Learning to listen
THIS CONTENT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MY OLD SITE AND FORMS PART OF THIS SITE’S ARCHIVE
O.W. Holmes wrote that “…it is the privilege of wisdom to listen” and that “It is the province of knowledge to speak”. Holmes considered that before we speak we must first listen. That listening to others was both the mark of wisdom, and is ultimately a privilege. Or as James 1:19 says:
…Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angryJames 1:19, NIV
Michael Mitton (The Wisdom to Listen, 1981) highlights that our times are characterised by “high activity and rush”. It is because of this pace in our modern lives that “More time is given to doing, and less to reflecting” (Mitton, 1981).
It is the mark of modern politics, that whilst traditionalists such as Corbyn and May, seek to reflect before springing into action – rightly or wrongly – that the vast majority of the media, both traditional journalists and social media commentators; as well as the majority of media-friendly politicians – are quicker to speak than they are to listen.
Whilst I too might be guilty of writing opinion pieces, and thus perhaps it is a little ironic and hypocritical to say there are too many opinions being expressed and not enough listening in politics at the moment.
Many speak from, perhaps myself included, a more dangerous place than no knowledge – and this is some or a little knowledge.
This is probably why online social media debate is so vitriolic – be it Facebook or Twitter – and the truth is even “experts” are being dragged into the gutter, when they engage.
It was Mark Twain – or perhaps George Carlin, or perhaps its based on Proverbs 26:4 – who said
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Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.Anon
And I see the experts becoming embroiled into this identity politicking and falling into angry tirades because of everyone’s lack of listening.
And here’s the problem, listening requires presence or availability – being open to persuasion, change and correction. Listening means not casting the other person, people or group as a debating opponent or enemy or other – it requires humility. It requires the ability to be dispassionate on highly emotive issues, to be gentle and gracious, never jumping to conclusions, but hearing what another person is saying, how they mean what they are saying and not interpreting their words in a negative way to suit your own perspective – it is the ability to be impartial (as much as possible).
Listening requires openness to alternatives, fidelity to ones own words, and to the other person and their words – the ability to build that trust and be trustworthy in what you say and do. It requires a sense of belonging – that you really are “in this together” and are determined to find compromise, that you are not against them, but rather on their side.
A recent article, which featured a commentary by an academic who is a considered expert on international negotiations, argued that this word “compromise” was one of the key issues with Trump’s negotiations with China (and others). Negotiations in good faith do not seek to have a “winner” or a “looser” – both sides are positively “winners”. Listening requires we seek the best for the “other side” – even if we disagree.
Listening does mean we don’t cling tightly to “red-lines”, that even in politics we must learn to compromise. The difference between red-lines and values should be self-evident, but let us presuppose that an example of a value is “care for veterans”, which includes the injured and mental health of former soldiers. A red line in this example might be that to preserve the dignity of former soldiers they should never be prosecuted for crimes committed whilst an active soldier.
However, the alternative position, might say that the prosecution of former-soldiers guilty of a crime is essential to just society – this is a value statement, and in effect a red-line. How then might we proceed in light of these seeming contradictory red-lines and values?
There is no-way I could properly treat the subject outlined above in depth, and any suggests I make would require an accurate knowledge of law; the Crown Prosecution Service; Military law and the politics of the recent situations which it refers to – such as the case of Soldier F.
And that’s where listening comes in – to begin to find a way forward we would need to listen to the victims of the crimes; to the police; the military; the CPS; the soldiers; lawyers; respective governments; as well as the concerned and involved public. Only by listening can we determine where everyone positions themselves – what their values and red-lines are, and how we might ‘negotiate’ so that everyone can claim both a victory and not loose face.
It is my belief, based on my limited knowledge that there has been a lack of discernible mediatory dialogue on a lot of recent political issues. I gave the example above of former soldiers because of its recent discussion in the media. It is not a debate I have any great stake in, other than purely its ethical and moral dimensions as a member of humanity.
But we could also look to Brexit. We could question and wonder if the UK government has really listened, not only to the people who voted to leave (or remain) and their own “side” – but if they ever attempted to act as a mediator in the dialogue of everyone and create a real lasting consensus.
