Tag Archives: diversity

Pedlars of Lies

I have no problem with people being given a platform from which to say whatever they want. I have no desire to prevent anyone from saying anything. We are quite capable of controlling what we listen to, distilling the value of it and either accepting or rejecting its worth. This and things like it are the beauty of the freedoms we enjoy.

I do, however, have a problem with those freedoms being used to give credence to lies. And I have a problem with the way in which we can seemingly abandon the big-picture, issue driven, needs orientated discourses in favour of the mud slinging that’s dominating Westminster at the moment.

The combination of these things is that there’s a likelihood of a big swing to the right in the elections in two weeks’ time.

This week we’ve mostly been receiving pamphlets from the canvassing teams of the parties (and from UKIP in the post from my Grandad). In amongst that was material from the BNP literature containing the perfect mix of half-truth, stereotype, fear and sensationalism to underscore the skillful way in which Nick Griffin is making repugnant views seemingly palatable. Alongside this has been a number of opinion pieces dismayed at the rise of the right but addressing the issues from an aloof position that simply deals with the BNP in the same way the BNP deal with facts. And in response there has been a staggering insight into Britain’s mind.

I’ve seen a number of statements trotted out as glib facts that are anything but.

Their pamphlet contains plenty of them whilst the comments left on newspaper articles repeat the rhetoric and expand the lies.

They’ll pull us out of Europe. I am very much pro-Europe and I fail to see what behaving like a stagnant little backwater really seeks to achieve. Isolationism might work if you’re Russia or China or even the USA because the economies of scale in such a big operation and the access to a willing and exploitable workforce make it somehow viable. Their Britain, which will have had the most exploitable workforce repatriated and already looks to the world to supply its needs is not going to be an attractive proposition for businesses, for external investment or for us.

Hearteningly though, until the BNP MEPs pull us out from Europe they’re going to give 10% of their salaries (although no word on whether they’ll follow the MEP expense abuse that far exceeds what’s happening in London) to funds that will enable community groups to properly celebrate St George’s Day. As though it’s money that is preventing people taking the initiative and organizing things. I’d suggest that a lack of community momentum to organize things that mark St George’s Day, for example, come from an insularity that is peculiarly British rather than anything else. Minority groups will celebrate their homelands when on foreign soil, the majority bumbles along comfortable in the fact that every day life is every day life and doesn’t need remembering or commemorating. Plus, it’s not as though the British really need an excuse for a piss-up, which is all St Patrick’s and St Andrew’s days have become.

Immigration, as you’d expect, features heavily. Whether it’s in the opposing moves, that are supported by the major parties, to block the borders to the 80 million low wage Muslim Turks poised to overwhelm the UK (yes, because a system that currently sees a net migration of 147,000 people is suddenly going to see 800 times that number) or having a picture of a doctor saying he’s voting BNP because the NHS is under strain from immigrants there’s no doubt specks of truth but it’s ultimately incredibly misleading.

If the NHS is under strain (ive never had a bad experience myself) it’s unlikely to be attributed to one thing alone. How about heart disease, diabetes and lifestyle connected cancers? Or drink/drug related need? Or things to do with sex whether curing disease or bringing life. It’s a statement made all the more ludicrous, and disrespectful to our medics by ignoring the valuable contribution made by migration to the NHS’ workforce (for the last 60 years) not just as medical professionals but in the auxiliary roles too.

But that must be what is contributing to our reaching retirement and then being at the back of the queue behind the asylum seekers (there were a whopping 5,000 asylum claims last year, 700 more than the previous one but not what I would call an invasion). I’ve heard this queue mentioned a lot but I’m no closer to working out what lies at its head. Schooling? That’s free for all. Health? Again free to all. Benefits? Open to anyone with need (both to be enjoyed or abused by anyone criminal enough to do so). Work? Difficult for everyone but accessible to everyone who is deemed to hold the best qualifications. Like jobs on the continent are if we bothered to learn languages or leave this sceptred isle. But it’s clearly that issue driving claims that there should be British jobs for British workers. These recent strikes are another example of British arrogance. All that striking in this way will do is encourage more companies to leave Britain because of a workforce that is petulant and expectant of more and more and more.

Then there’s the question of Iraq and Afghanistan. Dealt with in a number of ways. Firstly, Iraq was about oil and therefore wrong, Afghanistan is a foreign war and therefore we should be pulled out. They state our troops are not well equipped (and the infrequent stories that highlight this gloss over the evident disparity in kit between the rarely wounded coalition and the repeatedly pulverised enemy). Oh yeah, and that Muslims in this country don’t appreciate their sacrifice because soldiers have been abused in the streets.

