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  • Writer's pictureRoss Moughtin

Getting involved, the antidote to apathy


 

Lots happening at the moment.

 

The General Election, of course:  just three weeks to go.  Also the French elections provides continuous copy for our incredulous media.  Then Taylor is just down the A59, filling Anfield for three consecutive nights while Swifties overwhelm the city.

 

The Olympics, of course, are about to loom out of the mist while this evening the Euro’s kick off in Munich to Gaelic acclaim. 

 

However, if the truth be told I’m not overwhelmed with excitement.

 

Sadly the General Election campaign is becoming a Vote for us and get a free microwave campaign.  And when it comes to Taylor Swift I am firmly in the category with Judge James Pickles who at the height of Beatlemania wonderfully asked: “Who are the Beatles?”

 

The Olympics, of course, I will enjoy – as long as Team GB wins medals.  And then the Euros: Will I be able to cope?  My heart has been broken so many times. Do I have the willpower to put myself through the wringer once again?

 

Which finally brings me, after six paragraphs, to the presence of apathy in our culture. A-, which is the negative prefix in Greek, and pathos which means emotion.  That is, Not-feeling,  Not wanting to get involved.

 

Mind you, as a vicar and also chair of the Governing Body I soon learned that people only attend Annual General Meetings when things, as they see it, are going pear-shaped.  When things are going well, no one turns up apart from those who have to. 

 

Sadly the temptation is to encourage apathy in order to ensure a quiet life.  No one likes being held to account by the awkward squad.  And yet as athlete Chris Long points out: “For all the evils in the world, I think apathy is one of the most dangerous.”

 

There was an excellent article on Apathy in Wednesday’s Times: Apathy in the UK isn’t so bad for democracy, by James Marriott.  His argument? “Don’t look down on the less well informed: our electoral system wouldn’t work without them.”

 

He makes the point that we are overwhelmed with information.  I can well remember the time – I’m sure you can - when to know the news, you had to wait.  Either for the morning paper to arrive or for the next BBC news bulletin.  Even worse when you were abroad on holiday, reading yesterday’s news from an overpriced newspaper.

 

Nowadays we are overwhelmed with information, news, gossip, fake-news and rumour.  Which strangely doesn’t help but simply bolster our prejudices as we choose our sources and inhabit our own echo chamber. 

 

As Christians, as disciples of Jesus, we need to break free of our algorithms and face up to facts we find uncomfortable.  It’s not a bad discipline to read newspapers with a different world view than our own, something that I personally find difficult. 

 

But there’s wider picture here regarding how we think and find our place in the world.

 

Fundamentally, Christians do not fear suffering, even our hearts being broken again.  I remember thinking 46 years ago, just days after my ordination, thinking that if I was going to thrive in ministry, I would need to handle disappointment.  The following day few people turned up for our Saturday workshop. 

 

So how do we handle disappointment? 

 

Knowing that God seems to prefer to work through our failure and weaknesses, such as the apostle Paul’s thorn in the flesh (whatever that was): ‘But (the Lord) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9).

 

So we do not fear coming last (unless it is the Ormskirk Parkrun) nor being laughed at nor disparaged.  “Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in Thy name.”  This refusal to be intimidated gives us a resolve and resilience to get stuck in.

 

I know it was over two centuries ago but I am still in awe of the persistence of William Wilberforce who presented a bill in the House of Commons for the abolition of the slave trade every year from 1789 to 1807 until he succeeded.  That’s political courage in the name of Christ. 

 

Moreover, as Christians we reject selfishness.  Me-first soon becomes Only-me. We get involved because we realise the importance of community, and here Christians have a strong track record, be it in running foodbanks or caring for neighbours.   

 

Last week you may have noticed was the Big Help Out, to encourage people to volunteer, to get involved.  The reality is that many of our voluntary societies were started by Christians to meet a particular need while it is well documented that Christians are more likely to be volunteer, to get involved.   

 

So what’s God saying to you?   The chances are that when you think “Someone should do something about that!” God is challenging you to do it.

 

Or there again, you can stay at home and watch Netflix.

 

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