Monday, April 27, 2015

Nuance in Northern Ireland

We have lost it.

Nuance that is. There is little or no nuance in public discourse any more. Twitter and phone-in shows have brought war to every issue, where the extremes are deployed against each other. And many spokespeople, public figures and activists relish this opportunity for easy coverage and airtime. And the behaviour of some provides perfect material for programme producers.  In the ongoing "culture war" which has been squared up between 'traditional' Christianity and 'progressive' same-sex identity, there seems to be no scope for either to listen. 

The irony is that the Gospel says that all have sinned. Sin takes a million forms, but is ultimately always about the self. The Gospel also says that humanity cannot behave its way to right relationship with a holy God. If it could, reverently speaking, then Jesus made a terrible mistake and was wasting His time. He didn't actually need to die and rise again, He just needed to give good advice. And so (liberalised) churches minimise sin and reduce the Gospel to mere moral lessons, and others seem to forget the import of the Gospel and embark upon moralistic campaigns to get society to behave 'better'. But people cannot behave better enough. And sin isn't just our actions, words and motives – it's our very nature. To coin a phrase, we are all born this way. "All have sinned and fallen short", backed up with "For God so loved the world", are the great levellers. 

Dr Rosaria Butterfield, an academic and erstwhile lesbian activist, has a fascinating story to tell. And she 'gets' the Gospel in a way that many of us would benefit from. Nuance, intelligence and a proper understanding of the Gospel is a powerful combination. Northern Ireland would benefit from a Rosaria Butterfield.