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So here is something that I think I need to get off my chest in the spirit of healthy reflection and moving forward with my life. Apparently some people perceive that I look like Jesus.

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Not Adam (of Adam and Eve fame)

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Don’t ask!!

And not John the Apostle.

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But Jesus…

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And I suppose if I was to be completely accurate I mean that some people perceive that I look like the Western depiction of Christ. Because I certainly don’t look like this guy.

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And who are these people who think I bear a resemblance to Jesus? Are they people I know really well. No they are random members of the public who for some reason over the last 4 to 6 months have started shouting things at me in the street pointing out my resemblance. I guess they are shouting because they really want to make sure I get the message!

Sometimes the comments are good-humoured but 99% of the time they are mean, hectoring and mocking. Well here is something those people on the street don’t know (because they didn’t bother to ask me) I am a Christian. And that’s one of the dangers inherent in shouting things at people; you don’t know anything about them.

You don’t know how your words may affect them or whether those comments might be construed as offensive or cruel. But so what? Shouldn’t I just ignore it and walk away? Should I just follow Jesus’s example and turn the other cheek? I can’t seem to do that though.

Because here is the truth, it upsets me. It wouldn’t be OK for me to walk down the street shouting “you’ve got a big nose.” “Your tan is fake.” “You’re fat.” “You’ve got spots.” So why is it OK for others to vocally point out aspects of my appearance? And why is it OK to do this in a threatening and intimidating fashion? The simple answer is that it’s not OK.

But surely I can just take the moral high ground and put it down to misplaced humour.  After all I used to play football and some of my team mates would affectionately call me JC, but it was with humour and importantly my consent. I owned the nickname and only people who knew me used it. This is not the same thing and I can’t ignore it because what these people represent is a culture of bullying behaviour. They are laughing at me and I believe passionately that bullying is not OK.

I suppose I am also upset because I think what if they do this to someone who doesn’t have great friends and a strong family support network? What if they do it to someone who is vulnerable in some way? What if it isn’t just verbal abuse, what if it turns physical?

I am upset because these comments don’t always hit me at my best time and sometimes my response is not what I want it to be. Sometimes I have sworn at them, sometimes I have passively done nothing. Either way I end up feeling guilty. And why should I feel guilty. I didn’t instigate any of this.

I am a Christian and specifically I identify as an Anglican, so as anyone who has sat at a Deanery Synod meeting can tell you, you’ve got to have a sense of humour. And I have one about my religion, I can laugh at elements of my faith. However I do not think it is right to challenge my right to have and express my faith, to challenge my right to express myself as an individual and to look how I want to look. I should feel free to be a hippy, a vegetarian and a croc wearing dude about town.

But I feel that our society at the moment has become uglier and we are seeing an increase in intolerance. A minority of people are feeling safer to shout things like “fuck off back to your own country” to children. People are feeling safer to shout “you’re a terrorist” to young students. I feel that my comments are mild compared to the real abuse that some people experience on a daily basis but I do feel they are linked. There is a nastiness to them. Very recently someone felt it was OK to accompany his comments with jabbing his finger aggressively towards my face and swear at me.

Here is what Victim Support has to say about Hate Crime;

“Hate crime is the term used by criminal justice agencies like the police or the Crown Prosecution Service to describe an incident or crime against someone based on a part of their identity.

There are five categories of ‘identity’ when a person is targeted because of a hostility or prejudice towards their:

  • disability
  • race or ethnicity
  • religion or belief (which includes non-belief)
  • sexual orientation
  • gender identity.

Victim Support also recognises crimes targeted at alternative sub-cultures (such as Goth) as a form of hate crime.

Hate crime can be any criminal or non-criminal act such as graffiti, vandalism to a property, name calling, assault or online abuse using social media.

Experiencing hate crime can be a particularly frightening experience as you have been targeted because of who you are, or who or what your attacker thinks you are. Unlike non-identity related offences, the attack is very personal and specifically targeted, which means it’s less likely to be a random attack.

Hate incidents can feel like crimes to people who suffer them and often escalate to crimes or tension in a community. You can report such incidents, but the police can only prosecute when the law is broken. However, the police can work with other organisations to prevent the situation escalating.

If a hate crime case goes to court and an offender is found guilty, their sentence could be increased by up to 50% to punish them specifically in relation to the hatred element.”

I do not perceive what I have experienced to be a hate crime or even an incident motivated by hate. I do not compare my experiences with those whose lives have been tormented because of hate crimes.

But the instances of me being shouted at have increased a lot over the last few months. From a handful in my whole life to about 7 in the last few months, and I worry it is linked to a trend in our society. A trend that has seen it become more acceptable for bullies and bigots to say whatever they like, however ill-conceived or hurtful their words may be. I am lucky, I could cut my hair and shave my beard and the ignorant comments might then stop (don’t worry I’m not going to do this.) But I cannot change my faith, a black person cannot change the colour of their skin and a person cannot change their sexuality. So my advice to everyone is think first before you open your mouth, it is advice that I don’t always follow myself but I try. Do you?

Think about the impact your words can have on people. And if you are on the receiving end of any form of abuse or bullying my advice is to challenge it safely if you can and tell someone about it.

If you are living in Gloucestershire you can report hate crime and incidents right here.. https://gloshate.org/reporting-a-hate-crime-incident-or-crime-online/

 

 

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