I believe it is also the mistake the Scottish government and the SNP are proving they are more than guilty of – as they fail to truly engage “no voters” and to really listen to their concerns. They have also failed to realise in their engagement with other political parties – when they have asked them to discuss the devolution, why the other parties have had no choice to pull out – because the value of the SNP is to ultimately seek to break-up the UK as a political entity – it is a hard-and-fast rule of the SNP, thus any devolution discussion would ultimately dead-lock on that issue – if, as I suspect, the other “left” political parties (Liberal Democrats and Labour) set their value and red line as the unity of the United Kingdom.
This has ultimately created a strange situation – but none-the-less expected – SNP politicians are criticising their opponents for not willing to negotiate – but it is difficult to negotiate with a party whose red line and value is diametrically against your own, that you know, ultimately, you would be helping them achieve that diametrically opposed value – and that ultimately your negotiations must dead-lock on that ever-so-pressing constitutional question.Embed from Getty Images
The other thing that I’ve noticed is that these politicians – whatever government or political party – are feeding their supporters with diatribe-le content for social media, rather than helping their followers to actually engage with those with opposite views, values and red-lines. When your followers are created online, you end up with a problem, highlighted by the SNP’s Angus Robertson who is reported to have said of “cybernats” as being uncontrollable – yet one wonders if online “trolls” are created or just discover themselves.
What I will say is if Jeremy Corbyn is serious about Kinder, Gentler Politics, then the Labour Party must seriously engage its supporters and its members, training them in the art of listening – and in mediation dialogue. Then and only then can Labour really begin to build the bridge, so that politics in this country and begin to heal the divide, in this hyper-partisan age.
Peace & Patriotism
THIS CONTENT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MY OLD SITE AND FORMS PART OF THIS SITE’S ARCHIVE
In 1983 Grove Books published Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism by Reverend David Prior – I own a few of David’s books, including his books on House Church – but it is the core of Jesus or Britannia? that I wish to focus on.
In 1983 Grove Books published Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism by Reverend David Prior. I own a few of David’s books, including his books on House Church – but it is the core of Jesus or Britannia? that I wish to focus on.
Prior questions at some length the difference between nationalism and patriotism – writing: “…it is biblically, debatable whether even such patriotism can be sustained as a Christian option.”
After ruling out Nationalism as an option for Christians. And highlighting that the disciples Matthew and Simon epitomise the nationalistic fervour of first Century Palestine – one a tax collector, and thus in collusion with the occupiers (Rome) and the other a freedom-fighter or terrorist (depending on perspective) hell-bent on the destruction of Roman rule.
Prior highlights one of the key elements of Jesus’ time on earth: “In making himself out to be a king, Jesus was quite deliberately ranging the kingdom of God, which he embodied, against all earthly kingdoms, Roman or Jewish, present or future.”
That point alone should make one wonder if a Christian can support any form of nationalism or patriotism.
Prior highlights that Orwell is supposed to have delineated between nationalism and patriotism, that patriotism is merely the love of one’s own native land, whilst nationalism is a claim to natural superiority over others.
But note that “a patriot will do his duty when his country calls him. He will fight if his country is attacked… But nationalism is exclusive, for it… sets out to exclude other races from the body politic.”
I am not sure if the Scottish National Party’s so-called Civic Nationalism, is supposed to be Nationalistic or Patriotism.
What I can say is that military service involves an indoctrination as an essential part of basic training – an indoctrination that is best defined by Che Guevara’s statement that “Unbending hatred of the enemy, which goads the individual beyond his natural limitations…” essentially enabling him to kill other humans for King and/or Country. It is this hatred which “…transforms him into an effective, violent, selective and cold mechanism of death – that is how our soldiers must be; a people without hatred cannot win over a brutal enemy.”
This is the kind of nationalism I see in the Scottish Independence debate, whilst not fought with guns or even sticks and stones, it is fought with words – with the tearing apart of individuals online by cyber-nats – both Scottish and British Nationalists.
