What's the difference between fundamentalist Christians and social entrepreneurs? Not a lot, sometimes, says Robert Ashton.
I spent far too long this weekend locked in battle with a troll. No, I was not playing some new game on my iPad, but getting wound up by a guy on a LinkedIn group. He was, I think, what you would describe as a fundamentalist Christian. He would not budge from his standpoint that God had physically written the ten commandments and that we all therefore are duty bound to follow them.
In his case, this meant literally, although I think he was relying on an English translation of the ancient scripture. I tried to reason with him, which of course was pointless. He 'knew' he was right and thus any calls from me for pragmatism were met with scorn. Of course he is entitled to his view, but I was distinctly uncomfortable with the way he was quick to dismiss mine. As someone else commented, “it's why wars happen”.
He refused to respond to my hypothesis that Christianity would be easier to believe if all Christians could agree on what it demanded. In my local city, Norwich, I know and respect two ministers who have opposing views on homosexuality. One wants to conduct gay marriages and the other wants to have gay people 'treated'.
But I am not going to launch an attack on organised religion. After all, religious groups founded some of the world's most successful charities. Religion can be, and often is, a force for good.
And so to my point. What's the difference between Christians and social entrepreneurs? Both set out to make the world a better place. Both contain radicals who can alienate the very people they most wish to influence. Answer: sadly too often there is no difference!
In all the work I do my starting point is always where my audience is standing. I might not agree with them, but unless I make the first move and recognise their posting, I will not move them at all. Social enterprise, like life itself, is a compromise. There's room for radical views and heated debate. But the priority surely has always be to help those you care about to move just a little way along the path to salvation.