David Cameron famously tried to soften his party’s approach to young people in a speech in 2006.
‘The hoodie is a response to a problem, not a problem in itself. We – the people in suits – often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters. But hoodies are more defensive than offensive. They’re a way to stay invisible in the street. In a dangerous environment the best thing to do is keep your head down, blend in. For some the hoodie represents all that’s wrong about youth culture in Britain today. For me, adult society’s response to the hoodie shows how far we are from finding the long-term answers to put things right.’
“Hug a hoodie” became a catchphrase used by the media to sum up this change of stance.
I think it’s time for Christians to love and embrace atheists and humanists. So how do we “hug a humanist”? I would suggest Paul’s words on love in I Corinthians 13 could help.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.
Although patience is a Christian virtue when it comes to atheists and humanists, it seem as if our patience runs thin. Being in dialogue with such people does require patience. You will be insulted but being insulted in Christ’s name is a privilege. Being kind is one of the most basic Christian characteristics. Kindness is saying and doing what is best for the other. Do not envy tells us to don’t feel inferior to your dialogue partner. We do not do a favour to anybody by being envious or defensive. Don’t be proud and feel superiority. We have not found the answer in Christ, Christ found us. There is no place for pride. Love doesn’t dishonour anybody. An atheist or humanist is made in God’s image and to defame that image is a sin against God whether that person believes in God or not. Love is not self-seeking. It should only seek the good of the other even if that other thinks that we are his or her enemy. Getting angry in debates with atheists, etc. is a real danger. We should be angry at injustice but not of unbelief. Keeping no record of wrongs; i.e. forgiving, is basic. We have been forgiven so much, we must forgive. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices in the truth. Our aim in loving people is to do them good not to win an argument. The truth is that which sets us free. Protection, faith, hope and perseverance will lead to the good for others.
Finally, salvation is a free gift which is to be received freely. We can only love people because God is love.