For years, the church has been putting its foot in it over what the Bible says about women and gay sex. Why should we expect Tyson Fury to be any different? Give the guy a break, says Heather Tomlinson
Fury has been the target of furious rage from the politically correct establishment, after making some eyebrow-raising comments about women, homosexuality and his Christian faith. Some say his nomination for BBC Sports Personality of the Year should be revoked, despite the fact he’s made British boxing history.
With all this pressure, and a camera thrust in his face, he still had the guts to tell BBC viewers: 'Jesus loves me, and he loves you too… and he loves everybody in the world. All’s you’ve got to do is repent of your sins, and you’ll be forgiven.'
Tyson is being misunderstood and judged by people who don’t understand the gypsy culture he comes from, nor Christianity. Mez McConnell, who leads 20 Schemes says, 'The thing with Tyson is that he comes from the straight talking traveling community. They don't go for nuance in debate. The world is black and white and anything else is seen as soft… I can tell you for a fact that he is viewed positively by a large majority of scheme people who find his views odd but like the fact he sticks up for himself against the posh establishment.' (For more from Mez see his blog 'Tyson Fury: Prophet or Punk?')
Tyson is being misunderstood and judged by people who don’t understand the gypsy culture he comes from
Fury’s kind of bravado rarely gets past the PR professionals and onto our TV screens. And it’s also rare to hear in church – because there aren’t enough working class men in our pews.
Darren Edwards, the author of Chav Church, said: 'I think that a working class boxer is being mistaken for a middle class politician. What's more, as a reasonably new Christian, Tyson will have lots of new passions, ideals and morals. It can often take a long time, and a decent mentor, to help us to find a way to express ourselves in a politically correct manner'.
Why does our culture put so much emphasis on opinions rather than actions? As well articulated by James Bartholemew, much of this modern day ‘virtue signalling’ is meaningless. Fury’s comments should not be how he is defined. He should be judged on his behaviour. When he's behind closed doors and away from the cameras, how does he treat gay people, his wife and sister and his enemies?
One of the interesting, and sad, parts of being a journalist is that you sometimes see the tarnish hidden behind the glittering media image of celebrities – in both the secular and Christian spheres. Those who are articulate, who appear to be compassionate and have very politically correct opinions are sometimes difficult, egotistical and aggressive when away from a microphone.
There's a great deal of hypocrisy and elitism in this debate
Personally, I’d prefer a world where people say in public what they actually believe in private. Fury, when asked why he wanted a rematch last year, replied 'money'. He may not be winning any 'best Christian' awards for his greed or lack of tact, but he would do for honesty. I think that Jesus might prefer Tyson's transparency, especially when contrasted with others who merely pretend and pose.
Fury has become the target of some horrendous vitriol that seems much worse than anything he’s said himself. For example, this article in the Guardian drips with nasty, judgemental hate speech, but such words strangely do not cause controversy:
'Those hearing that jabbering Lancastrian monotone for the first time, taking in that 6ft 9in shaven-headed, motor-mouthed, deeply menacing figure, might be tempted to dismiss Fury as simply a bully and a goon, a Twitter troll made flesh, Dapper Laughs with muscles. Look a bit closer and it might be easy to write him off as a damaged lot, some deep male nightmare of rage and exclusion, unformed and raw, blinking in the light, Grendel licking his chops.'
(It also makes the astonishing comment that Fury was 'radicalised' by a born again Christian.)
It is interesting in the public square at present, that people who say anything deemed to be sexist or homophobic are put in public stocks and pelted with rotten vegetables. Yet it seems to be more acceptable to demonise other sections of the public. The working class, Christians and men are fair game, along with gypsies and Muslims. Given that Fury has many of these labels, perhaps its not surprising that he’s getting so much grief?
The guy needs our prayers
Since when did his critics get so righteous that they can condemn Fury so strongly? How many of them couldn’t be accused of elitism, snobbery, prejudice and judgement? And how many of them have real experience of gypsy culture, or even working class culture, and can honestly say they understand what he is saying and why?
I predict there will be more public gaffes from Tyson, as the PC police are onto him now, and he seems to deliberately be making a point that he doesn’t care what people think. Personally I pity any Christian in the public eye, being the target of so much temptation and attention, adoration and hate. You’d have to be Jesus himself to not respond with either outrageous ego or defensiveness – or do something that’s just plain wrong. The guy needs our prayers.
As journalist Simon Kelner put it, 'he’s a boxer, for heaven’s sake, not a spokesman for the National Trust'. Neither is he the Archbishop of Canterbury. Celebrity Christians are normal Christians put in the spotlight. We should never expect them to be perfect examples of Christianity.
Perhaps such celebrity Christians, with their faults, achieve more for the Kingdom than those who are less controversial. I’ve sometimes heard people say the awful words, 'I couldn’t go to church because I’m not good enough.'
Working class men are going to find it hard to identify with the likes of Nicky Gumbel or Justin Welby (though those men are lovely, both on and off the camera). But if many blokes encountered the condemning and snobby attitudes of some politically correct middle class Christians, they’d run a mile. No. They’re going to hear the gospel much clearer from Tyson Fury, someone they can identify with, and has behaviour, language and culture closer to theirs, and who is willing to very loudly and boldly proclaim that he loves and needs Jesus.
I don't agree with Fury's opinions about women and homosexuality, though I think some are being misunderstood. I'm not defending him because he's a Christian, either. I'm arguing that there's a great deal of hypocrisy and elitism in this debate, and that the world's a better place when people are honest and authentic.
So Tyson needs to sort out some of his attitudes. Don’t we all? First, perhaps his harshest critics could remove the enormous log of snobbery, hatred and judgement from their own eyes.