Engaging with those we most ardently disagree with is a tricky business. We leave ourselves open to being deliberately misunderstood and personally attacked by those with a very different agenda. But doing so in public brings a whole host of other considerations into play- most notably the ‘oxygen of publicity’ angle. Hence the long-standing policy of not offering the BNP space on regular political discussion programmes such as the BBC’s Question Time. The BNP’s racist values are so abhorrent that providing them with an opportunity to reach more of the population with their message outweighs the democratic right to have your voice heard. Or so the argument goes. But the election of 2 BNP MEPs has changed the goalposts. And the BBC has had a change of heart.
The values of the BNP are so at odds with the political mainstream that they have been treated as a special case. But what if the boot was on a different foot altogether? How about the political establishment of the day decided that a ‘No platform’ policy was applicable to evangelical Christians? Would we be disinterested then? There are certainly those who think we may be heading in that direction, in the not-too-distant-future.
Jesus said ‘Love your enemies’. I don’t seem to recall any conditions attached. Apart from praying for them, that is. Maybe love includes sitting down with them, listening to their opinions and engaging them in debate. What an opportunity for grace and truth to be demonstrated together. So, three cheers to the main political parties for agreeing to be part of the debate. And if you’re asked to be the fifth member? Let’s pray you have more to offer than an empty chair.