If the BBC managed to get the Cliff Richard story so catastrophically wrong, it begs the question…what else are they getting wrong? The consequences of such unfounded insinuations will undoubtedly be felt for a very long time to come, and rightly so. To ruin a person’s reputation because of crass & inaccurate reporting is far beyond unfair. It is a blatant abuse of power which no amount of compensation can ever salvage.
The Cliff Richard story is a high profile example of what many lesser known people have had to endure because of mis-reporting and bullying by the press. Most victims of media injustice are powerless against such a gigantic organisation like the BBC. Those who peddle accusatory stories know they can hide behind the protection of the corporation – unaccountable and unconcerned about the collateral damage their cheap headlines create. But truth really matters. It is the foundation of trust.
It is one thing for the media to speak ‘truth to power’. Problem is, the industry itself has become far too powerful. And far from conveying ‘truth’, it often feels more like peddling propaganda than reporting news. While there are many brilliant journalists out there who operate with upmost honesty, it is not beyond the bounds of reason to think that some journalists might have personal vendetta’s they are pursuing. What about the possibility of rich and powerful lobbyists pushing their particular agenda’s through the media too…and paying for the privilege? If it is true that these kind of things go on, then what is the extent of it? Who knows?
One thing is for sure. The idea of self regulation in the press is something which must now be seriously questioned. This privilege has been thrown away by a culture of contempt. The media must be profoundly accountable for how issues are covered, just like any other public organisation. This is especially true of the BBC, a corporation which is afforded multiple millions of tax payers money.
Truth is, the media needs to get back to being factual & boring. We should never be aware of the personal opinions & biases of journalists, not even the faintest hint. Politicians, yes…because they are accountable to the electorate. But reporters? No. Impartiality is the basis of a healthy media. Sadly, this privilege has been abused by some who have used their position to gain influence which goes far beyond that of an ordinary citizen. For too long, the media have set themselves up as the moral guardians of a nation. Problem is…this kind of ‘morality’ is hypocritical, self-righteous & fundamentally flawed…as the recent Cliff Richard court case has proven. Trust has been eroded, perhaps even beyond repair.
Distrust is the price of dishonesty. Instead of trying to defend the indefensible, the media would do well to reflect carefully on what has led to the current predicament. Integrity matters. This is what builds trust.
Sometimes, it feels like the world is becoming increasingly judgmental and disinterested in understanding. When an accusatory culture rules the day, it creates a toxic environment where negativity and division flourishes. No doubt the thoughtless (and even abusive) use of social media has largely contributed to this vibe.
Yet in the midst of all the craziness, there are people – real people. No, not the caricatured stereotypes labelled by dogmatic idealism. Just down to earth, everyday people, each with their own story to tell. Truth is, everybody has one. But who will listen?
Some are able to articulate their stories better than others. But it’s our story that has led each of us to the point where we currently find ourselves in life. Our upbringing. Our circumstances. Our flaws. Our mistakes. Our joys. Our sorrows. Our disappointments. Our successes. The list goes on. These all form part of our story.
If only we took the time to listen a little more instead of throwing accusations. If only we sought to understand the experiences of others instead of judging them. If only we tried a little harder to see beyond the narrow idealistic argument to the grit of a path which has been walked before. Then maybe, just maybe, we’d measure our words more carefully and extend a little more grace. We all need it.
One of the greatest contributions each of us can make in our world today is to resist the pressure of merely running to the beat of the crowd. History teaches us how catastrophically dangerous this is. In a world of confused noise, wise people take time to think for themselves. One of the most helpful ways we can do this is to exercise the gift of listening. No-matter how much we feel we know, all of us have much to learn.
Above all other voices, what about the one that matters most? Who will believe his report? When God speaks, it’s usually quiet and still. It takes discipline and reflection to discern his wisdom, especially in the midst of a thunderously rowdy world. Yet his word is the one that is eternal consequence. Dare to stop. Dare to think. Dare to LISTEN.
Leadership in any sphere of life can be a lonely experience. It’s not that a leader isn’t surrounded by amazing people. No, it’s that the buck must stop somewhere. This is where true leaders step up.
In the late 1970’s, there was a British Prime Minister called Jim Callaghan. He was a decent man with a chirpy demeanour who the tabloid media nick-named ‘Sunny Jim’. Yet behind the seemingly relaxed exterior was a burdened soul who carried the weight of heavy criticism. Many historians today accept that Callaghan was unfairly blamed for a national crisis. During his twice weekly performance at Prime Ministers Questions (an unforgiving environment at the best of times), he always asked his wife Audrey to accompany him. She would sit in the public gallery and Jim would regularly look up to her for comfort and reassurance. You see, she was the one person who came anywhere close to grasping the loneliness of what he had to bear.
