Is it possible that London commuters are now unable to tell the difference between the cry of God is Great, Allahu Akbar – a sentiment that unfortunately accompanies every IS atrocity – and the actual Bible?
It seems like it from the reaction on the Shepperton to Waterloo service at 8.30am yesterday. As one report put it, ‘a man with a rucksack began reciting what seemed to be passages from the Old Testament. He apparently declared homosexuality and pre-marital sex to be a sin.’ Or as one commuter put it, ‘Some nutter starts reciting verses from the Bible… and causes such panic that some people have forced open the doors and jumped onto the tracks. He recited lines about homosexuality and sex outside marriage being a sin. God gave his only son for our sins etc.’
One passenger exhorted the man to stop, while another suggested he had a bomb. But instead, the man opened his bag to reveal a bottle and some books. After he caused a mass exodus from the carriage the man, who was young and black, was said to look ‘pretty sheepish’ and was taken to task ‘compassionately’ by a man from Network Rail.
If we cannot, en masse, tell the difference between an enthusiastic Christian evangelical and a homicidal jihadist, I’m sorry, but we have lost it. We’re not just an un-Christian society; we’ve lost any dim, collective memory of what a Christian society looked like. And it was one, I recall, where enthusiastic Protestants would quite often take to the streets with placards to remind us of sin and redemption, and would indeed harangue people impartially on the streets. They may not be your cup of tea, but they were and are perfectly harmless, indeed benign, being keen on saving our souls without blowing us up first. I bet you still get them in Belfast.
My own view is that if we can’t spot the difference between a Protestant talking about God giving his only son for our sins – John 3:16, I fancy – and an Islamist about to do something fatal with a suicide belt, we need re-education pronto. Scripture lessons in school might be one way to go.