that the only legitimate place for sexual relations is in a lawful marriage between a man and a woman. I will encourage my congregation to live in accordance with this teaching and to promote it in their own spheres as the only legitimate moral position. Moreover, the elders of the Church will deny membership to any who defy that Biblical principle. Under this new legislation, will myself and the elders who serve alongside me be illegally stirring up hatred?

With regards to transgender identity, I will continue to teach the congregation, in the words of Jesus, that 'from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.' (Mark 10:6) I will teach that there are two  sexes and two genders and that what we are born with is simply the hand that God has dealt us - to deny that or to seek to alter it is both sinful and unnatural. Not only will I teach this but I will also call my congregation to hold to it and to promote it. Will that be stirring up hatred?

To the, arguably legitimate, anger of some, sex has not been included as a protected characteristic under this Bill. Should it be introduced, as it is expected that it will be, I will continue to preach that men and women are, in many cases, naturally suited to different but complementary roles. I will expound the Bible's teaching that, although women are invaluable to the Church, they are not to hold office in it (i.e., be ministers, elders or deacons). Will I be stirring up hatred?

What Next?

It is my job to stir people up to specific views on all of these issues. I will never do so out of hate but, rather, out of love. Indeed, I hope that I would give the shirt off my back for those who disagree with me and are living lives which Scripture deems to be sinful and dishonouring to God. They are all welcome in the Church and they are welcome at my dinner table.

However, without a shadow of a doubt, there will be feminists, homosexuals, members of other religions, and transgender people who will believe that I am stirring up hatred against them. Does this legislation give them a grounds to say that? Does it give a judge a legal basis to charge me? Will 'speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15) be deemed hate speech in 21st century Scotland?

I hope not. However, in all honesty, I am not sure. This new legislation has certainly made it a worrying possibility, if not yet a reality. I suppose time will tell.

One thing is for sure - in this increasingly transparent day, there will be new fears and anxieties as ministers preach on such moral issues in the future. Not just that we might offend someone in the congregation, but that we might have a policeman knocking at the door on Monday morning. However, regardless of what the future holds, I hope that, like thousands before us, ministers will continue to understand that 'we ought to obey God rather than men.' (Acts 5:29)

 

As always, these opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent those of Kinloch Free Church or the Free Church of Scotland. 


News: Suspension of Services

The Kirk Session of Kinloch Free Church met on Friday evening to discuss the implications of the Western Isles being placed under Tier 4 COVID-19 restrictions. Given the escalating situation, it was decided that all services of public worship would be suspended until further notice. In the meantime, services will be broadcast on YouTube at 12 noon and 6pm on the Lord's Day and the prayer meeting will meet on Zoom at 7.30pm on Wednesday evening.

The decision was that of the Session alone and was made willingly, not under compulsion from the Scottish Government. The Kirk Session would like to emphasise their belief that the civil magistrate has no jurisdiction in the courts of Christ’s church, but only to give advice.

In light of the current dark providence in both our island and nation as a whole, the Session encourage the congregation to dedicate themselves to thorough self-examination, prayer and repentance, and to give diligent attention to the Word of God, both read and preached.


News: Resumption of Corporate Worship

Dear Congregation,

On Thursday 9th July, the First Minister announced that it would be safe for places of worship to resume congregational services as of Wednesday 15th July. As such, the Kirk Session of Kinloch Free Church met and agreed to open the Church building for public worship as soon as would be practical after that date.

It was felt that opening the Church for the prayer meeting on Thursday 16th July would not allow sufficient time for preparation. However, we are glad to intimate that we hope to have the Church open for public worship on Lord’s Day 19th July at 12 noon and 6pm. In order to facilitate cleaning requirements, the prayer meeting will be temporarily moved to Wednesday nights at 7.30pm (beginning 22nd July). Other congregational activities, including creche, sabbath school, youth fellowship, WfM, toddler group, Bible studies, etc., remain closed for the time being.

