Earlier this week, I had wondered whether we should issue a ‘Wanted for Questioning’ or a ‘Missing in Action (or inaction!) Notice’ for Boris Johnson. We had seen so little of him in recent days, despite the coronovirus scare and the awful floods that have been wreaking havoc everywhere.
Now, I’d be the first to agree that good leaders know how to delegate. I’m referring to last week’s Sunday Times, which hit the nail on the head: ‘Delegating is good in a leader, but the PM must not look idle.’
To be fair, I don’t think Boris’ absence had anything to do with idleness. I trust his PR machine when it insists that he is being briefed on everything (even if he has asked for shorter reports to be placed in his red box!). I reckon it’s more to do with his eagerness to protect his jolly ‘can-do’ image and his determination to avoid negative photo headlines and photo shoots.
What really disturbs me is the way he seems to be doing all he can not to expose himself to rigorous questioning by the media. It was a position he adopted during the election, as Andrew Neil discovered, and it is continuing now. But well-honed sound bites and reassuring claims that “all is under control” don’t really give me much confidence. In fact, the more he behaves like this, the more I am persuaded that he is afraid of scrutiny.
All of which stands in stark contrast to a piece of advice I find in the New Testament. Having told his friends to revere Jesus as Lord, the apostle Peter goes on to say, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”
That was quite a challenge given the fact that the letter was probably written in the mid 60s of the first century AD. The Christian claim was clearly upsetting the Jewish establishment at the time because James, the brother of Jesus, was executed in Jerusalem in AD 62. And it was a politically explosive claim, too, given the fact that the Romans acknowledged only one Lord, namely the emperor.
In fact, we will miss the challenging implications of this piece of advice if don’t understand just how unpopular Christians were at this time. According to the Roman historian Tacitus, the emperor Nero was able to use them as scapegoats following the great fire that raged through Rome because they were ‘hated for their abominations’ and their ‘hatred of the human race’.
These were trumped up charges, of course, but they reflect the contempt and the distaste the Roman populace felt for a small group of people who were trying to persuade them to acknowledge a crucified slave as their rightful king.
This was no easy task then and it is no easy task now, but like many other Christians I will continue to do this whether it makes me popular or not. Indeed I am very happy to make the case for Christianity. After all, if you believe something, you ought to have the courage to defend it, rather than hide behind a PR machine. And I certainly have good reasons for the hope that sustains me.
Rob James is a Baptist minister, writer and church and media consultant to the Evangelical Alliance Wales.