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Tag: Politics

Dear Nick Clegg – #elections2014

Dear Nick Clegg,

Today is voting day and I wanted to let you know what happened on May 6th 2010. You may remember the day as there was a real buzz around the country. People were generally disaffected with politics and longing for change. We had moved into a modern era of politics where image was the puppet king and Alastair Campbell had been pulling the strings. We yearned for a political arena that actually stood for something. We yearned for a politics that stood for people. This was our Bastille and we were storming it with our democratic right to vote. This was our opportunity to get the politics we deserved.

We awoke to the news that there was no result. Well there was a result but it was that no one was in charge. Suddenly you as the leader of the Liberal Democrats were a big player. You had the power to pick one of three options:

  • To keep the current regime in place by forming a coalition with the centre right New Labour Party. You could have joined with Gordon Brown and helped a party who had lost the heart of what they stand for limp on for another term.
  • You could have stuck to your principles as the Liberal Democrats and been the voice of those of us who long for a fairer society. You may have found yourselves in a place where you could have had real power in British politics. You could have had power in your own right and chosen which party to support on any given issue.  It may have resulted in another election but you know what, maybe more people would have voted for the Liberal Democrats the second time around because they had…. principles.
  • Or there was of course another option: random option three. You could have jumped in bed with the Conservatives. You could have handed power to the party who people like me, your core support, would least like to see in charge. You could have elevated to power the party who stand for the polar opposite of what I voted for on that day. But then how likely would that be?!

Well Nick, in one fell swoop, you handed away my vote for “the politics we deserve” to someone else. If it was closer to Christmas this paragraph would probably be filled with WHAM lyrics. In one fell swoop you managed to turn my political engagement on its head. I used to know what I stood for, now I merely know what I stand against. I still stand for those things. I just don’t think there is a political party who share those views any more.

I voted tonight. In fact I voted twice in both of the elections in our area. I voted tonight because ten years ago a man with a number tattooed on his arm told me how he ended up in a concentration camp. Not the guards taking him away but the rise of the far right in a time of financial difficulty and the vote that eventually led to the death of his family. But I stare at a ballot paper not knowing where to put my X. My faith in politics has gone. I have been consigned to voting against the far right instead of voting for what is right.

You did that Nick. Just thought you should know.

Yours sincerely

 

Revd Robb Sutherland

Vicar of Mixenden and Illingworth

Church of England Clergy support the Labour Party?!

It has been an interesting week for Church of England clergy and the poor in the newspapers.  Revd Simon Cross is undertaking a 40 day hunger strike fast through lent to highlight the plight of the poor in the United Kingdom.  In a national move to mark the beginning of lent, 27 Bishops penned an open letter to the Prime Minister to highlight the plight of the poor in “the world’s seventh largest economy”.  The Independent reported as:

In an open letter condemning David Cameron’s benefit reforms, 27 Anglican bishops said ministers had a moral duty to do more to protect those having to choose between “heating or eating”.

By highlighting the moral failings of the coalition government to safeguard the most vulnerable in society and the increased reliance upon foodbanks, The Church has provoked a substantial reaction.  Within hours the pro Conservative press began to mount a  campaign to get the plight of the poor back off the agenda.

1609834_604792466266458_991142440_nFirstly Lord Carey was wheeled out to condemn the letter and his fellow bishops.  Then the usual commentary of “the church should stay out of politics” began as though the two can be separated.  The popular Church humour site Anglican Memes posted a link to the meme above and the backlash was considerable.  The site’s founder did the honourable thing and stared them down with this post:  “Jesus Doesn’t do Politics”.

Then The Spectator tried to discredit the Church of England by publishing this article from an ordinand saying that “I’m scared to admit to being a Tory in today’s CofE”.  The anonymous author also asserts that “Jesus wasn’t a leftie” with a short exegesis of the feeding of the 5000.  I admit that I am quite ‘scared’ by the article.  The exegesis leaves a lot to be desired.