Initially, our services will be slightly different to what has been customary. 2 metre distancing must be maintained inside and outside of the building. There will be no congregational singing. Pew Bibles will not be available so you are advised to bring your own Bible. You will be both seated and led out of the Church at the direction of an office-bearer. Families/bubbles are encouraged to arrive and be seated together in order to save space. Windows will be open to increase ventilation so please dress accordingly.

You are advised to take your own temperature before leaving home to ensure that you do not have a fever. On entering and exiting the Church, you are required to use sanitising hand-wash. Throughout the service, please practice good personal hygiene, especially with regards to sneezing and coughing.The Government is not requiring that face-masks be worn during congregational worship. However, we encourage you to wear one if at all possible. Cleaning between services is an important requirement so we ask you to touch as little as possible while in the building.

At present, the Government is advising that attendances be restricted to 50 people. As such, in order to stop us having to turn people away, we ask that those intending to attend services would let me know in advance which service they hope to attend and, if both, what their preference would be (morning or evening) in the unlikely event of over-subscription. Please let me know by email or phone by Friday night. If you fail to get a hold of me on the phone, please indicate your intention to Donnie Macleod, elder. If you do not have contact details, please respond through the contact page of this website.

Note that the Government is asking us to keep a register of attendees for contact tracing as part of NHS Scotland's Test and Protect. By stating your intention to attend, you are agreeing to us keeping your details (name, address, contact) on record for 21 days in line with GDPR.

Those who are showing symptoms of COVID-19, as well as those self-isolating, are advised to stay at home. Those who are shielding or in any of the ‘at-risk’ categories are also advised to stay at home. If you begin to feel unwell during a service, you are advised to leave immediately. People from outwith the district of Kinloch are strongly discouraged from attending services at Kinloch Free Church at the present time.

We hope to continue to broadcast services on YouTube in the short-term for those unable to attend at this stage.

A copy of our full Risk Assessment will be made available by request. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with myself or one of the other office-bearers.

Regards,

Rev Paul Murray

Minister


News: Food Bank Update

We are glad to report that, in response to our initial appeal for items for the food bank (see https://kinlochfc.org/news-kinloch-food-bank/), we already have sufficient stores to get up and running. As such, unless items have been specifically bought for the purpose, we are asking people to hold back from making new donations. Future appeals will be made when stocks run low or when specific items are required, so please keep checking the blog. Monetary gifts will still be accepted (see instructions on the old blog post).

We can also report that volunteer positions have now been filled. If the food bank has to scale up in future, however, we will be looking to recruit new volunteers so please feel free to register your interest.

The Deacons' Court of Kinloch Free Church would like to thank all for their prayerful interest and charitable spirit with regards to this new work.


News: Kinloch Food Bank

At the beginning of 2020, the Deacons’ Court of Kinloch Free Church agreed in principle to set up a food bank. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and its impending  economic impact, it has been decided to fast-track the plans and get it functional as soon as possible

Volunteers

We are looking for prospective volunteers for organising and delivering food. If you are interested in getting involved, please get in touch with the minister before Friday 29th May.

Donations

We are also beginning to collect the following items:

Cereal/Porridge

Tinned Fruit/Veg/Meat/Soup/Fish/Beans/Lentils/Pulses

Tinned Pudding/Custard

Jars of Sauce

Biscuits

Chocolate

Sugar

Tea Bags

Coffee

Pasta

Rice

Stock Cubes

Long Life Milk/Juice

Non-Perishable Spreads (Jam, Marmalade, Peanut Butter etc.)

Toilet Roll

Toiletries: deodorant, shower gel, shaving gel, shampoo, soap, toothbrushes, tooth paste, hand wipes, sanitary towels, tampons

Household Items: laundry liquid detergent, laundry powder, washing up liquid

Baby Supplies: nappies, baby wipes, baby food

Please ensure that all items are non-perishable, in date and well wrapped.

