Recently I received the following invite: “You’re invited … In celebration of Jo’s (Cox) belief that we have more in common, we would love you to be part of The Great Get Together weekend. When: Friday 16 – Sunday 18 June 2017 What: A celebration of your choosing! Arrange something with your neighbours (it’s not too late!), find an event taking place near you or join in online. Whatever you decide, you’ll be part of a huge national celebration”. I understand that various events took place up and down the country, including in Southend, where a number of friends attended. I didn’t feel inclined or was able to attend but I was pleased those who did take part had a good time. But firstly my reason for posting.
There is no doubt that we live in alarming times when people are fearful and anxious and there is a lot of hate as well as attempts to counter that hate, all too evident around us, something the Great Get Together seeks to do. Even today, I learned of an incident when a man angry at Muslims drove his van into a mosque in order to kill worshippers and was overpowered and but for the intervention of the Imam things could have been worse. Then there was a case of mistaken identity when a volunteer who had been helping in the aftermath of the Grenfell tower disaster was attacked by those angry at a tragedy that could have been avoided and needed to be rescued. There are so many incidents I could relate e.g. recent terrorist attacks and the various attacks directed at President Trump, which are motivated by hatred, both by perpetrators and those who react to what they see, and sometimes this is countered by love.
I got to think about a book I read in my late teens / early twenties that had an important impact on me – “Revolution of Love” by George Verwer. He argued the central message of the New Testament is love and this should affect every Christian in such a way he / she will revolutionize the world with the Gospel message and that nothing should distract them from achieving these goals. Later, I understand, George came to see that some who read this message could end up as fanatics. He updated the message to provide what he saw was a needed balance and the book title was changed to “Revolution of Love and Balance”. I can’t say I have been a very good example of putting into practice this message, but I have tried (with God’s help) and made some inroads, and it is a message that to this day affects how I view the world and interact with it.
I commend the message of Jo Cox, who was murdered one year ago by a hate filled person who took exception to it. While I understand why Jo has become an iconic figure for some to rally around, given this message epitomizes (as far as they are concerned) the need of the hour, I have certain qualms. Firstly, in the year that has passed since Jo died, many others have also been murdered and for some the contrast between love and hate is just as stark. I suspect this fixation with Jo and not other worthies is ideological. Secondly, when Jo made the statement, it was in the context of the UK being enriched by immigration. While true to an extent, there is a negative side, which we ignore at our peril. Thirdly, certain folk who also believe in the finding the common ground principle and the need to love our neighbor are ostracized by those involved in these get together events. Some, for example, including those motivated by love, believe Brexit and Trump to be good things and too much immigration and accommodation of Islam to be bad things and we foolishly perpetuate conditions so terrorism can thrive, who take pro-life and non same sex marriage positions, etc. Sometimes, what is needed is to sometimes graciously agree to disagree and accept we indeed have a lot more in common than that which divides us, and that we do need to come together in order to do even more good.