The best and the worst

Posted: 19 June 2017

Dear Friends

The last few weeks have seen some distressing images played out on our TV screens. The mass murders in Manchester and London as a result of terrorism and this week the horrific fire in Grenfell Tower have stirred our hearts and emotions. In the midst of all the tears and pain of loss the outpouring of love and generosity and determination not to give way to bitterness and rage is uplifting. To hear stories of support, kindness, resilience and unity demonstrates the best of our shared humanity in contrast to the violence of the worst. Who cannot be deeply touched by those images of the block of flats going up in flames and the unfolding tragedy affecting all those residents? And yet the tangible expressions of love from within and beyond the communities affected gives hope that despite everything, all is not lost. In the darkest of times, a light will shine.

‘The light shines in the darkness but the darkness has not understood it’

 (John 1:5)

 

The best and the worst

Whilst we are heartened by the expressions of love and support demonstrated by so many after these appalling tragedies, the recent election has thrown up other areas of our shared life for which we are concerned.

 

Who can forget the way members of the press hounded Tim Farron during the election campaign to ‘incriminate’ himself over his convictions about gay sexual activity. He knew that were he to hold to a traditional Biblical viewpoint he would be vilified and set upon during the remainder of the campaign. He was trapped in a ‘catch 22’. The press and media saw an opportunity to ‘out’ a Christian and set upon him like a pack of wolves. His subsequent resignation as leader of the Lib Dems has revealed the limits to tolerance that are the reality of our society today. In effect, the cultural mainstream does not tolerate anyone who holds a different conviction whether that be, same sex marriage or gay sexual activity. If you do not toe the line of cultural mainstream views, you become a target for intimidation, accusation and potentially risk the loss of your career and livelihood.

 

It is a shameful slur on our society that a serving politician cannot be a leader of a political party and hold to Christian principles. William Wilberforce would turn in his grave to see what we have become.

 

In a recent email from a campaigning group entitled: ‘Tell the BBC to stop bashing the DUP for being socially conservative’ it suggests the BBC which is supposed to be impartial has demonstrated a sustained attack on the DUP because they are socially conservative and opposed to same-sex marriage and abortion.

‘John Humphries laughed on Monday morning when a former DUP assembly member explained they are a compassionate party. John Humphries immediately claimed that ‘most people’ think their stance is intolerant citing opposition to same sex marriage as an example and then on Wednesday the BBC produced a long series of satirists’ cartoons lampooning the DUP’.  At the same time there has been little interest in asking about the DUP’s policy on Brexit or the economy!

 

The article quotes Roman Catholic commentator Dr Tim Stanley who defended the right of the DUP to hold religious beliefs and argued, ‘it has become politically toxic to be a Christian’.

 

What kind of society do we want to be?

Friends, in recent weeks we have seen the best and the worst within our society. We celebrate the best and need to work to change the worst. We can do that as we pray for those in leadership in our government and media and press. But sometimes we need to act to be the salt and light of the world to which we are called.

 

The other day we were walking across the Ham and sat on a bench by the weir watching the powerful flow of the water cascade over the weir. A fisherman passed by and we started chatting and talking about the salmon that had been caught. I assumed the salmon jump over the weir, but no he said they swim up it, against the current.

 

Christians today can find themselves swimming against the current of mainstream cultural opinion. May we be like those salmon and be unafraid to make our voices heard and work to build a society in which people of all faiths and none are given respect and dignity for their beliefs and convictions.         

 In Christ,  Stephen