If you are willing to make a donation, please bring it to the main door of Kinloch Free Church on Friday the 22nd and 29th May between 2-3pm, ensuring that you maintain social distancing. If you are unable to make that time, please let someone at the manse know and they can organise delivery. Monetary donations are also welcome – envelopes should be marked ‘Food Bank’ and cheques should be made out to ‘Free Church Kinloch Congregational’.

Distribution

A committee is currently discussing the best way to distribute food and hope to release details over the next few weeks. However, if anyone is in current need, please phone the manse or get in touch via the contact page of this website. Confidentiality is assured.


News: Kinloch Baby Bank

Financial challenges aren't evident in Kinloch in the way that they once were. Many, however, are stretched to the limit with mortgages, loan repayments and credit card debt. As such, it can sometimes be difficult to make ends meet at the end of a month.

It is for this reason that the Free Church and the Church of Scotland in Kinloch have decided to operate a baby bank to serve the district. We are working in conjunction with Oisean a' Chalman Baby Bank who are based in Uig (see poster below but note that the contacts are different for Kinloch).

Among other items, we are able to supply the following:

  • Nappies
  • Wipes
  • Baby Milk
  • Clothes
  • Others relevant items

In due course, a letter will go out to each family in the district detailing who the contacts are. However, if you are in current need, please get in touch via the contact page of this site. All enquiries are completely confidential.

Plans to open a food bank are underway and it is hoped that it will be in place before too long. However, if you are in need in that way, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.


News: YouTube Sermons Update

During the current suspension of Church services, the decision has been taken to upload two new sermons to YouTube every Lord's Day (see https://kinlochfc.org/news-online-sermons-and-prayer-meetings/). A further decision has been taken to share the preaching between Rev Paul Murray and Rev Iain Murdo Campbell. As well as making the most efficient use of resources, this will also ensure that all in Kinloch are served by the channel every week. We would encourage all, regardless of denominational affiliation, to make use of both services.

An invitation will also be extended to those who attend the Church of Scotland to join our Zoom based on-line prayer meetings on Thursday evenings at 7.30pm. For information regarding set-up, please follow the link above.


News: Online Sermons and Prayer Meetings

When we endure trials, it is important that we count our blessings and see the good in the midst of the bad. One of the blessings in the midst of the solemn closure of our Churches is that this has happened in 2020 and not in 1920 or even 1990. This is a blessing because, today, we have access to new technology which, although it can never replace our physical services, can help to lessen the blow of their absence. As a Kirk Session, we are looking to utilise that technology to bring people sermons in their homes and to enable us, as a congregation, to pray together.

Online Audio Sermons

The first thing we have done is put old sermons online using SoundCloud. The plan is to upload three sermons a week. They can be accessed through the following link: https://soundcloud.com/user-840266334

That link can also be accessed via the sermons page of this site.

Online Video Sermons

Secondly, we intend to upload newly recorded video sermons to YouTube which will become available each Lord's Day at the normal times of worship - 12 noon and 6pm. We strongly encourage you to tune in to these sermons while the Church doors are closed. They can be accessed through the following link: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UChGoIUwsugoPdp3LtQgWygA/videos

Again, this can also be accessed via the sermons page.

Online Prayer Meetings

Finally, we intend to hold online prayer meetings on Thursday evenings at 7.30pm through Zoom. This video conferencing technology will enable us to continue to pray together through this situation and give many some much needed contact. We encourage you to sign up through the following link: https://zoom.us/signup. If you are using a phone or tablet, type 'Zoom' into your app store and download the app as well. Once you launch the app, you need to log in with your account details. You do that by selecting zoom.us in the menu at the top of the screen and choosing log in. Once you've entered your log in details you're ready to start making contacts. Select 'contacts" at the top of the application and you'll notice a small + button towards the left of the app, click this button and select "add a contact". Once you've done that enter admin@kinlochfc.org as the contact you want and hit send. We'll take care of the rest. From then on you will automatically be added to meetings when they're held and will get a notification from the app when they start.

We are very mindful that these means are no replacement for the norm. However, we hope that they will be of great benefit to us while we are unable to continue as normal.