Brian Haw is dead
I was familiar with Haw’s protest, but until reading his obituary did not realize the connection between us – albeit a tenuous one. You see, I spent my childhood on the outskirts of Whitstable, in Kent, and in the summer would attend the ‘Sunshine Corner’ beach mission on Tankerton Slopes. My abiding memory of those days was that the prize for getting an answer to the Bible quiz right was always a packet of Spangles. (Do they still make Spangles?) However, for Haw, Sunshine Corner was where he came to faith in Jesus.
The rest of Haw’s life seems to have been a tough one – the suicide of his father, divorce from his wife due to the pressures caused by his protest, and the years of the protest itself, sleeping rough and being constantly pressured by politicians and police, before death at the relatively young age of 62.
Both the wisdom of some of Haw’s ‘lifestyle choices’ and the validity and effectiveness of his protest could be debated, but on those matters I would rather let the dead rest in peace. However, Haw surely exemplifies the title of this blog: What he thought really did matter. It mattered so much that it shaped every aspect of his life.
So here’s the thing – I find myself asking the question, “How much more should I be like Brian Haw?” Not necessarily in terms of sharing the convictions he held (and certainly not in allowing my convictions to drive my marriage to the point of divorce), but in being truly consistent as a consequence of what I believe?
True discipleship must mean a consistent outworking of one’s professed belief in Jesus Christ. This is the opposite of situation ethics, where I decide what is right dependent on the factors that confront me at the time. It is currently an unpopular title, but true consistency means that we should be in some sense idealists.
I believe (there it is again) that the Bible teaches this attitude. I have spent the last two Sundays preaching from Paul’s great exhortation in 1 Corinthians 15 about the resurrection. This is a passage all about belief, but it leads to very practical outcomes: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” Or, to put it another way, “What you think matters.”
Sunshine Corner feels a world away from me now, but perhaps some of the seeds sown there were more lasting than the Spangles.