Teresa May was visiting a nursing home. She tried to chat to one of the residents but he was off-hand and disinterested. “Do you know who I am?” she said. “If you go over to the desk they’ll tell you”, the man replied!
A sense of identity is important to all of us. We all need to know who we are and where we come from to be secure and develop our full potential as human beings. That’s why family, community and national identity are each important for our well-being. Love of family is the first quality we learn as we grow up. Love of our community broadens our horizons to our friends and neighbours and prompts actions which strengthen local pride.
The love of country has inspired much that is good and honouring to God, namely duty, sacrifice and courage.
The Christian faith, however, offers us an identity that goes even deeper. The deepest, most long-lasting and secure identity is provided by knowing that we are children of God, loved and precious to Him. Jesus was the first person ever to reveal that we can have a close personal relationship with the God who made the Universe and who made us as individuals. He taught us to pray “Our Father…” If we are secure in the Father’s love we’ll be aware we belong to a worldwide community of faith that transcends barriers of class, ethnicity and nationhood.
The roots of racist thinking lie in a deep fear of losing our cultural identity. This kind of dread never leads to love, honour, courage or anything good. Fear like this is incompatible with love, and without love, the Bible tells us, we are nothing. I believe The English Defence League and the British National Party seek to capitalise on people’s insecurity and fear. The result is therefore hatred suspicion, alienation and more fear.
We have an instinct to protect our own perceived interests, to be suspicious of the stranger, to ‘look after our own’, and so we hear slogans like “England for the English!” or “Jobs For Whites First!”. However, the Christian Gospel declares that the love of God in Christ can bring unity of purpose and shared values to people who are different in cultural background. When there is love, ethnic diversity brings a richness and a spice to life. True love is colour blind. Probably the most famous of Jesus’ parables is the Good Samaritan. The main point of the story was that Samaritans and Jews generally hated each other – for understandable reasons. But the Samaritan saw only a naked man, wounded and bleeding, and not knowing (or caring) that he was a Jew, helped him, and the world became a better place.
But are there limits to cultural diversity? Shouldn’t we be stressing common loyalty rather than multi-culturalism in these days of international terrorism and ethnic tension?
As a Christian, I believe that the good aspects of our society stem largely from our Christian heritage. Seeking to protect our Christian heritage by spreading fear, hatred or violence is, however, a contradiction in terms, and totally counterproductive, as well as being simply wrong. If we value the things our Christian heritage has brought, we must repent and turn afresh to God. We must reject selfish materialism, the idols of sex, money and power and start worshipping God once again, in the way that has been made possible by our Lord Jesus Christ. When our nation turns back to God, our society will be healed from its family fragmentation, addiction, crime, and selfishness. We’ll see a return to integrity in politics and business, a new respect for the environment, a new honour for marriage, care for children, the elderly and the vulnerable, and a new hope for our nation.
The Bible tells us that the true enemy is not flesh and blood people –but the forces of evil in the heavenly realms that love to promote fear, hatred, selfishness and blindness to the truth.