It’s a clever ploy because it distances them from the fighting on the basis of faith and the source of so such foreign policy discussion and faith based discourse whilst leaving you in no doubt that Islam is dangerous and insidious. It ignores the reality that there are plenty of anti-war protesters who have diminished the efforts of the British forces by pointing an accusatory finger, backed up by the nationwide news coverage of the event, at one particular group and one particular incident.

It’s interesting though that there’s a contradiction within the party and what they believe when it comes to the interaction of faith and skin colour. A BNP candidate councillor for York said that if there is a black police association from which whites are barred why couldn’t the opposite be true. Leaving aside whether that’s what normality looks like (no majority ‘loses out’ when minorities are granted the same opportunities) he went on to say that they don’t want to talk about colour at all, just people.

So why then does their propaganda specify Muslims (twice)? Skin colour and faith are clearly very different. Although skin colour isn’t important what you believe is enough to make us build up divisions that really we aren’t interested in. Evidently this school of thought must be informing the guy who said something along the lines of ‘it’s not that we don’t like Muslims it’s just that their faith is incompatible with our Christian heritage’.


Christianity tells of God’s love for me, for you, for creation. It points out the beauty of being in loving relationship with God and with people like us but Jesus makes it blatantly obvious that actually it’s more about being friends to the friendless, striving for justice for the downtrodden and generally pouring out ourselves in service to others particularly if the world thinks your differences are insurmountable.

Be proud that this nation of ours has played host to people from around the world forever. Be proud that in this country your human rights are not only protected but they are proactively promoted throughout the world. Be proud that we are blessed with education, health, welfare, transport, employment regimes and systems that are the envy of the world and that prompt people (without just cause to flee) to leave their homes to search for better life and offer those who have to flee a safety from the harm they might experience at ‘home’.

I work in one of the poorest parts of the UK. 6 out of 10 postcodes are amongst the 25% most deprived nationally. And we have an ethnic minority population of 8-9%.

Yet the menu of life in Hill is one of joblessness, benefits, drink, drugs, fractured families, teenage pregnancies, nationally the lowest educational attainment, some terrifying health statistics. And I could go on.

None of those problems come from immigration. None of those problems would be fixed by corporal or capital punishment. And certainly none of those problems are solved by the repatriation of anyone deemed not to be British by ancestry.

It’s not enough to say “no platform for racists”, thumb our noses and walk off with the moral high ground attached to our feet. It’s not enough to be condescending, to assume that people understand and appreciate what’s going on behind the propaganda. This is heart and mind stuff, but it’s heart and mind stuff that flows from that reluctance to engage. So let’s address the issues. Let’s talk about Britain being an absolutely mongrel nation that has thrived on immigration and covered the planet by emigration. There is no such thing as being ‘British’ by ancestry; there’s nothing that makes a 5th generation Brit more British than someone whose parents arrived in this country in the 60s, or who has recently been given citizenship.

Get off your bums and use your vote. The European elections use Proportional Representation, that makes it even more important that you do vote. Don’t lose sight of what this is really about in the immediate confusion and emotion of this talk about expenses (when really we’re splitting hairs over a small proportion of unnecessary expenses against necessary expenses). Evil prospers when good people do nothing.

“He has showed you, o man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8)

When you go to the ballot box vote for the people who will do justice, mercy and humility. Please don’t vote for the ones who won’t.

Equality & Diversity

So last week I had some training arranged at work in Equality & Diversity. I wasn’t really expecting it to be a good day. I’m lucky, these are ideas that come naturally to me and so it felt a bit like a colossal waste of time. This wasn’t true of everyone.

The course was led by a British Muslim called Pasha who came from Salford and whose family was Pakistani. And he had a tough crowd. There was one individual in particular who behaved in an absolutely repugnant fashion towards Pasha by spouting the worst kind of ill-informed, ignorant, caricatured and evil opinions. If it had been as part of the wider group discussions that might have been better but as it was it was on one side during a break in a very personal manner.

The tragedy is that there was no way that the rest of the day made any impression whatsoever on him. They were his views and he wasn’t going to change them. Equality & Diversity covers Age, Gender, Sexuality, Disability, Faith and Race and tragically you’d probably find plenty of people who would suggest that we as the church don’t really employ Equality & Diversity in our theology let alone our practice.

Of course there’s the obvious claims that the church suppresses women, that Paul was a misogynist and we are entirely a patriarchal entity. Add to that our hatred of gays. And, don’t forget the wars for which we’re responsible because of other people’s faiths or skin colour.

It’s not a very nice picture. And it’s so far removed from the person of God as revealed through scripture and Jesus. As Christians we should lead the way when it comes to Equality & Diversity. We should be stood at the forefront of this.

