Complicity and saying sorry

In my article about the EHCR report on anti-Semitism I started to raise the issue of complicity. There is a level at which we all as a society (perhaps with one or two exceptions) have to recognise a level of complicity in the way that this toxic evil was allowed to get to the heart of our national political life at such a concentrated level.

For churches and church leaders this means that we have once again got to recognise our failure to deal with the sin of racism. This shows that it is not just about #BlackLivesMatter and I hope that those church leaders who took the knee, used hashtags or put out statements will be as strong in both speaking up against this form of racism and repenting complicity too.

  • When we failed to challenge and correct anti-Semitic words and actions amongst Christians, we were complicit.
  • When we allowed a deviant form of theology to influence how people thought and behaved we were complicit
  • When we didn’t speak out as loudly, clearly and persistently on this moral issue as on other moral issues we were complicit
  • When we did not ensure that this public, persistent and toxic sin was dealt with by appropriate church discipline we were complicit
  • When we whitewashed our history because we could not admit that our heroes were also sinners we were complicit.

For national leaders, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t think it is enough to simply say that this was somebody else’s problem on somebody else’s watch. Keir Starmer has made a start in his statement by acknowledging shame and apologising on behalf of Labour. However, I believe he needs to go further. He needs to acknowledge that those like him who stayed in the shadow cabinet were also complicit. He also needs to apologise to those who were driven out not just because they were driven out but because others failed to stand with them.

I am also uncomfortable with the “never again…” language. I understand the sentiment but no, Keir, this is not a promise you can make. You along with everyone else in the Labour movement are fallible. You can promise to learn and to try to do better and that you are always willing to be challenged and corrected but you can never promise that you won’t let people down again.

I would also like to hear the Prime Minister speaking, not to score political points but to acknowledge that this is a day of shame for all not just for one party. I want to hear him recognise the deep damage done to all of society by toxic politics, anti-Semitism and racism.

This comes to the heart of some things I’ve been saying about repentance and forgiveness recently. First of all, there is a difference between being complicit and being the direct originator of a problem.  Secondly, there is a difference between malicious, wilful sin and ignorant/unintentional sin. Thirdly there is a difference between blame and responsibility. However it is important that we accept responsibility when we have been complicit and say sorry. 

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