August 2016

Time to confront the ugly.

I had a very distressing telephone call on the morning on which I write this from someone reporting two separate incidents of racial abuse directed against two different people living in our area. Nationally, there has been a huge spike in reports of such incidents across the country, with a number well documented within this county, but it is somehow even more appalling to find it going on here, where I suspect we feel to a degree protected from such vileness.

I clearly do not have the skills or expertise to investigate the psychology (or psychopathy) of racists, but there is clearly a large number of people who have felt empowered by the recent referendum to let them launch attacks on innocent individuals. How should we react?

One of the disadvantages of being a Christian in a predominantly secular society where very few people are practising (i.e. worshipping) Christians  - and there are very few practising Christians in our area - is that one is seldom challenged on anything which challenges our faith. Racism, however, is one issue which cannot be left ignored by anyone who professes him or herself to be a Christian. 

Jesus himself was all-inclusive in his ministry: he served Jew and Gentile, native and foreigner, Israeli and Samaritan, occupied and occupier, men and women. The much maligned Paul - maligned, that is, by those who do not trouble themselves actually to read him - had a consistent message of welcome to everyone. And it is that ministry and that message which all those who would follow Christ must proclaim. And that means tackling any form of racism - or any other prejudice - whenever it arises.

What does that mean? It doesn’t mean responding to violence, verbal or otherwise, with violence. It doesn’t mean responding to bullies by using bullying tactics. It does mean standing alongside the victim: it does mean showing that love at all times is more powerful than hate: it does mean speaking out when there is injustice.

Personally, I have found, looking at this dreadful aspect of the reaction to the referendum, that for the first time in my life, I feel ashamed to be British. And I am not prepared to leave it at that. I see no reason why we should allow a small minority - as I am sure it is - to turn a liberal open democracy into something ugly. We have a gospel to proclaim - a gospel of peace and justice and love and reconciliation. Now it is the time for all of us to proclaim it.

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