One commentator on the article doesn’t just make allusions:

It is pretty clear that Christ did not have much time for politics at all. Nor did the early church. It stayed clear of them. I have experienced the Labour “default position” of the Church and it is nasty

In the current political climate, there is an obvious vocation for the Church to point to the plight of the poor.  It stems from the gospel and the radical life of Jesus Christ.  There is a huge disparity between those in the UK who have and those who have-not.  This gulf just continues to grow at a staggering rate.  Foodbank use is increasing due to measures that have been implemented by central government leaving the most vulnerable in desperation.  It is the duty of the Bishops to speak out about it.  It is the duty of the whole body of Christ both lay and ordained to speak out about it.  It is a gospel imperative!

The right wing press are weaving a thread of misdirection through their propaganda to turn the ‘Christian calling to care for the poor’ into ‘party politics’.  For example, when someone suggests that it is the Christian moral stance to care for the poor, tell everyone that they “would call themselves (proudly) socialist”.  If a group within the leadership of the church says that Jesus told us to “feed the hungry”, say that the church contains a “sizable minority of Marxists“. When a corporate body says that society is failing the vulnerable, state that they exhibit the “Labour default position”. It is easier to write off someone’s opinion for being aligned with a political party than it is to write it off for being aligned with Christ.

For a Christian, being politically engaged is not about joining or supporting a particular political party. It is about reading the gospels, deciding how best to follow Christ and then weighing up the least worst option that is available in the UK, whatever that is currently.  Personally, I am not a Marxist.  I doubt I could be described as a socialist.  In my adult life I have only once voted Labour and that was a tactical vote to remove a BNP councilor.  However, that does not mean that I will not vote Labour in the future – who can say what the future may hold.

In my role as priest within a community I will be continuing to tell the world that Jesus cared about the poor.  Not just cared about the poor but called us to do something about it!  I will continue to tell the world that the current government’s policies are not compatible with the Christ I read in the gospels.  I will continue to fight for justice for the most vulnerable in society.  I will continue to be politically engaged and exercise my right as a citizen to vote in every election I am able.  I will continue to pick the least worst option in UK party politics.

Advocacy, to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice is an important part of the Christian calling.  Or as Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it:

Christians shouldn’t just be pulling people out of the river. We should be going upstream to find out who’s pushing them in.

Two points.  As someone who recently went through two different Church of England theological colleges as part of his ordination training, I only met two Labour activists.  One in each college.  One of them was two doors down the corridor from a high profile conservative minister’s son. Also, we currently have a ConDem coalition government and yet in all of this right wing posturing the Liberal Democrats aren’t even a footnote.

Welfare Reform in Today’s Political Agenda

A society which allows large numbers of its citizens to live in poverty is unlikely to be sustainable. We have seen, since the 1980s, how whole communities hit by economic contraction can sink into a kind of collective depression from which some, especially young men, seek to emerge through violence, gangs and other destructive (and self destructive) ways of life.

Nick Morgan linked to the Church of England’s report on Welfare Reform on The Book of Face. It is a long read but has some good insights into the current UK government’s policy and how it relates to our faith.

I think the key phrase in the above quote is “since the 1980s” as it is telling about the current trajectory of the UKs economic policy. This report doesn’t quite give a bloody nose in the way that Faith in the City did to Mrs Thatcher’s government, but it does point out many of the failings of the current regime.

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Not in My Name

I meant to blog this sooner but have been snowed under with Holy Week.  This is appalling!

I am quite frankly appalled.  Anyone who can equate Jesus with the values of the BNP has no knowledge of Jesus.  Grab a bible and start reading.  This line of theological enquiry didn’t work in Nazi Germany and it wont wash here!

As we reminded people at holocaust memorial day and I say again now, the Nazi party were voted into power within living memory.  We are not ‘modern and enlightened’ and beyond these terrifying things as this poster clearly demonstrates!

You have a voice, use it!