CLOSING DOWN DEBATE
When we cannot tolerate the existence of views we do not share, we tend not to befriend those who hold them. Our own views are not properly tested and we start to see difference as an affront to our identity.
Can Labour and Conservative MPs be friends? Not according to Labour MP Laura Pidcock who says she will not ‘hang out’ with Tory women because she considers them ‘the enemy’. Is her example evidence of a greater hostility between modern politicians? Enmity has always been present: Nye Bevan described Tories as ‘lower than vermin’ while his contemporary Winston Churchill said an Attlee government would soon create a Gestapo. But friendships have also been made over the years, often to the benefit of others. The US story is even more polarised, as the 2016 Presidential election demonstrated vividly. So, will things get worse in the UK?
There are several reasons why they might. In an era when bias against others because of who they are has become intolerable, political allegiance has become one of the last acceptable forms of prejudice, presumably on the basis that there isn’t much we can do about our identity but there is something we can do about our beliefs. This is a dangerous residue. The increasing stridency of some who claim to be liberal against those who don’t think like they do undermines the philosophy they claim to represent. A core value of liberalism is its commitment to listen to peaceable opinions and learn from them.
The ‘filter bubble’ which Eli Pariser identified long before the tendentious elections of 2016 in the US and UK, whereby people surround themselves online only with voices they agree with has also taken its toll. We no longer know what to do with opinions we disagree with and, unused to them, often lash out in indignation and insecurity.
One less remarked upon development is the way modern government and its opposition has been turned into a state of permanent campaigning. The next election is being planned shortly after the previous one ended and the habits that go with campaigning – exaggeration, hostility, division – begin to corrode the priority of Parliament: the creation and testing of good law.
Experience shows that Christians can be just as divisive over party politics when the conversation turns, leaving Jesus to fade into the background. Surely our discipleship calls for something more healing in how it tackles the issues that divide us. The call to love one another is not a command to like the other person or the beliefs they hold, but to do the right thing by them, showing respect and kindness to the one for whom Christ died. This commitment includes the call to listen to them, which is as close to loving someone as we can offer in the course of a day.
To say we have nothing to learn from another person is a complacent, possibly arrogant position to adopt. To close our minds to what the other person is saying means our own views are not properly tested and we begin to see difference as an affront to our identity. The hazard for Christians is that, surrounding themselves only with agreeable people, they lack the basic tools of evangelism and apologetics and are stuck for anything meaningful to say when their beliefs are tested by those who don’t share them.
If we cannot tolerate the existence of views we do not share, we will not befriend those who hold them. How exactly, then, is the Gospel supposed to spread?
Obama's Covert Wars
The use of drones is going to change warfare out of all recognition in the next decades.
Through A Glass Starkly
Images of traumatic incidents caught on mobile phone can be put to remarkable effect.
What Are British Values?
Is there a British identity and if so, what has shaped the values and institutions that form it?