1. LOVE.
We’re created for relationships, the Trinity is all about the three persons of God entwined together in relationship and you could succinctly summarise the Bible as being about God hunting out relationship with us in spite of our rejection of Him. If we believe that God has made the earth and everything in it (whatever mechanism he used to do that) then it is all to be cherished, people and planet.

When Jesus gets asked about what is the most important commandment in the law he references the Old Testament law; don’t bear grudges, love your neighbour as yourself. At the same time, he reaffirms the first three commandments.

Basically, if we’re loving God but treating even our enemies like crap we’re at odds with God.

And, more to the point, we love in spite of behaviour because we love with a deep understanding and desire for redemption and reconciliation. We love on the basis of our redemption, of the fact that God loved the world so much that rather than make us do something to fix it, he came and restored it. We should know that you don’t have to qualify for a Christian’s love.

1 John 4 17-21 underscores that, and I make no apology for publishing this beautiful translation from The Message,

‘God is love. When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us. This way, love has the run of the house, becomes at home and mature in us. So that we’re free of worry on Judgment Day – our standing in the world is identical with Christ’s. There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love. We, though, are going to love – love and be loved. First we were loved, now we love. He loved us first. If anyone boasts, ‘I love God,’ and goes right on hating his brother or sister, thinking nothing of it, he is a liar. If he won’t love the person he can see, how can he love the God he can’t see? The command we have from Christ is blunt: Loving God includes loving people. You’ve got to love both’

God knows us and loves us and made us all as individuals. Christine and I were puzzling over fingerprints the other day and we wondered what the rational position might be. A little googling and the evolutionary case is that fingerprints are all about grip. As for their uniqueness it seemed that the consensus lay in needing to check out chaos theory. All well and good, but grip seems to me to be a perfect example of God’s creation ((as seen in this Audi advert) and I’m not satisfied by saying fingerprints are unique because chaos theory shows us that all things are possible.

I’m quite content to see them underlining the uniqueness of a creation which is reiterated time and time again…

Jeremiah 1:5 ‘Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.’
Luke 12:7‘Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered’
Genesis 1:27‘So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.’

Fundamentally, as Christians we believe and recognise that every other person in the world is crafted by God, and not only crafted by Him but absolutely, 100%, head over heels, loved by Him.

So, we’re uniquely made by God, and we’re all about love but people are different, and that means that necessarily there are divisions. Fortunately not, Paul’s pretty clear that our first identity is in Christ. It’s not whether we’re male or female, it doesn’t rest in our ethnicity or our sexuality. First and foremost, before anything else, we are Christians.

Galatians 3:28 ‘There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus’

And not only do we identify ourselves as such but because of Easter, God looks at us and doesn’t see our messed up selves but he sees Christ. Pure, unblemished and equal with Him.

So in Christ we are equal but in Christ we are also diverse. We’re called to be different, called to a freedom of expression, called to be individuals of God glorifying Him in weird and wonderful ways. I’m a little bit passionate about how exciting it is to be a part of the church and how, as a body, we each get to do different things, have different passions, think differently, experience differently but to be unified in our equality in Christ.

The boxes of society shouldn’t matter inside the church because we identify in Christ and as Christians we identify each other as bits of the body.

This is all very well and good when we’re in church and in our nice little Christian bubbles but what about the world. What about a world that doesn’t recognise God’s creation in all things and doesn’t value all individuals beyond their past behaviours? What about a place where war is fought on the basis of theological dispute? Where people are spat at in the street by dint of their physical disability? A place where we’re ready to talk about evil but ignore redemption?

If we are God’s hands and feet (which we are) then Equality & Diversity is our starting point. We’re not interested in what people believe, or don’t; in how they act, or don’t; we’re interested in them as people that God wants to have relationship with. And if God wants to have relationship with them then there’s a value in their lives far beyond our understanding.

It’s not just Equality & Diversity that this informs, it’s how we think about Pluralism. We crave pluralism, but one which recognises the freedom of everyone to be themselves, that doesn’t restrict in any way what people believe, and how they express that. If our starting point is to love people as they are then that’s far more than tolerance, it’s even more than respect. As Micah tells us, God has shown us what good looks like, all he requires in return is that we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly.

If we recognise all people as incredible works of God’s hands, love them beyond ourselves and remember that we are all equally sinful and blameless. If at the same time we appreciate being individuals of diversity whilst striving for justice, mercy and humility then the legislative and societal demands of Equity and Diversity begin to be irrelevant.

Maybe, just maybe, if the 3 billion Christians in the world exhibited all that we know to be true then Equality & Diversity training would be a thing of the past.

And whilst that would make Pasha redundant, I hope he’d agree that some things in life are better obsolete.