Awkward – the unsayable?

A baby boy is born, rejoice, a symbol of hope in troubled times.  That was the general mood of many public statements yesterday.  Carrie Symonds, the prime-minister’s fiancé had given birth.

This was the Archbishop of Canterbury’s reaction.

There is a lot to be thankful for.  A few weeks back, we were praying for Boris and for Carrie as both were taken ill with Coronavirus and particularly as the PM’s own health deteriorated rapidly.  We did so for two reasons, first of all because it is the basic human  thing to do – this is another person made in God’s image. Secondly because we are to pray for our leaders.  This country needs stable leadership at this time.

Rightly, though sadly given it should not have had to be said, a number of people pointed out that we should not need to qualify our prayers and good wishes by announcing our disagreements with the PM politically.

One of the things I prayed for and continue to pray for was the safety of the baby.  We hope that this little one is well, safe from the virus and that there are no complications. So, safe delivery of the baby is something to be thankful for, indeed we celebrate new life.

However, I felt a little awkward about the gushing congratulations expressed by church leaders.  Why?  Well, whilst the safe delivery of a baby is a good thing, the circumstances that led to this remain not good.  The fact is that the child is a result of one relationship ending of a broken marriage. We have a prime minister who shows little regard for the importance of marriage.

One of the reasons that I could not personally vote Conservative at the last General Election was because of my concerns about the PM’s character.  That concern has not gone away. I think that overall, this government has handled the crisis well and that Boris has done a good job.   I think that the opposition and the media should engage supportively as critical friends and I find the “gotcha” approach of some of celebrity journalists as distasteful as the way that some delighted in the ill health of Boris and other Cabinet members.

However, just as a difference of political views should not stop me wishing a man well or being supportive during a crisis, the converse is true.  The crisis and Boris’ own personal drama should not give him immunity from challenge over his character and policies.  It should be okay to say that you disagree with him whether over the methods of government employed or if you are left wing and concerned at the harshness of his policies or more traditionally conservative and worried about his spending plans.  Further, it should be okay to challenge on issues of character and morality as well.

Well, I doubt that Boris and Carrie care too much about how I feel about their relationship and the rights and wrongs of it.  They don’t even know who I am or what my opinions are.  However this issue is not just a specfic or hypothetical one.  Time and time again in family life and in church life we are faced with the awkward situation.

  • A friend commits adultery, divorces their wife or husband and then remarries. How am I to respond when the invite to the marriage comes?
  • Someone you care about in church goes and gets pregnant, the result of a one night stand.
  • A member of the church is dating a non-Christian. They arrive at a social event proudly displaying their engagement ring.

These situations are awkward because we are expected to join in the joy, to celebrate. We are expected to offer our congratulations. And yet this sits uncomfortably with us because this means that we are being asked to celebrate something that God’s word describes as wrong. So what do we do.

Well, in the case of Boris and Carrie, I did along with many well-wishes tweet them to say I was praying for them. I won’t be tweeting congratulations.  I will continue to pray for them. I will continue to pray that the child grows up safe, happy and well. I’ll keep praying that all three of them will come to faith in Christ.

And in the more personal situations? Well when a child is born, then that baby is not to blame, not responsible and not under the judgement of their parents.  Jesus is clear about that.  So, we take delight in seeing a healthy baby born, we continue to love and help the parent(s), we show compassion.  We act as family. And I’ve found that in those situations comes opportunity for repentance and restoration too.

It may feel awkward but in fact, the more natural thing for a Christian to do should be to commit both to truth and to compassion.

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