I have a great deal of respect for Frank Ritchie. I believe that he does some great work in promoting humanitarian causes.
Frank works for Tear Fund NZ, an organisation similar to World Vision as their Education and Advocacy Manager, he is also a member of grass roots Labour, (but we wont hold that against him :D) and has recently become a frequent commentator at Red Alert.
I am somewhat perplexed though at a comment he has made in the comments section of this post.
Let us take a look at the post in full first.
Here in Aotearoa (NZ) there has been a campaign to put advertising on the sides of buses that says “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy life.” It’s commonly known as the Atheist Bus Campaign and follows on the heels of the same campaign in the U.K. It has garnered a lot of support and raised the funds necessary to get the messages of the side of buses… but now NZ Bus has backed out of running with the campaign due to complaints from the public
No problem with Atheist Bus having their say, personally think that they are wasting their time and it is a stupid message, but if they want to throw their money at a bus, I will not stand in their way. I am not surprised that the campaign has drawn complaints though.
I am an unashamed Christian. I work for a Christian development organisation, am a theological/biblical studies student, am licensed as a Minister in the Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand, consider myself a devoted follower and imitator of Jesus of Nazareth, believe that he was God incarnate, that he died and rose again and I take the Bible very seriously and have devoted myself to studying it.
I’m one of the last people anyone might call an atheist. That said, I wholeheartedly support the Atheist Bus Campaign. I uphold democracy and freedom of speech where it does not incite violence, as great tools of a healthy and functioning society.
Likewise, apart from the licensed Minster part and the biblical studies student (well not at an ‘official’ institute). I support the Bus Campaign to have their say, I do not support the objectives of the campaign at all.
A good community encourages dialogue and conversation that allows opposing opinions to be voiced. The ability for us to share and be heard whilst also listening to others when they share is critical for the development of empathy and relationship within a community. Shutting down some voices while favouring others breeds divisiveness and resentment. This doesn’t mean we have to agree, but it does mean we have to provide room for varying voices and at the end of the day, if we wish for others to listen to us and give us room to speak, then we must be willing to allow the same in return.
Frank might want to point that first sentence out to the team at Red Alert :D, other than that, I agree with the basic gist of Frank’s comment, I just wish more people would take it on board! Often when debating issues such as AGW, denying AGW is compared to denying the holocaust.
The Atheist Bus Campaign provides an opportunity for a group to be heard. It provides an opportunity for conversation and discussion and it gives room for people to air their beliefs about the existence and nature of God where they might have otherwise felt unable to, whichever side of the discussion they feel closest to. The campaign offers a great opportunity that should be supported by people of all thoughts, those who don’t believe in God, but also those who do. We should be supporting the right for the ad to be put out there in the public domain. NZ Bus, please run with the ads.
Interesting. Yes, the campaign provides the opportunity for a group to put the point across in a series of ads and yes we should all support the right for the campaign to run just like we should support the right to the Danish cartoonist who drew this, agreeing with the message is an all together separate issue. It may provide the opportunity for discussion around those issues. The campaign should not however be supported by those who do believe in God, to do so is counter productive to say the least!
As you can see, it is only the last bit of Frank’s post that I disagree with, why then this post on it? Well, follow me to the comments section.
Mike, thanks for your comment. For what it’s worth, I’m considering throwing a few dollars into the campaign myself, just to show my support for the right of others to have their say.
How can a pastor financially support a campaign that promotes atheism, I find this odd. Sure, support their right to have a say, you’ve done that by posting a blog post about it on NZ top 100 Blog, but that is pretty much where I believe Frank should stop. Campaigning further for an “anti-god” campaign on the “official Tear Fund blog” must surely run in conflict of the values that Tear Fund stand for?
Further Discussion with Frank reveals that Humanitarian Chronicle is not the official blog of TEARFund.
From Frank via HC-
Alright, let me address the concern about me possibly giving money to the Atheist Bus Campaign.
The comment I made is this:
For what it’s worth, I’m considering throwing a few dollars into the campaign myself, just to show my support for the right of others to have their say.
Allow me to stress that at the time of writing that comment, as stated, it was/is something I am considering – I have not committed myself to it.
That said, I have no moral or ethical reason for not doing so. To do so does not contradict anything I stand for.
At it’s simplest it would be a case of me putting my money where my mouth is for the one reason that I stated:
to show my support for the right of others to have their say.
Giving a small donation (and I’m only talking about $10-$20) would demonstrate that support beyond mere words on a blog.
Allow me to state for the record that I do not agree with the statement in the campaign that there probably is no God. My disagreement with that statement should be blatantly obvious – but I wholeheartedly support the right for it to be said and I love the conversations that can come from it, the sort of conversation that is already taking place here.
If the bus company had just gone ahead and displayed the ads I wouldn’t bother donating anything or even be considering it… but it hasn’t, so as a Christian who believes in giving opportunity for others to have a voice and as someone who loves to see forums develop where differing voices coming together, by donating I would be, in a sense, helping to create a forum, helping to spark a conversation, demonstrating a willingness to step beyond the boundary of the Christian circle and sit with another group, giving my help.
I can understand why people would struggle with any move from someone such as myself to donate to this campaign even though the statement of the campaign dismisses something I believe in – but I’ve got nothing to be scared of by saying to people I disagree with, I support you and want you to have your say and I’m willing to front up with something from my wallet to demonstrate that.
It in no way changes anything that I believe in or my wholehearted commitment to living as a disciple of Jesus.