Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

Change and Decay

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

Anglicans tend to sing Henry Francis Lyte’s, “Change and decay in all around I see, O thou who changest not, abide with me” with gusto. The hymn gives the warm feeling that change is to be avoided and that God blesses stability. However, this is a time of great change. Theresa May has started revealing her wishes for the greatest modern political change to our country; our withdrawal from the European Union. Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States. The distinctive Trump difference being the unique way he has repudiated so much of what went before him. Even the regular World Economic Forum meeting at Davos felt different with China developing a global role and America’s previous administration bowing out. 2017 brings changes, not just with Brexit and Trump, but also potential radical political change across Europe. “Change and decay”?

A classic philosophical view of God implies that God never changes and tends to bless stability. The classical view assumes that God is perfect and therefore incapable of change. To change God would have to become imperfect as God cannot become more perfect. However, Christians worship God as revealed to the Hebrews. A God who is subject to change and who reveals himself to a people in constant flux. Moses encounters God first in a burning bush and, while the bush does not change, the name of God is open to change and interpretation. The name for God, YHWY, can be translated as the stable “I am who I am”. However, as there is no future tense in ancient Hebrew, it can also be translated as the changeable “I will be who I will be”, or “I shall be who I shall be.” God’s nature, revealed by God’s name, can be open to fluctuation and change. Abraham understood this when he bargained with God over the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah; God can change God’s mind.

Change is a vital Christian insight into God’s nature. God in Christ is born, grows and develops, is hungry, dies and rises; a life full of change. God the Father is changed from a transcendent authority to a grieving parent. “Change and decay”? “Change and evolution” may be a better understanding.

What of the political changes being ushered in with 2017? Changes to the world order are not necessarily wrong. Some changes are clearly wrong and some wrong things have been said. Any Christian, who celebrates the dignity of human kind believing that God took human form, should work against racism and stereotyping of religions. They should also look to dismantle barriers rather than erect them. However, recent elections have revealed barriers internal to our society and communities, with many people feeling excluded or marginalised. Hopefully we can discern and support what is good in the changes of 2017. If the meeting at Davos can’t understand the election of Trump, then it needs to perceive ways of making its global vision more locally inclusive.

Advent Article

Saturday, November 26th, 2016

The season of Advent is upon us. It’s the time when we expectantly look forward to Jesus coming, both historically in our Christmas celebration and in the future as the culmination of our lives. Advent brings with it uncertainty, how are we called to live our lives in response to the ever present and future coming of Jesus. It’s the challenge and comfort of God involved in the mess and beauty, joy and pain of human life. The uncertainty of the season seems to mirror our contemporary uncertainty as we contemplate the out workings of Brexit, the nature of a Trump presidency or the outcome of various European elections. How does our national and international situation reflect the Kingdom for which Jesus prayed?

 

We often associate candles or chocolate countdown calendars with Advent but a modern Advent image might be the painting by Banksy of a beggar saying, “Keep your coins, I want your change”. Advent should be a time when we are lured, like a moth to a flame, to different ways of seeing things, of doing things and of being. In his poem Kneeling, the priest/poet RS Thomas guides us to the need to take time out as, “The meaning is in the waiting” but this waiting is meant to drive us forward to a different psychological and spiritual place.

 

The emphasis on waiting and changing comes from the Christian understanding that God is love. Any loving relationship is built upon time together and willingness to change, not to grow apart, but to be drawn ever closer in a dialogue of thought and embrace of the lover. Loving relationships are expectant of the rich potential of exploring together, are unfulfilled as there always remains the possibility to go deeper, and are a work in progress as our experiences, both together and apart, add new dimensions to our relationship. All of this is true of our relationship with God, the source of love, as we acknowledge the imperfections of the present in the light of the source of all that is good and true. The philosopher John Caputo says the Advent of the God of love, “traumatises our narcissism”.

 

Narcissism is ever present in our consumer and advertising driven culture. Society proclaims that it’s essential to consider ourselves worthy of all the latest gadgets and trendy clothes. In contrast, Advent is about eternal values and experiences. Traditional themes for the Sundays of Advent include death, judgement, heaven and hell. Probably not much of a draw in the Christmas shopping but key to reflect upon if we hope to model and live eternal values. We also see communal and country narcissism in the desire to put various countries above others, and damn the consequences. The Kingdom for which Jesus prayed had eternal values to be applied universally. In this Kingdom, walls are to be replaced with bridges and fear is to be replaced by love; our neighbour is understood universally and God’s image is found in those not in our own image.

 

With love and prayers,           Paul

Brexit Article for Hampshire Chronicle

Tuesday, July 5th, 2016

“A person who thinks only about building walls… and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel”, said Pope Francis about the recent Republican Party Primary in the United States. It could also be a warning in post-Brexit Britain as our long standing and widening social divisions have become more evident than ever: younger divided from older; the “left behind” divided from the professionals; rural divided from metropolitan; the United Kingdom is anything but united. We have two party leaders stepping down and one hanging on (at the time of writing) amid acrimony and recrimination. A European priest colleague, ministering in this country, feels like a bargaining chip amid the “brutalisation of political language”. With some justification commentators have referred to a culture war. This is a time for bridge building.

As we look forward it’s right to acknowledge both the bereavement and joy which the referendum has brought, along with the political and economic uncertainty which is our current reality. The majority of British people voted to leave the EU and the vast majority of these did so for good and honourable reasons. A tiny proportion will have voted out of prejudice but this is a good time to follow the advice of Elizabeth 1st, given during an earlier time of religious and political turmoil, “I will not open windows into men’s souls”. It’s wrong to make sweeping judgements about those who voted differently from us and phrases such as “little Englander” or “liberal elite” have no place in the reconciliation of our country.

People on both sides of the debate voted to build bridges rather than erect walls but they came to different conclusions on how this was best done. For some the EU had become a wall against the wider world and they voted to leave. For others, the EU was a necessary bridge to the wider world. What I’ve found concerning about the debate is the number of people who’ve said, “I don’t know anyone who voted to leave”. There’s a danger that we’re comfortable only among friends and colleagues who are similar to us, and we’ve lost the friendship and shared experiences of people whose world view and social circumstances are different from our own. The south London priest Giles Fraser put it like this, “We have become strangers to each other and it’s high time we got to know each other again.”

The central act of Christian worship is often called Communion emphasising the fellowship which is built up. We celebrate a collective meal of bread and wine cementing us into a relationship both with God and one another. We think of the altar as God’s table and we recall how Jesus welcomed the outsider to meals. With Jesus, the tax collector or prostitute could be alongside the religious Pharisee. Jesus’ best loved story, the Good Samaritan, embraces the humanity of the despised outsider. We need, more than ever, this spirit of social inclusion as we explore what it means to be a generous and progressive country outside the EU.