I live in Derbyshire and I sometimes go to my local pub called The Rose and Crown. I was there last week chatting to the parish priest whilst observing the largely male clientèle as they laughed and moaned and played dominoes very loudly. (Yes it can be a loud game). I’ve spent a great deal of the last ten years of my life talking to working class men (which is my background too) about Jesus Christ in pubs, working mens clubs, curry houses and sports clubs.
Its often a little bit “cold” to start with but humour and food normally cuts through. I’ve got many reflections after all these years but one of them is that the Christian world I view in church, on social media and on TV/radio is light years away from the lives that these men live. Sometimes I think even Scotty wouldn't be able to get the warp drive pumping fast enough to make up the distance any time soon.
The Sun claims its has over 7 million readers. 44% of them are apparently women. It also reaches more men under the age of 35 than its next three nearest competitors. Crucially its readership is 68% in the C2DE demographic. That's manual workers (skilled and unskilled), working class, and those not working.
Now, I don't read The Sun and I’ve actually never, ever purchased a copy. I have older teenage daughters. I see men looking at them in a way that objectifies them. I have campaigned to see the eradication of violence against women. I have counselled countless numbers of men with addictions to pornography. I know the score. I can't help but feel however that not many Christians actually read The Sun anyway? I’m not aware of any. I bet they read The Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Independent, The Times, The Telegraph.
I can't help but feel that not many Christians actually read The Sun anyway
Back to my mates in the pub. If I told them I was boycotting The Sun they would just raise their eyebrows over their pint glass and get back to the dominoes and probably never talk to me again. But - and this is the crucial 'but' - if I told them that I had helped set up a project where men who are about to have sex with an under-age girl in South Asia are thwarted and potentially nicked, then they listen - and in one case even got a bit wet around the eyes.
They think all we do is moan and beat each other up in the synod or on social media (if they're younger). They equate us with Songs of Praise. They think Jesus is blond-haired, slightly wet and weird. They think we go through life in a haze of complaint.
I once ordered a meal in a restaurant opposite a conference centre. The waiter smiled at me.
“Lot of Christians in here tonight.”
Me:- “How do you know?”
“I get more complaints, they look miserable, they don't tip and only order tap water 'cos its free.”
And there it is - right there. So yes, boycott The Sun by all means (or just persist in never having purchased it anyway) but please think about how we reach the missing millions of working class blokes.
For what it's worth, I support the boycott and so should you.