Frankly I’m feeling fed up of social media. The self-righteous venom I’ve seen spouted across it since the vote on Syria has almost been enough to make me hit the ‘delete Twitter account’ button and huddle into a digitally cut off hole. And then, of course, there was the ‘revenge reshuffle’ media frenzy last week.
It’s not the disagreement of views that’s bothered me, it’s the accusations – and insinuations – of “if you don’t agree with me then you’re cold/evil/uncompassionate/ungodly/a bad Christian/heartless etc., etc. etc.” Labels such as “the right of the Labour party” have emerged in media to group them in with the “Tory scum” that voted for the air strikes. Threats have been made to de-select Labour party members, and some of those same members have had people surround their houses and offices intimidating them for making a choice they were voted in to make.
I’m not saying people aren’t right to be angry when you disagree on such matters. The Syrian conflict, whichever way you look at it, is horrifically unjust. Civil war, mass killing, religious persecution, women passed around as sex slaves, children turned into weapons of war, torture, medieval executions – the list goes on. God wants us to be angry at such injustice, He wants us to moved into action against it.
But when our hate of injustice, and hate of a way others are trying to tackle this injustice, turns to hate and accusations against the people we disagree with, something has gone terribly wrong.
When it comes to politics in our house, it’s chalk and cheese. As a voter, I sit to the left of the centre. As an ideal, I love socialism, and my favourite politician of all time is Tony Benn. My husband, on the other hand, is an ardent Tory. For dates at uni, I used to be taken to Port and Policy on a Sunday evening at the Oxford University Conservative Association – who said romance was dead? He even got bitten by a dog for the sake of a Tory win, campaigning during the last election while dropping leaflets through letterboxes.
For the sake of our marriage, we can’t watch Question Time together, nor can we talk about the politics of education, the NHS or benefits. We vehemently disagree on many issues, and there are many times I feel like screaming with frustration as I don’t understand how he came to have that view.
Having said all that, I believe – and yes I know I’m biased – that my husband is one of the kindest, godliest, most generous and compassionate people I know, and I respect him more than anyone. He cares deeply about the injustices of this world; he works in Parliament two days a week helping an MP to campaign against international abuses of human rights, and insisted in December I tell family to donate to an aid fund for children in the Yemen living in a conflict zone for his Christmas present.
When he speaks in favour of Conservative policies that cut benefits for the poor, it’s not because he doesn’t care about the poor, but because he thinks there are better ways of supporting those in poverty. When he speaks up for privatisation of parts of the NHS, it’s from a place of concern it remains efficient and therefore still accessible for those who most need free access.
God has individually made us, including with our political preferences: Tory, Labour, Lib Dem, Green. Indeed, we have many amazing Christian MPs working against injustice within those parties, such as Fiona Bruce and David Burrowes in the Conservative party, Steven Timms and David Lammy for Labour, and Tim Fallon for the Liberal Democrats. We all have different views and experiences to bring to the table, which God has intended we bring together within the body of Christ to work for his Kingdom.
Let us therefore work as body, not cutting off any hope of working together by being personal and dismissive, particularly of someone’s faith or heart for God’s people. Let us be a witness to the world of what it looks like to do politics well, being able to vehemently disagree with an opinion a person might hold, but still love the person and work with them to bring more of God’s light to this very dark world.