THE most segregated time in America is 11 a.m. on Sundays. Martin Luther King Jr’s denunciation of Christian culture reverberates beyond time and place, not least in the conversations featured in No Justice, No Peace: Religion and protest (Radio 4, Wednesday of last week). This was an impressive exposition of the relationship between Christianity and racial inequality, presented by Chine McDonald.
That the Bible has been invoked to justify racial oppression renders Christian identity in a BAME context that much more complicated, not least in communities where biblical authority is particularly venerated. McDonald posed the question: does Jesus or St Paul say enough against slavery? The answer entails reversion to all manner of questions regarding the Bible — questions that are not unrelated to the debates currently playing out around our more recent historical icons.
If, incidentally, anybody doubts the potency of Winston Churchill’s statue, then they might consider Uri Geller’s contribution to James Veitch’s Contractual Obligation (Radio 4, Saturday), in which the notorious spoon-bender tells a story of Theresa May handling one of Churchill’s spoons. From that moment, Mr Geller claims, Mrs May was destined for the highest office.
But, to return to McDonald’s programme: the most incisive contribution came from Ben Lindsay, a black pastor serving a predominantly white congregation in south London (Features, 12 July 2019). His account of “integration fatigue” articulated the long-term psychological stress of having to manage hundreds of social negotiations a day, most of them unnoticed by the community.
As the witnesses to this programme agreed, neither in this country nor in the United States, has racial justice been given enough consideration.
If, in 40 years’ time, there is any sensible talk radio still being produced, then we will, no doubt, mark the Covid crisis with series such as A Big Disease with a Little Name (Radio 4, weekdays, Friday omnibus), which remembered the outbreak of AIDS in the early 1980s through interviews with patients, doctors, and researchers.
Before it was AIDS, the little name was GRID, standing for Gay Related Immune Deficiency and for a prejudice that undoubtedly hindered treatment in those early years.
In an era when overtly gay Lonely Hearts adverts were hard to find, getting information was a challenge, as we heard from Rupert Whitaker, the partner of Terrence Higgins, in whose name the first notable AIDS charity was created. Among the gay community, there was mistrust at what some regarded as a conspiracy to pathologise a lifestyle. But the reality of the disease was never in doubt to one practitioner, Jonathan Weber, whose research at St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, served to inform government policy. Of the 400 patients in his cohort, 399 died.
Listen to an interview with Chine McDonald on the Church Times Podcast.