A recent article (Sept. 11th 2020) in the Telegraph reports that:
“The coronavirus pandemic has fuelled “toxic” social divides over anti-maskers and lockdown rule-breakers which are more divisive than those over Brexit, a new report has found.
The “Renew Normal” survey revealed that many people experienced “visceral feelings” towards those who do not abide by Government restrictions which far overshadow clashes of opinion on Brexit.
The poll of 10,000 people, carried out for the think tank Demos, found that close to two in three mask-wearers in Britain have severely negative attitudes towards non-mask wearers, while 68 per cent of those who adhered to lockdown strongly disapprove of rule-breakers.
In comparison, only one in three of those who supported Remain in the EU referendum felt the same sort of negative emotion towards Leavers.”
In some ways these findings are not surprising but the survey does demonstrate that we are often too ready to criticise others when they are perceived to be behaving in ways that we disapprove of. The divisions in society of “them and us” are the result of a common human failing to identify those not in our social group as “alien”.
Jesus encountered similar divisions in his day between Jews and Samaritans, Pharisees and tax collectors, and Roman conquerors and their Jewish subjects to name but a few! If you read through the gospels you will discover that Jesus was constantly breaking down barriers between individuals and groups and was frequently heavily criticised by the establishment for doing so. One ‘stand out’ example of this is the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus the tax collector recorded in Luke’s gospel chapter 19. Tax collectors were often in ‘cahoots’ with the Roman administration and charged too much tax and pocketed the difference. They were hated and despised by ordinary folks who ostracised them. Yet Jesus invites himself to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal with the result that Zacchaeus’ life was turned upside down and put the right way up!
Christians are called upon to follow the ‘Way’ of their master and to be bridge builders to the marginalised and often chaotic elements in society.
“Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family you did it to me.” Matthew 25:40
Are we ready to take up the challenge?