Thursday, August 03, 2017

Why I posted about Charlie Gard

I almost never get involved in Facebook debates. Twitter, yes, but my personal FB account is just for relaxing. If someone sends me a work related fb message, I even ask them to email me instead. So why did I get involved about the Charlie Gard case?

In my world, which is primarily a South London working class world I've seen nothing but support for the wishes of Charlie Gard's parents. Whether its been the wishes for him to die at home, or to have experimental treatment. People have thought the parents should have more say than the hospital or the courts. In my world, people have been shocked at GOSH's response over the months. My world is a world that often sees 1) the courts refuse good working class dads access to see their kids, and 2) social workers hastily remove kids from their working class parents. My world has been continually told that 'we don't know what's best for our kids'. That we're emotional, whilst others are objective. But we don't think that's right, nor do we think the courts and medical professionals are as objective as they think they are. So, I just assumed that my Christian brothers and sisters felt the same way. So in this sense, my bad, I was ignorant (see previous posts for the inside joke here)!   

Last Saturday I saw articles being shared on Facebook that reminded me of the typical narrative that if working class people have a different view, they must be ignorant and manipulated, and not objective. One of those articles was by Melanie Phillips. She didn't go so far as to explicitly say that Charlie's parents had been ignorant, but calling the campaign 'ignorant' was close, and she used emotional language when describing either the parents or protestors. So I wrote that, ' it immediately reminded me the spin put on the Brexit referendum. This spin goes like this, 'working class people have fought for an opinion they have, they must be ignorant.' If you listened to Melanie's later article you know that she thinks that the courts, GOSH and herself are objective and only used the facts. She does not however include the working class parent's own assessments of Charlie's condition as facts. I on the other hand believe (as a former doctor told me the other day), that usually its the parents that know best about their children's health. I suspect that some people would agree, but more so depending on the class of the parents.

I wasn't shocked by Melanie's article, I've grown up hearing this narrative for over 40 years, I was shocked, because I was seeing these types of articles being shared and liked by Middle Class Conservative Evangelicals whose comments reflected this narrative. Now, I was a little bit shocked because of Christians siding with the State and assuming its impartiality - but that probably wouldn't have caused me to write a response. But I was more shocked that people felt moved to share and like this POV when its so provocative for the majority of my fb friends who are from council estates and not believers yet. This was similar to how during Brexit, one council estate friend left social media because of the shocking statements they were seeing from middle class Christians. You see, if people see Christians promoting this view that has a lot of classist baggage with it, it makes it harder for them to embrace the gospel that already seems so middle class in its trappings. You might say, everyone's entitled to their own opinion, but when a Christian organisation that I respect, shared Melanie's article, praising its 'perception' (as opposed to the ignorance of others) it meant that this narrative was now being clearly aligned with Christian values. At this point, I felt compelled to weigh in on the subject.

I don't for one second think any of my Christian friends INTENDED harm. But I would suggest there could be the IMPACT of harming the gospel message here. Usually in these situations, the majority culture can't see the impact. For example, I've seen so many Christian blog posts in the USA that have unwittingly offended African Americans. When there have then been complaints, the majority culture has usually pushed back (as people do with me in the UK) complaining that:
1) the minority culture is misunderstanding, 
2) the minority culture is seeing things that aren't really there, 
3) the minority culture is getting too much into justice issues. 
4) The minority culture doesn't get how 'down' I really am with their culture. Over here this includes claims as bizarre as 'my grandad was working class'.
5) The minority culture is showing their own bias (admitting the problem of bias, but claiming its a problem for the minorities, not for the objective majority culture).

Sometimes, people within the minority culture join the majority culture's POV and are used as examples of how there really is no problem. This doesn't however disprove implicit bias at all, because even minorities can be biased against minorities, and we're not a monolith. All the while, even if there's some validity in these points, the teachable moment is lost. Instead of asking questions, the majority culture defends itself. But even journalists and HR departments today admit bias, so we should be all the more open, for the sake of the gospel to consider how our biases hinder the gospel (Ps 4:4; 139:23-24).