Columnist: Wit & Wisdom

Few of us would feel anything other than annoyance if we were accused of being a bigot; ‘It’s the other side that’s bigoted!’, writes Adam Harbinson.

Tuesday, 6th July 2021, 11:30 am

Funny that, for the very term ‘the other side’ betrays a bigoted attitude, whether the ‘other side’ refers to black/white, male/female, Christian/Muslim, gay/straight or loyalist/nationalist.

Bigotry is defined as a blind and obstinate attachment to a particular creed, party or opinion, and it’s destructive because it denies the fact that we are all one. There is no other side.

I worked in an inner city church some years ago and the minister and I agreed to provide a Citizens’ Advice service for people from the Markets in Belfast, a mainly Catholic and socially deprived area, but the church committee strangled the initiative at birth, because; ‘We don’t want that sort of people in our church!’. That’s bigotry on stilts.

Adam Harbinson.

There’s a breathtaking example of bigotry in the early church, comprehensively stamped on by divine intervention.

Peter was enjoying an afternoon nap on the flat roof of his friend’s house. Peter was Jewish, thankful and proud that the Jews were God’s chosen people, but he was to learn a hard lesson.

As he slipped into a trance he saw a great sheet suspended by its four corners being lowered from the sky. In the sheet were all sorts of four footed animals, reptiles and birds, and a voice told him, ‘Get up Peter, kill and eat.’

And he uttered his infamous oxymoron, ‘No Lord’. How can you speak those two words in the same sentence? And then he sought to give God a lesson; ‘It is forbidden in our Jewish laws’, and this happened three times.

However, what Peter didn’t know was that he was about to be called upon to preach the gospel to a prominent Gentile, one whom he considered untouchable and, in due course, he began his sermon by saying: ‘It is against our Jewish laws for me to enter a Gentile house’, but God had other ideas and the lesson of the heavenly sheet was effectively dismantling his religious resistance.

His penny was beginning to drop.

What we can learn from this account is that bigotry and the Spirit of Jesus are incompatible, while bigotry and religion can quite happily co-exist, in fact when you think about it, isn’t denominationalism an example of bigotry? Us and them?

Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world.’ He’s not interested in flags and emblems, marching bands or territorial boundaries.

But when will our penny drop?

Read more from Adam: