Well, did you watch it tonight? Were you disappointed? I was... I really hoped that Deborah would crash and burn, or given the result of the task, that Lorraine would get the order of the boot...

Sorry? Am I at cross purposes here? Oh, you thought I was talking about the Champions' League Final. No, I was watching Suralan put his minnions through their paces on a Shopping Channel challenge. I had absolutely no desire to watch Manchester United against Barcelona. Had my beloved Liverpool got through to the final I would perhaps have re-arranged my evening accordingly, but I dreaded watching in case Manchester United won...

I have such antipathy towards Manchester United (like many others if the response on Facebook to last night's result was anything to go by), that some might assume that I am a fully paid up member of the “Anybody but United” supporters club… I’m a bit like that in international sport too, where, in both rugby and football I will support almost anyone playing against England… Come on the Ba-Bas on Saturday!
However, I say that with no sense of pride, because in sport as in the rest of life, to be defined by who or what you are against is very negative. Defining unionism as opposed to nationalism. Conservatism as opposed to socialism. Protestantism as opposed to Roman Catholicism…

We've had far too much thinking of that kind here in NI. A thinking that has produced hard-wired division in the hearts and minds of the people here and which has fed so many brutal acts down through the years... Including last week-end's barbaric murder of Kevin McDaid in Coleraine... Killed by a Ranger's-supporting protestant/loyalist mob, because he was a Celtic supporting Catholic and therefore a republican who deserved only death!

Mind you they are only following in the time-honoured logic of people from both sides of the Catholic/Protestant divide, not only here in Ireland, but all the way back to the reformers themselves, who had no qualms about executing papists in excruciating ways, and lived under constant threat of similar treament by their religious and political opponents.

Yet as a Protestant I prefer to think in terms of the original meaning of the word: pro- meaning for, and testare – meaning to testify… What are testifying in favour of?
And in all branches of the church today many people would have us define ourselves in terms of what we are opposed to: gay marriage or ordination; gambling; drugs and alcohol; sex before marriage. Some of these may be legitimate issues, but we should not be defined by what we are against, but what we are for.

We are people of the Gospel… Not the bad news but the Good news.

And the good news last night was not that Manchester United lost... but that Barcelona won!


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