Since I’ll be out of town and away from posting on Sunday, I’m putting up this week’s sermon today instead. This is from Natasha Moore, a Research Fellow at Australia’s Centre for Public Christianity:
While…politicians go over old ground - free speech and political correctness, the right to be free of bigotry or the right to be a bigot - the conversation we're having serves to highlight the kinds of conversations we're not.
The daily experience of minorities - racial, ethnic, religious, sexual - far too often doesn't match our rhetoric about diversity, multiculturalism and equal opportunity. Real people continue to come up against a wall of prejudice that many of us want to believe was broken down long ago.
Condemning bigotry as monstrous is entirely apt. Condemning every person guilty of prejudice as a monster, on the other hand, is both naive and unhelpful. It's naive because, in fact… prejudice is something everyone struggles with in some form. To pretend that embracing difference is as easy as breathing - that humans don't naturally gravitate towards people like themselves, or find genuine difference uncomfortable or confronting - is to forget that harmony between different groups of people takes real and sustained effort.
It's unhelpful because "you can't say that" may shut someone up, but it also shuts down a conversation that ought to be opened up. It shuts people out of conversation instead of engaging with their fears, frustrations, or areas of ignorance.
If we could draft the perfect law to promote racial harmony and prevent both vilification and the freezing of free speech, that would still be the merest beginning to overcoming prejudice. Law is an invaluable safeguard, but far too blunt an instrument for changing hearts or building a shared culture.
For that, humility on the one side must meet grace on the other. We must suspect ourselves of bigotry. We must take pains to articulate what's healthy and energising about living with difference. We must find ways to put real faces and names to groups many [of us] are tempted to dislike or shy away from.
As Heather McGhee says…"we know in order to be a people that is united across lines of race and class and gender and age, we have to foster relationships, we have to get to know who one another actually is." Relationship is everything.
Do we want a public culture where we can believe the best of one another, where we can hope to change each others' minds rather than condemn one another, and…have our own minds changed?
Then we need to worry less about how other people - immigrants, racists, Liberals, lefties - are what's wrong with [the world], and ask more often, in genuine humility: how can I be a better [person]?