Note: this post was written on the 12th August, 2012; and may speak of events still to come that, when you read it, are passed and gone.
Last night something magical happened in London: A Muslim Somali refugee reclaimed the Union Flag for me. When Mo Farah won the 5,000 metres I was jubilant… just as I had been when Sir Chris Hoy won the Kieren or Jess Ennis won the Heptathlon… but there was something more in his celebration for me: he had reclaimed the Union Flag.
He reclaimed the Union Flag from the British Nationalist racists whose beliefs are so offensive to me that I won’t repeat them… other than to say they are wrong. I have, up until last night, associated the Union Flag with this kind of fascism… but not anymore.
He reclaimed the Union Flag from the Orange Order Loyalists who openly display their sectarian bigotry in the name of their narrow view of the Protestant expression of Christianity. The Orange Order may be new to you but in the West of Scotland they are a blight and an embarrassment. I have, up until last night, associated the Union Flag with this kind of bigotry… but not anymore.
Farah also reclaimed the Union Flag from English Nationalists… the kind who go mental at the Proms. I get uncomfortable around that kind of flag-waving nationalism… especially when it is English nationalism dressed up as British patriotism. As I said above… I am a Scot… I was born in Scotland and, God willing, I will die here… and to see a minority of English people co-opt the Union Flag makes me very, very uneasy. I have, up until last night, associated the Union Flag with this kind of Nationalism… but not anymore.
This morning I see the Union Flag for what it is… a symbol of unity. The Olympics have shown me what Great Britain can achieve when her people come together… not just the athletes but everyone. When we come together we make Britain “gr… gr… great”.
This is, after all, the Britain who got together and swept up after the riots of 2011. We are a broken community made up of flawed people but we are not broke… we have something to give.
What Mo Farah’s achievement shows me this morning is what can happen if we work together.
Consider the achievements of all the athletes who represented Britain at these Olympics… consider too the running of the event (esp. the volunteers)… this shows to me is the power of togetherness… of unity.
This unity should be an example to the Church. Instead of seeking to divide… we should seek to unite. Not under a cause… but under Jesus… our love for Him and our love for our neighbour.
Recently I have been embarrassed to call myself a Christian. The name has been spoiled by expressions of bigotry, misogyny and abuse that I simply cannot reconcile with either Christ or being a “Christ-one”. The word has been tainted like the Union Flag was… through association with the worst rather than the best.
I need it to be associated with the best that the Church can offer.
Christianity should be associated with love, compassion, self-control and acceptance… the very things that make it great… and not intolerance, self-interest, spite and exclusion… the things that bring it down. Christianity should equate with mercy not sacrifice… with honesty not hypocrisy;
I don’t know how we do this, to be honest, but I know there is precedent in Scripture… with St Paul expressing his desire for unity in his letter to The Church in Galatia (Galatians 3:26-28 NIV)
So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
If we clothe ourselves in Christ there will be no progressives or conservatives… nor will there be any denominations to divide us. Not that these things don’t matter… they do… but they aren’t *that* important and they are not more important than the need for unity… or essentially our love of and for Jesus.
Whether you are a reader of Ayn Rand or of Karl Marx… these divisions are or should be lessened by our shared love of and for Jesus. If they are not, then why not? Anything that comes between us and Jesus is idolatry.
We need to rise above all the petty things that hold us back and keep us down… we need to stop calling each other names and seek to build one another up… we need to ask forgiveness as well as forgiving the wrongs that others have inflicted on us… we need to come together and focus on Him rather than on ourselves and our desires. Our desire should only be to emulate Him.
Once we do this… we need to express this focus as love… love for one another… love for our neighbours and our communities (whether online or offline).
We need to work together in love to show ourselves and, more importantly, those around us that whilst the Church is a broken, flawed people; we are not broke… that we have something to give… that we can participate in this world as a force for good.
Just as Mo Farah has reclaimed… along with the London Olympics in 2012… the Union Flag for me… I hope that one day the name of Jesus and the term “Christian” can be reclaimed… that it can be associated with the very best our faith has to offer rather than the very worst.
I guess I can hope.