This week a friend of mine asked me to write a blog containing some of my thoughts on the recent Scotland/UK/vote type stuff. And honestly, my immediate thought was… No. That does not sound like fun.
But it again raises questions for me about how we engage with world events as Christians. Especially when there’s a very real grey area in the way in which we should or could respond.
Because despite the fact that I am currently living in Japan, I can in no way escape the fact that I am English. In that same way that I cannot escape the fact that I lived in Scotland for over 5 years of my adult life.
Which leads me to these conclusions.
I love Scotland. I managed projects in Scotland. I wept with young people in Scotland. I spent days of my life talking to council members and government representatives in Scotland. I share very real and tangible worries about the impact Westminster decisions are having on the poorest and most vulnerable members of Scottish society, as I have about the impact those decisions are having on those same members of the rest of the UK. I share the wider concerns that many have when I think about our democratic processes, the representativeness of parliament and the disassociation there often seems to be between policies and reality. I have good and dear friends who have ferociously been campaigning on both sides the debate, and I actually don’t profess to have any definitive and conclusive answers on any of this stuff.
But Scotland is dear to me.
And the UK is dear to me.
More than anything, because people are dear to me.
And actually, as the dust settles on the fact that we are remaining a 4-nation-United-Kingdom, I’m not wanting to wade into a blogging-arena for a potentially-controversial-debate. I’m rather wanting to throw some thoughts around to how we should respond as Christians.
Because this is real. It’s about how I should respond to be friends and young people.
About how Jesus would engage.
Hear me out, because I don’t have any definite conclusions, I’m really just processing some thoughts out loud. And this isn’t a blog on what we should or shouldn’t think, feel, celebrate or mourn, this is a blog about how we should engage.
Because I think they’re different issues.
My friends are pretty split on their views about Scottish independence and what should or shouldn’t have happened yesterday. As you’d except with a 45-55 split towards staying in the union. Some are mourning the result. Some are celebrating. There are another chunk who are genuinely not that swayed. They haven’t really thought about it, and probably aren’t going to. Which I guess is ok. Things affect us differently, especially if you live in a different nation of the world. But I’ve picked up from a few different perspectives, a nastier kind of response. There have been some pretty ungracious-sounding comments, directed at others. Now, I’m not completely naive in this. I know history is complex. Issues are complex. Of course we shouldn’t gloss over past or current feelings of injustice. There is always a lesson to be learned from history, whether that is in our failure or our success.
But I’m talking about how we engage as Christians into this complexity. Into this realness. With those that we are in relationship with. And into what for many, is a genuine time of grief and confusion (or celebration).
I think it’s ok to have some different perspectives going around. To hear each other out. To do so in grace and love and humility, knowing that most of us are probably not in possession of the complete facts or the complete story.
But the problem is that everybody wants a single story. Just one. And they want their single story to be right.
Not just today, or about this issue, but everyday, about every issue.
Chimamanda Adichie did an amazing TED talk back in 2008 called ‘The Danger of a Single Story’. I’ve used this as a resource for a number of years now in a few different settings, so I know it well, and as I was praying this morning about these issues it was actually the thing that came to mind. Because Adichie defines the concept of power as ‘the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it their definitive story’. And so we have to acknowledge that most of our opinions and judgements and facts are based within a web of power-influences, and consider who has them and what they choose to tell us. Adichie also says that ‘the consequence of the single story is this: it robs people of dignity. It makes recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasises how we are different rather than how we are similar.’
Which is an interesting quote considering that at a time where as Christians, we could be using this opportunity to talk about Jesus bringing real freedom and pointing those who are questioning upwards, we can so easily get caught up in arguments that rob others of dignity in order to win a point.
These thoughts challenged me, because it sometimes seems that in moments like this we want to make a definitive judgement on something or somebody, when actually there is a grey scale. A we-can-be-submitted-to-Jesus-and-love-the-Word-fully-yet-still-think-differently-on-this grey scale.
I’ve been seriously asked today whether I’m ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ in my feelings.
And I’m afraid that my answer might sound unsatisifyingly-grey.
Putting it bluntly.
I’m pro-Jesus. And I’m mighty, mighty glad that He’s pro-people. All people.
I read an interesting article this week which I can’t help but think relates to the response we should demonstrate as Christians in areas that are emotive and controversial. On a certain university in America, a conservative preacher went to visit the campus with a message which was focussed on condemning homosexuality in a very aggressive manner. He shouted at students listening and told one gay couple holding hands that they were going to hell. This situation continued until the university Christian Union decided that they should get involved. One student with a guitar and about 30 of his friends surrounded the shouting, angry preacher and began to instead sing the song ‘How He Loves Us’. As they worshipped with fervour the shouts of the preacher couldn’t even be heard. Instead there was a chorus of ‘We are His portion and He is our prize, called to redemption by the grace in His eyes, if grace is an ocean we’re all sinking…’ which many people were invited to join.
A non-aggressive protection of those who had metaphorical stones being thrown at them.
Robbing others of dignity in order to win an argument is never the heart of our Father.
Loving others into a place of wholeness and healing… Well, that’s what I’m about.
I can’t help but remember that it’s His kindness that leads us to repentance.
Jesus never shouted condemnation at those who came to Him in their sin, their confusion or their doubt. He shouted a message of forgiveness and love that drives out fear. It’s the proud He resists, not the weak.
I can’t help but remember that there’s a grey-scale of things that I’m probably wrong about. Things that I know I have been wrong about.
Now, don’t misunderstand me, I know, I really know, that He’s anti-sin. My sin. Your sin. The world’s sin. He went to the cross because it was the only way to enable us to live in the light of repentance, forgiveness and redemption. To ignore sin is to minimise His sacrifice, His love and His grace. Jesus is the only way, the only truth and the only life. I’m not suggesting that we brush societies’ politics and debates and sometimes darkness under the carpet.
But today, I simply pray that over arguments, and winning a point, and criticising those we are meant to love, we would instead use this opportunity to point to the One found Worthy, the hope of the world, and the lover of all people: Jesus Christ.
I’m super proud of the people of Scotland. The 85% who made their voice count and actually made a statement that showed democracy could count for something. For the young people who chose to engage with politics instead of ignore it for the first time ever. For the energy and passion to bring about positive change in a nation that so many people displayed.
I think there are great challenges to how we, as a church, engage within this landscape and this arena.
And that, is that.