Flyposting for Jesus

torn-poster-1068025To the University of Glasgow yesterday for a seminar in the theology department. One of the questions we were looking at was, “Who owns clergy bodies?” (Answers on a postcard, please). The other one was about whether churches attitudes to same-sex couples inhibits people’s human rights.

In in dealing with these questions, I was quite struck by the attitude that a great many Christians take to Law – very many Christian groups think themselves quite above the law in all kinds of ways. I’ve sat in plenty of meetings in my time where people have openly argued that we should flout health and safety legislation (ladders?), employment legislation (minimum work temperatures, anyone? working time directive?) or disability legislation (“well, its never been a problem before, I don’t think we can be expected to make the church accessible….”). And don’t get me started on Episcopalian (and Episcopal!) attitudes to Canon Law, which so far as I can see is exemplified in the phrase, “Let’s see what we can get away with”.

All of this was exemplified for me yesterday by a poster near my flat. We’ve quite a problem with illegal flyposting around here – that is people putting up posters in places they shouldn’t. It makes the locality look shabby, isn’t liked by local residents and is, in any case, illegal. Yesterday as I walked towards the university seminar room, I noticed a new poster, advertising the local Christian Unions’ next mission week. (Freedom Week, I think they call it). It seems to say it all. A Christian group which, God knows, sees itself as inhabiting the moral high ground, advertising itself by committing an act that is illegal.


  1. Surely it begs deeper questions… why do they only get to be free for a week?

  2. Robin says

    The Spirit gives life but the letter kills – and the strength of sin is the Law . . .

    Sometimes breaking the law can be the right thing to do. OK, maybe not flyposting, but I’m still glad Rosa Parks didn’t agree to vacate her seat on the bus.

  3. Hi – thanks for your comments. You’re quite right about Rosa Parks, Robin, but I think that there is a distinction to be made between Civil Disobedience and simply regarding yourself as above the law because you are doing something for God.

    I thought Freedom Week was rather odd too, Holly. Free from what?

  4. … a sense of irony?

  5. Robin says

    > I think that there is a distinction to be made between Civil Disobedience and simply regarding yourself as above the law because you are doing something for God. <

    Totally agree with this, and most of the examples you listed are indeed thoughtless, exasperating and a poor reflection on how churchpeople sometimes do things.

    I do, however, think it’s right for Christians to have a questioning attitude to the law and not just to assume that it deserves respect and unthinking obedience because “it’s the law”. Our Lord was no slouch when it came to questioning the regulations of his time and (to take an obvious example) the unjust mess that until very recently characterised the law of Scotland on homosexual activity deserved no respect from anyone.

  6. Elizabeth says

    I agree with the distinction between civil disobedience and a casual disregard for the law which seems to be evident in Kelvin’s examples. It seems that many people who engage in sustained justice work, including civil disobedience and other types of liberation work in fact have a respect for law and are attempting to engage with it and change in a radical way. After all, Gandhi was a lawyer! However, I find the image above quite aesthetically pleasing. Is this an intentional irony?
    As for question 1, I would submit that the answer is clergy (individually, not as a collective).

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