I don’t normally turn to Lewis Carroll for support but there are times when I have to applaud his wisdom. Take this spirited exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Alice Through the Looking Glass:

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less. ’The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ’The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master — that’s all.’”

I began to think I had gone ‘Through the Looking Glass’ too when I came across Ben Dybowski’s surreal story. As I understand it Mr Dybowski was working for a school near Cardiff when he attended a staff-only diversity and inclusion training seminar.

He told a national tabloid that he shared his Christian beliefs on some contentious issues during the question-and-answer session, and asked if they would be considered discriminatory. He was dismissed the following day although the headteacher is reported to have said that it was a safeguarding issue, taken on the basis of evidence that Mr Dybowski was unwilling to comply with the law and policies of the school as a result of his views.

Having said this, Mr Dybowski claims that he was told by the Head that he was free to hold his beliefs in private but the expression of them went again school policy.

Toby Young, General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, isn’t impressed. “The way Ben has been treated is outrageous,” he said. “Had he been an employee of the school, not taken on through the agency, he’d have an open and shut case for unfair dismissal.”

If Mr Dybowski was dismissed for publicly voicing traditional Christian teaching in the seminar (I could be wrong of course) I can’t help asking how anyone could suggest that this furthers the cause of diversity and inclusion - unless you use ‘Humpty Dumpty-speak’ of course! Sadly, this story seems to be yet another reminder that we are living at a time when diversity is encouraged and even applauded except when it proves too challenging.

Now I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the reports I’ve read but, true or not, I’m coming to the conclusion that we need to take care lest we end up mirroring the sort of intolerant society Alexander Solzhenitsyn described so well in The Gulag Archipelago. It makes for a chilling read but it is well worth reflecting on because it shows how the authorities got rid of dissenting voices in Stalinist Russia. There was a large meeting, he writes, in which everyone began to applaud “Comrade Stalin”, and the clapping continued for an unbearably long time because no one wanted to be the first one to stop. And, as you might guess the brave soul who finally did so was arrested.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: we need to reinstate tolerance as a virtue and respect open debate. We need to focus on the argument and not the person. We need to remember that we can and often will disagree, but we ought to do so amicably and respectfully.

Just as importantly, we ought to have enough humility to accept that we don’t know everything and there are times when we all get it wrong. I certainly do. That’s why I reckon we’d all be better off letting God shape our ideas.

♦ Rob James is a Baptist pastor, writer, and broadcaster