In the good times, leaders resist credit and instead share it with others. In the tough times, leaders get out onto the front line and embrace responsibility, often receiving far more flack than they deserve. Yet any leader worth their salt will never complain about this apparent injustice. They simply accept it as part of the price a leader must pay. The worst kind of leadership is that which deflects and blames others. This produces toxic culture which eventually ends up with an implosion of trust. People will never flourish in an environment like that.
If you should aspire to leadership in life, my advice is to quickly ditch any notions of privilege and position. Leadership is lonely. No-matter how prestigious others think it might appear, you will rarely ‘feel’ it. But you will be all too aware of how vulnerable and weak you are. Criticism will come at an incredibly fast pace. Thats why faithfulness matters. In our weakness, Christ’s strength is made perfect.
The ultimate example of leadership is Jesus. He held no position and occupied no office. Instead, he made himself of no reputation and carried a servant heart (Phil 2:5-11). He embraced the responsibility of our sin and covered the cost, a travesty of justice which he bore with grace and love. Despite the loneliness and misunderstanding, Jesus went all the way. This is REAL leadership.
At the wedding of Harry & Meghan, something happened which caused quite a stir. A bishop by the name of Michael Curry preached a brilliant sermon which had some real conviction & passion. These are things you don’t always find amidst the formal pomp and circumstance of a British royal wedding.
The response to Bishop Curry’s message by the stiff upper lip types was monotonously predictable. There was a great deal of murmuring from those who can’t bring themselves to recognise any different expression of church other than the established one. The BBC commentator patronisingly described Bishop Curry’s sermon as ‘forceful and uplifting‘. Say what?? Mr BBC man was uttering verbal clap trap of the most condescending kind. Honestly….the BBC…bless. Bishop Michael was different…and surely this should be well and truly celebrated?!!! He wasn’t being ‘forceful‘ at all. He simply sounded like a man who believed what he was talking about. That’s a good thing!!!
As I watched Bishop Curry preaching his brilliant message and the awkward reaction afterwards, my mind was drawn back to something that happened when we first planted the Junction Church in Loughborough. I’ll never forget chatting to a brand new Christian who’d been journeying with us. This zealous person had gone into town giving out flyers advertising our new church (something which we had not asked them to do). After receiving lots of positive feedback from passers by, a church minister who happened to walk by (wearing a collar) took one of the flyers and rudely asked what this was all about. As the new Christian naively tried to explain our heart, the minister then proceeded to scrunch up the flyer and grumbled words to the effect ‘we don’t need another church in this town‘ before abruptly walking off. The new Christian could hardly believe what had just happened. Truly shocking stuff…yet that’s just one story!! Surely it would have been far better to just celebrate a different kind of church instead of criticising it?
Anyway…back to Bishop Curry. I loved his sermon. I love it that he was different. I love the fact that he dared to bring some warm passion into a context which can be cold and clinical. This is exactly what the UK Church needs more of. It’s something to be celebrated, not frowned upon. This is a new day and there’s change in the air. A new generation is rising up. It’s time to get with it. God bless Bishop Michael!!
There’s no such thing as a perfect life, not here on earth anyway. All of us have areas of challenge and struggle which we have to face. For me, I had to come to terms with a less than ideal situation pretty early on. This meant I was fostered from the age of 5 right up until my 18th birthday. So it’s been an interesting journey, complex and way beyond my control.
Thing is, sympathy is not the answer to hardship. Most people detest the idea of others feeling sorry for them. It’s disempowering and pitiful. Actually, I’ve discovered for myself that God’s grace not only saves me but empowers my life too. It’s upon this truth where true freedom is found.
In a less than perfect world, God is totally worth trusting. That’s exactly what I’ve chosen to do. He has made a universe of difference to me. This doesn’t mean I suddenly have answers to all the complicated questions of life. I don’t. We’re all born into a unique set of circumstances. Everyone has struggles. Just because someone else might have been brought up differently to me doesn’t mean they don’t have their share of issues too. These normally just take a different form. That’s why it’s a mistake to measure a person’s inward wellbeing by their outward appearance. The two don’t necessarily equate. No-matter how good somebody’s life may look, the truth is that none of us are perfect.
So whoever you are and whatever you’ve been through, lean into God’s grace. Why? Because none of us are THAT good. But God’s grace really is THAT good. It has saved me. It can save you too. Lean in. Keep trusting. Allow God’s grace to shape your life. This is what will make a difference.