The news of the last few weeks has been full of examples of different public opinions clashing. We have been reminded of the protests in Tiananmen Square with the haunting images of that sole protestor walking defiantly in front of the rolling tanks, something now silenced and erased from China’s history and its’ people’s memory, but still very much remembered across the rest of the world. A brave yet costly stand against communism and a fight for the rights of ordinary people brutally crushed! Here at home, we have seen antisemitism raise its ugly head once again with careless words going global because the person who said them thought it was off the record! Views on Brexit remain as polarised as ever, and party politics remain personal often reflecting behaviour of the school playground. The visit by Donald Trump has sparked very diverse responses to both the individual and the office that he holds and there are challenges over differences on China and climate change which are counterbalanced by the role of the allies in the D Day Landings. And now we have entered a leadership contest where respect and dignity are in short supply.
Everywhere we look, whether on the global stage, in domestic politics, in our pluralistic society with all its diverse heritages and cultures, religion, we find a spectrum of opinion which creates a rich tapestry of what it means to be human. However, what we appear to be in danger of losing is the valuing and embracing of such a wealth of conflicting ideas, beliefs, traditions and voices which can be the seed bed for real creativity. We only need to watch Question Time to see how people talk over one another, take delight in putting down others, project their view as the only possibility, get their point across by being the loudest voice and become personal and belittling in their comments.
Some-how we seem to have lost sight of the fact that there is a great nobility in accepting and respecting that which is different. Statesmanship appears to be a dying art. Being able to freely express points of view courteously, to listen attentively as well as to speak passionately, to consider that the other may, in fact, be right and have something of real value to add to the debate or discussion, to have sufficient humility to concede that our own views may be flawed or that there is a better way of doing something takes far more skill and discernment and affords far more respect than entrenchment that must win out at all costs. Focussing on what is right and true should take precedence over partisan lines but above all honouring the other as a fellow human being no matter what their opinion, might just make way for mutual consensus and accountability and it may just ease the road to compromise and the greater good. The deeper we regard one another as fellow human beings, and dare I say it, even friends, and the greater the respect we foster for one another the higher the expectations we have of each other become. We learn to see beyond the opposing opinion, to the story that informs it, and the experience that shapes it. The more we see, learn and understand others’ opinions, the more we grow and the greater and more encompassing our vision becomes.
Jesus spoke a lot about what it means to be a good neighbour, about caring for the weak, the marginalised, the foreigner and he gave a us a pretty challenging commandment to love each other as He loves us. In this Easter resurrection and ascension tide we think about His kingdom and its values where the ultimate outcome and agenda is already set by Christ Himself, and where all have an equal standing. In this kingdom childlike squabbling has no place and diversity in all its wonder is cherished. Whilst paramount to this kingdom is social justice, in the acceptance of difference comes unity. Perhaps it is only when we accept that we are all different, and that we truly begin to value and appreciate our uniqueness and treasure our diversity that we will begin to discover the wonder of unity, the strength of wholeness and the creativity of completeness.
A collection of thoughts and reflections from the people of All Saints.