Last week, Government minister Heather Wheeler was forced to apologise after commenting that she had just made a speech in “Birmingham or Blackpool or some god awful place.” It seems that politicians have trouble with the basic principle of not saying offensive things about the people they want to elect them. Remember Boris Johnson having to go on an apology tour of Liverpool, Gordon Brown referring to a voter as a bigot or Emily Thornbury putting up a social media post mocking white van drivers who fly England flags from their windows.
Wheeler’s retraction included the argument that her comments were intended as humour and didn’t reflect her true opinions. If anything that makes things worse. Her insincerity means that she was simply using Birmingham and Blackpool to get cheap laughs whilst saying things she considered untrue.
As a Christian I also find the inability of people in the public eye to speak without blaspheming grievous too. No, minister my city is not “God awful” because unless you are using an older sense of the word “awful” to suggest awe and dread producing then nothing that God does is awful.
No, minister my city is not awful. This is a city that we’ve come to love over the past decade. It’s part of a bustling conurbation of well over a million. It’s a city of thriving industry and commerce. It’s a city with fantastic universities and it’s a city packed with culture: historical places to visit from Aston Hall through to the Back to Back Houses, Cadbury’s World, parks, zoos etc. It’s home to Aston Villa, Birmingham City and one of the main cricket Test venues at Edgbaston. We’re shortly about to host the Commonwealth Games. Then there are the many theatres, cinemas and concert halls. At this stage I should probably mention that there are more canals here than Venice. This wonderful city is also home to people from many nationalities and backgrounds. I take pride and delight in my adopted city.
But here’s the thing. If we are going to criticise politicians for their derogatory remarks then we will do well to check the plank in our own eye too. You see, it isn’t good either when Christians are derogatory, dismissive or patronising about the places and people they are sent to reach and serve. We too can do that for the cheap laugh or to big up the sacrificial nature of our calling.
Yes, we will find so many examples of the Fall too. All of these people carry in them the consequences of sin. It means that at times we’ll meet hostility to the Gospel and yes we’ll see the ugly mark of evil. We’ll live among people who experience intense suffering. Yet, that won’t mark people in one place out from another. Nor will it give us status over them because we too are human, we too fell in Adam, we too have fallen short of God’s Glory. We are saved by grace to exclude boasting.
So, open your eyes to the people and neighbourhood around you. See the beauty of God’s creation. See people made in his image. See too their need for the Saviour. Learn to love the people and the place that God has called you too.