I deleted a post on Facebook yesterday. This is the first time that I felt I needed to do this. I did this because of the manner in which some people communicated with one another.
I post, blog and write because I want to encourage people to love and be loved by God, to think deeply and live generously. What I witnessed yesterday were the attritional attitudes, partisan prejudices and the inability to debate and discuss with respect and honour between people who hold different views.
The Bible says we are to “pay attention to our hearts”, the prayer of the Psalmist is that God would “create within us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us”. Anyone who desires to be serious about their relationship with God, has to address the ‘landscape’ of their own hearts. To understand the ‘passions’ and ‘monsters’, as well as what motivates, informs and shapes their lives, both consciously and unconsciously. This can be seen as Emotional Intelligence. Whatever we call it, it should lead to a deeper life and a transformation of attitudes, words and actions. A lack of self-awareness, so prevalent in the activism of our contemporary society, is a hugely debilitating factor in our ability to relate well with others; in our homes, neighbourhoods, workplaces, churches and wider society.
It comes as no surprise to me but is nevertheless depressing that Christians can behave as badly as anybody. The disappointing way in which some people responded yesterday was no exception. All of us who claim to follow Christ, need to remember Jesus words in John’s Gospel, “As the Father sent me, so I send you”. This requires all of us who seek to love God and neighbour to reflect on Christ, who was “full of grace and truth”.
Christians often claim to be right and to know the truth. Often they don’t exhibit the accompanying grace that we see in Christ.
Where, I ask myself, is the voice of kindness and respect? Where is truth with grace, debate with dignity, dialogue with respect? Where is there the ability to listen to different voices, opposing views without denigrating, dismantling and attempting to destroy?
Four people have brought me a little encouragement recently. The first of these is Jürgen Klopp. His faith and upbringing has given him an understanding of what life is like for most ordinary people. His compassionate optimism, hope filled messages and acts of kindness have touched the hearts of many.
Marcus Rashford’s campaign to end child poverty, no doubt influenced by his upbringing. Rashford’s attempt to get the government to provide meals for the poorest children in society was defeated in parliament. However in his battle to defeat food poverty, he has invoked the kindness of strangers, a far greater force than the Government has been able achieve.
Joe Biden, took a call the other day from his granddaughter whilst he was on the campaign trail. This could either be seen as a political stunt or the action of a caring grandparent. You could say that this encounter was orchestrated but I’d like to believe it as authentic. Another incident happened at the Democratic Convention in the summer when he helped a young boy with a stammer., see: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8YofSo-GTN4 What helps me to believe its authenticity is the fact that Biden has for many years helped youngsters who struggle with stammering, something he himself has had to contend with.
Finally, there is Jacinda Arden, who has been portrayed by the satirical programme Spitting Image as Mary Poppins, flying in with her umbrella to dispense a spoonful of sugar, bringing happiness and a smile to everyone she meets.
Klopp, Rashford, Biden and Arden reveal intellect and emotional intelligence, kindness, decency, a genuine care and concern for people, as well as humility and a willingness to listen and identify with those who they work with and seek to serve. These are attitudes which reflect the character of Christ and the virtues and values which contribute to the common good. They build society where black lives and all lives matter. Where integrity, kindness, compassion, justice and mercy, generosity, peacefulness and consideration of each other are fused together and bring benediction, not malediction to the world.