With England out of the Euros – those pesky penalties again – we can concentrate on what we do best – cheering on a Brit at Wimbledon in the hope that this year the name of Fred Perry will no longer need be mentioned as the last British male singles winner. A little research has reveals that the last British man to win the men’s singles at Wimbledon was not Fred Perry, but Jaroslav Drobný. As his name suggests, Drobný was not born within the sound of Bow bells or anywhere near Sauchiehall Street. He was a Czech, but he defected to Egypt and won Wimbledon while playing under their flag. He was already a UK resident at the time, but only his last Wimbledon appearance came as a British citizen. At the time of his death, Jaroslav Drobný had held a British passport for longer than he held allegiance to any other nation and so I think that we can say that he is the last British man to have won the Wimbledon men’s singles. Although, we shouldn’t get excited as it was 58 years ago!
I’m guessing that Drobný spoke his English with a Czech accent, but we have become used to hearing accented English spoken by international sportsmen and women. Of course, the accent that we usually hear is American. Whether the player is Czech, Russian, Croatian or Serbian, he or she will be guaranteed to speak good English, but like an American. This is something that I find slightly irritating. If these players are going to speak English, why can’t they do so with an English accent?
You will already see the flaw in my argument. Is Andy Murray’s accent less authentic, because he is Scottish? I would say not. Murray learned his accent from his parents and from the people amongst whom he grew up – his cultural influences. Like it or, the majority of cultural influences that young people experience are not from this side of the Atlantic. So Sharapova and all the other –ovas speak English with the accents that they have heard – American.
It is almost impossible to separate the Christian Gospel from a cultural setting. It was given to us in a cultural setting – 1st century Palestinian Judaism – and it has been transmitted through the ages by Christian missionaries who have their own cultural baggage. Acknowledging this is important, because it might help us to understand that some of what we think of as Christian is simply the package in which the Gospel came to us. The trouble is that when we receive the Gospel we tend to hang on to the box it came in once we have unwrapped it.
When a parcel comes mail order, there will often be instructions that we should keep hold of the packaging in case we need to send it back. The Gospel comes in a package, but we must be careful not to pass it on. This is true for mission overseas, but it’s also true for communicating the Gospel in our own country. The Gospel might look very different in affluent London suburbs from how it looks in a deprived urban estate.
Our job as Christians is to try to understand what is transferable and what is just for us and our day. It’s a difficult task, but it’s one that Paul faced in Athens and elsewhere and reading the accounts of his journeys abroard is a good place for us to start.