This blog is firstly about two stories brought to my attention on my Facebook page today: “Archbishop of Canterbury says it is not racist to fear high level of immigration” and “Christian magistrate removed from office by Lord Chancellor”. But it is also about a lot more than that – and it involves one of my fundamental guiding principles. As a Christian motivated by holy anger (or am I just a sad, grumpy old man) I need to be a voice for the voiceless, deal justly (by speaking on their behalf) with the poor, marginalised and victims of oppression and shine a light on the path of the ignorant and wavering. I say this even though it is true we need to be slow to speak, focus on being good parents / spouses / children etc., love our neighbours and make disciples of Jesus. While it is true that Christians do get into trouble in this country when they speak out of turn as my recent Felix Ngole blog argues, there are many countries in the world today where people are persecuted for even living as a Christian, so I can be thankful I can speak as I find, not being beholden to politically correct employers.
Regarding the Archbishop story, what he says seems to me to be plain obvious, although clearly not everyone sees it that way. Is it more Christian to let foreigners into the country or not is a separate debate, which needs to be had. I feel privileged that I count as friends those from a full range of religious, political and ideological beliefs and with many I can have free and frank exchanges of views without falling out. Some of my friends take the view we need to relax restrictions on immigrants coming into the country, especially for sanctuary seekers, and others take the view we should tighten restrictions for some of the reasons the Archbishop alludes to. With few exceptions, friends of that ilk are NOT in my opinion racist. As for me, I do think we take in too many Eastern Europeans (a number of who, incidentally, I look after in the homeless night shelter I manage) and it is one reason (not the main one) I do not support the UK’s EU membership. I also think we could and should be doing more for asylum seekers still in the system or having given up out of frustration with failed bureaucracy, refugees camped in Calais and those fleeing conflicts in the Middle East – many of which are desperate. Read my earlier blogs for my thoughts on these matters! As for the Archbishop, I would like to think as a spiritual leader with supposed “correct” theology, he would feel compelled to speak out for these people for the sake of compassion and balance. But if this (see here) article is correct, there is reason for hope. (Pertinent here, in that same interview I later learned that the Archbishop spoke about the need to take in refugees (see here), but this was not reported – one more reason to speak out – ed).
The Christian magistrate story begins: “Richard Page has been removed from office by the Lord Chancellor after sharing his personal conviction in a media interview that there is not enough evidence to show that placing children in the care of same-sex couples is in their best interest… Richard Page said: “My responsibility as a magistrate, as I saw it, was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and woman who were the adopted parents. … I am surprised that the Lord Chancellor should seemingly pander to the new political orthodoxy when what it amounts to is social experimentation on the lives of the most vulnerable children in our communities. To punish me and to seek to silence me for expressing a dissenting view is deeply shocking. I shall challenge this decision as it is illiberal and intolerant. It is vital the family law courts always have in mind the best interests of the children. I cannot believe that the establishment is trying to silence someone like me who has served it wholeheartedly all of my working life.”” While it is true, I don’t have the full story and need to take into account the contrary arguments, like that of those who are in positions such as this should not be speaking in such a manner or taking sides when placing children, in order to come to a fully rounded view, it is regrettable one who appears to be an exemplary magistrate is being cast aside for merely expressing his views.
Whether it is offering my views on the rumpus over the Queen’s alleged support of Brexit or the “foibles” of Donald Trump’s Evangelical supporters, I feel compelled to do so, mindful of any delusions of grandeur that what I say on these matters is going to influence more than a tiny minority. For some things need saying, and if I don’t say it, who will? I am pretty sure tomorrow there will a new set of issues where I may feel compelled to comment but enough for today are today’s challenges. The one bit of advice I will give to myself or any who may wish to follow my example, is that before opening one’s mouth, do what I wrote in one my earliest blogs – ask the questions: is it true, is it necessary and is it kind?