In a recent article in Christian Aid Magazine Susan Durber, Christian Aid’s theology coordinator, reports the astonished reaction of a BBC1 Question Time audience to Jeanette Winterson’s use of the words of Jesus to back up her point in a discussion about poverty.
Winterson later reiterated her point on Twitter:
Durber expresses her delight at the warm response Winterson received. This is unsurprising after all Winterson’s comment supports Durber’s own view of Jesus as the radical subversive. For the Christian Aid theologian declares that ‘to be Christian is to hear that voice [of Jesus] and keep trying to listen to it’.
Both show a healthy attitude to Jesus. He has his own voice and neither his admirers nor followers should try to speak over him.
Too often I fear that Christians adopt Jesus as their personal property. They sing of ‘my Jesus’ and ‘my Saviour’. I am grateful that he both existed and is the Saviour. But it is the possessiveness of this language and the presumed relationship underpinning it which grates. He is not mine. If anything, I am his. It is not a relationship of equals.
It is a delightful surprise whenever the words of Christ enter the political debate – especially when he is used to support the views of those who are not paid-up members of the church or one of its authorised personnel. It is even more important when what he said shapes the debate or at least contributes to it.
It reminds those of us who are church-based followers of Jesus that he is better known than we might imagine. His words are remembered by – and speak to – more people than those who go to church on a Sunday. And, in fact, sometimes the words of Jesus may speak with greater effect when they are said by people who do not have an explicit Christian allegiance.
While Archbishops and political leaders and commentators debate the Christian credentials of our nation and the existence of the State Church (see, eg, here, here and here), the words and teachings of Jesus speak to the political issues of the day on Question Time. Words and sentiments too awkward, too inconvenient, too challenging for any government or church state to co-opt. But words which nonetheless must, should and can be heard – though not necessarily in the accent of the Faith which bears his name.