As we work towards our walk I was struck by this tweet relating to the experience of our friend Dave over at the charity ‘Disability and Jesus’. Dave is a citizen of the UK, just slightly older than myself, and is registered disabled due to his loss of sight. He does a sterling job seeking to promote inclusion for all, with his specific focus on those of differing abilities. His experience as relayed in that tweet is horrific. To my mind it has echos of the culture that existed in Germany in the 1930s and whilst we hope that such extreme views are not widespread, it is certainly clear that they do exist.
This resulted in a reflection upon today’s society. Why is it so many are so concerned about the influence that small minorities may or may not have upon their lives? Barely a day goes by where our media is not running some fear invoking headline relating to those of the Muslim faith or regarding immigration. Whatever people’s stance on Brexit, a current running sore in our news feeds, it is clear that fear of immigration was very much a factor in many’s reason for voting to leave the EU. I must stress that I am not intending to imply that those who voted in either direction are in anyway linked to the incident above. It remains the case though, that our home secretary declared a relatively small number of people arriving on our shore by boat as an emergency. It seems that we have become like some sort of party balloon, loosely tethered, almost adrift, blowing in the political breeze, fanned by public opinion and our news organisations.
It struck me quite powerfully that this actually relates to secular society. Today those who attend church regularly are in a minority. Secularism, experientially is able to say it opposes something because it is seen by a majority as bad or evil but it cannot offer a firm why. A good example of this from the other direction is the move to legalise cannabis. This drug has been illegal for a considerable period. It is known to increase the chance of some cancers forming, especially lung cancer and there is clear medical evidence of it having adverse psychiatric effects. Someone I know was a bright young man who after a small exposure became schizophrenic, a life blighted. Yet popular opinion is able to push for it to become legalised, to the extent one of our political parties has this in their published manifesto. Someone firmly grounded in the Christian faith is unlikely to be a cannabis user because it acts against our ability to discern the will of God and his purpose for our lives. Someone truly grounded in their Christian faith is also unlikely to be worried about other faiths living amongst us. We are called to love our neighbours and live at peace with them. The small percentage of our population that is Muslim should hold no concern for a Christian. We may have significant theological disagreements but those who truly follow Islam also seek peace and worship the same unique deity. In seeking harmony both faiths are able to leave judgement to God rather than worrying about being needlessly judgemental in this life.
Likewise Christians have the parable of the man on the roadside and the good Samaritan. The Samaritan is the Jewish man’s cultural enemy but he stops to take care of him and ensure he is put on the path to recovery. Our churches should be weeping tears for every single ‘immigrant’ that attempts to come here, for if we cannot love others, how can we love ourselves? It is our failure to love ourselves that leaves a space for hatred and fear and it is almost certainly how the hatred Dave experienced above was initially formed.