Connecting with Culture
It’s been said that culture is ‘what we make of the world’, but what does that look like as Christians? How can we begin conversations about what’s goin...
As a football fan, it feels like there is an ever-lengthening list of reasons to feel conflicted about the sport. This summer, it’s been the Saudi Pro League, which has made headlines as a growing number of top international male players have signed lucrative deals to play in Saudi Arabia next season.
One of the most prominent of these is Liverpool and England midfielder Jordan Henderson, who last week announced he was joining Saudi Pro team Al-Ettifaq, to much dismay. Henderson has previously put social causes ahead of money, having led the drive for footballers to donate their salaries to frontline NHS workers during Covid.
Ahead of last year’s World Cup in Qatar, Henderson described the country’s record on human rights as ‘shocking, disappointing and horrendous’, and he’s repeatedly demonstrated his concern for LGBT+ rights by wearing a rainbow armband, even personally contacting fans to offer them his backing.
It has come as a surprise to many, then, that Henderson would choose to move to a country with an equally equivocal human rights record to Qatar. It makes his activism and personal commitment seem somewhat empty.
The outrage and disappointment this has prompted stem not primarily from disloyalty but from the failure to match word and action, a perceived lack of integrity. It shows that ethical principles, religious or otherwise, cannot be held cheaply. There is often a cost, a higher standard, expected of those of those who have expressed deeply held beliefs, and it feels unpalatable that the offer of £700,000 a week is the price of compromise.
Faith without deeds, James 2 points out, is useless. Faith is often what compels us to action, but it is also right that our faith should match our actions. Society expects integrity of faith and deed, of principles and practice, and is right to do so.
It is also a reminder that, as Matthew 5:37 puts it, we should ‘simply let our yes be yes and our no be no’. We should seek to reconcile our words with our actions, in a world which notices when this isn’t the case. If Jordan Henderson’s commitment to human rights is called into question by his move to Saudi Arabia, so too might the value of Christian faith be questioned if our ‘yes’ is not seen to be yes unambiguously. In work, sport, life, wherever, if our faith and principles matter at all, integrity has to be the goal.
Hannah is senior researcher at Theos Think Tank and tweets at @hannahmerich