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The London Institute for Contemporary Christianity

Never miss a thing!

23.03.2023

Tweet of the Day

I am not a football fan. Actually, I know as little about football as someone who reads the news could. But even I recognised Gary Lineker, as he suddenly made front-page news by challenging the government’s policy on asylum seekers.

In the row that ensued, some argued that he breached impartiality rules by speaking out. Others, that since Lineker is employed to comment on football, he’s free to comment on politics in his own time. Many defended him, in agreement with his vocal criticism, arguing that he used his fame to stand for the vulnerable. Having a voice comes with the ethical responsibility to use it well.

Now that Lineker is back on air, it’s worth asking, what is impartiality?

Impartiality does not feature much in Scripture, other than in the administration of justice: when weighing up rights and wrongs, one should not be swayed by someone’s social position (Leviticus 19:15).

There, impartiality does not mean an absence of criticism. It’s not refusing to judge, staying silent, or giving equal weight to two parties in a dispute, regardless of their merits. It’s the opposite. Impartiality means not being affected by external factors in evaluating right and wrong actions. It means judging rightly and fairly. It means using our voice appropriately.

Lineker highlighted the plight of refugees – strangers and aliens. Challenging the oppression and mistreatment of those who are vulnerable, ‘the poor, the alien, the orphan and the widow’ (eg Deuteronomy 10:18; Zechariah 7:10) is a core principle of Old Testament law, while indifference to the plight of the poor is challenged again and again by the prophets. Jesus himself repeatedly drew attention to those who were marginalised.

Our judgement of one another is rarely perfect; we need self-awareness to recognise our biases, and the humility to know we may get it wrong. But this is no licence for silence. Impartiality requires that we give a fair and gracious hearing to both ‘sides’ – but not to pretend that both have equal ethical value.

Most of us don’t have Lineker’s social media following. But we’re all part of a world in which discrimination, injustice, and abuse happen – in small, everyday ways as well as on a broader canvas. In every situation, when tempted to stand by and not take sides, what is my responsibility? How can I speak and act with grace and firmness, in light of God’s imperative to love the orphan, the widow, the poor, and the alien?

Revd Prebendary Dr Isabelle Hamley

Secretary for Theology and Theological Adviser to the House of Bishops

Comments

  1. The sad reality is that the really serious issue of the plight of trafficked people by brutal gangs was obscured by a deeply offensive comparison with a Nazi regime that was preparing the way for a genocide of millions of people. Whatever you think of the government policy in question, doing more of the same or nothing is unacceptable. We need to pray for our politicians and those in neighbouring countries to be able to work together to address this very difficult issue. It is very easy to see how inappropriate foreign policy decisions by our Westminster governments in recent decades have contributed to the flow of people seeking to come here. We need to critique these choices and call for a reset in how governments engage with one another to make the world a better rather than a worse place to live. However this comparison by Mr Lineker is factually untrue. Taking care with our language is vitally important in our communications. As a Christian and as a historian I was deeply uncomfortable with his choice of language. We can do so much better than that.

    By Dr Brian Talbot  -  24 Mar 2023
    • What a shame that the BBC didn’t uphold their impartiality by running Mr Lineker’s claims through their “Fact Checker” process, instead of trying to shut him up. What kinds of language were the Nazis using about Jews and other minorities in the years before they had come to power and consolidated their grip on Germany enough to start on their Final Solution? Was it really so dissimilar to the language used by Ms Braverman? Personally, I am far more uncomfortable with her choice of language than Mr Lineker’s, which seems quite measured in comparison. But amongst all the noise about Gary’s tweets, it appears Suella has avoided the criticism she deserved. If taking care with our language is vitally important, shouldn’t we expect our Home Secretary do do much better too?

      By David Stephens  -  24 Mar 2023
    • We speak up to be heard and we could use God’s given wisdom to ensure as many people hear us as possible. Gary Lineker rightly spoke. And as you’ve rightly said, the comparison to the Nazi is the issue – it stirred up emotions and unfortunately drowned the main message. Social media is a noisy place but a highly effective platform to get attention and influence, if we get it right.

      By Wui Wui Yu  -  24 Mar 2023
  2. Thanks Isabelle. Yes, let’s be salt and light, and try not to walk on by.

    By Jon  -  24 Mar 2023
  3. I totally agree with this perceptive and well written article. And I love that you challenge us all ‘to speak and act with grace and firmness, in light of God’s imperative to love the orphan, the widow, the poor, and the alien.’ May I /we rise to that today.

    By Deborah Jenkins  -  24 Mar 2023
  4. I found Brian Talbot’s comments above well judged. Thank you. A balanced critique should call out the dreadful exploitation of the people trafficking gangs. That is the real injustice. Plus the corrosive effect on the UK’s legitimate asylum regime deriving from the arrival of so many through illegal means, mostly for economic reasons. The Government is wrestling with a very difficult problem – we should pray for them in that endeavour. Comparisons to the horrors of 1930s Germany seem rather facile, and divert from the real issues here.

    By Mark Womersley  -  24 Mar 2023
  5. The objection to Nazi references is a misdirection. Lineker likened the rhetoric being used as similar to that used by the Nazis against the Jews. And that is true, however distasteful it may seem to many. Vilification and alienating those who are no longer welcome in this country by some is where Nazism gained its momentum in the 1930s. We cannot afford to be oblivious of the hostility and vilification being promulgated in the so called National interest.
    Soon similar hostility may be directed at the Church in this land as the country moves further into its state of Secular Humanism. Christianity is bound to be the greater obstacle to be swept aside in the interests of that philosophy because it has been the basis of the national culture until recent decades. Other faiths can be addressed under alienation efforts.
    The Bible teaches us to expect to be persecuted for our beliefs and others who profess something similar, irrespective of any faith they do or do not hold are going to be swept up in the general persecution and clamour for those who are “unpatriotic” to be punished and killed by the dictatorship that is developing before our eyes!

    By Paul Woods  -  28 Mar 2023
  6. To those concerned that Lineker’s comments miss the brutal side of human trafficking, I would really encourage you to listen to the Guardian’s four-part series “Trafficked” which was on their Today in Focus podcast.

    The bottom line is that even when traffickers are convicted of trafficking and even modern slavery, the sentencing is very, very light for the weight of the crime. The current legislation proposed to “stop the boats” won’t stop traffickers — it will give them greater powers of intimidation over their victims and make it that much harder for police to prosecute them. It is a step backwards, not forwards, even aside from any humanitarian concerns for their victims and other asylum seekers.

    By Christine Woolgar  -  31 Mar 2023

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