Prior argues that the nationalism facing the tale end of the 20th Century was “arguably…far more blatant and defiant… than the unconscious assumed superiority of the previous 150 years.”
He adds that the exacerbation of this nationalism is down to immigration, citizenships and nationality, and that this “…can also be seen in the passions roused by regional (e.g. Welsh and Scottish) nationalism.”
Having previously highlighted that, for many, nationalism is a religion, evidenced by “the behaviour of certain football fans at international matches.”
We should not forget also the words of Catherwood, describing the formation of over a dozen nations formed out of the four defeated empires of Russian, Germany, Austro-Hungry, and Turkey, marking: “an acceptance that it is no longer possible for countries to be effectively governed except by those of their own race who could govern by appeals to nationalistic ideals.”
Bearing in mind that Prior wrote this in 1983, it seems that this situation has only gotten worse, as we’ve seen the meteoric rise of the Scottish National Party and the 2014 referendum, do not be fooled by civic nationalism, it is the same superiority complex that all Brits have effectively suffered since “the glorious days of empire” – despite our age shunning some words, and spitting the word colonisation, a pejorative term for the revisionist approach to British history.
This is not to say I do not, in many ways, agree that the British empire was both a disgusting abuse of oppressive power – but identity politics is almost as disgusting to me, this is not, however, the debate.
And we have also seen this nationalism rise in the form of UKIP, BNP, Nigel Farage, Jacob Reese-Mogg and ultimately in Brexit.
As Christians can we really ethically support such an appalling appeal to worldly kingdoms, when claiming to belong to another extra-worldly Kingdom – the Kingdom of Heaven?
Is our identity so tied to this plane of existence, that we relegate the Kingdom of Heaven to a less-real one? How can we claim to support any separatist movement?
Because it might fulfil the biblical prophecy of the end times?
No, that is poppycock – it is ultimately our earthly trapping – we are so wedded to the world we have forgotten who we really belong to, instead, we are so broken and sinful we cling to the trappings of this world.
A Christian with nationalist or patriotism tendencies is as anathema to scripture as sin is to holiness – it is by very definition, a form of heresy, or heterodoxy – a theology so corrupted by the ideology of the world, it is blind to the things of heaven.
Moving on from Prior, we can turn to George Bernard Shaw who said that “Patriotism is your conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it.”
It is clear to me, and anyone with any regard for actual understanding of this issue that nationalism and patriotism are both forms of degrees of exceptionalism.
We most often think of American or British exceptionalism – but it exists in anything that puts nation before heaven, and earth before Jesus.
I think there is a form of exceptionalism that Christian’s can expose – the exceptionalism that says Heaven is the best, Jesus is the greatest King, he is Lord of Lords, Prince of Peace and King of Kings.
That’s exceptionalism, but that’s biblical – it is not exceptionalism that breeds anti-immigration sentiments – because ultimately, we are all sojourners from the Kingdom of Heaven – we are called, so that we may go into the physical, fallen world, to make disciples, that is to bring about the influx of immigrants into the Kingdom – thus to expand the Kingdom’s citizenship.
It’s not exceptionalism that breeds a superiority complex, as we are called to serve the weakest amongst us – and it is also, despite historic issues, not a Kingdom with an army staffed by citizens.
Christians are called to fight the good fight – but that is a spiritual battle – and we are not called to wield weapons, rather we are called to stand against the torrent of sin and pride.
To be Christians in the world, we are called to relocate our identity and our citizenship out-of-this-world – to place it in the Kingdom of Heaven – one of the great offences to Rome was that Christians’ did not serve the Empire and Emperor first but served the High King of Heaven.
No earthly kingdom, has ever truly allowed its civilians to pledge allegiance first to God and then to themselves – God becomes subservient to the state.
Whatever others may have said – one of the largest arguments in American Evangelicalism is the issue of the Flag, the issue of the President and the issue of American Nationalism and Patriotism within the Church.
Something the Church is called not to be is a part of the structures of government – a part of the civic order – because earthly trappings will do exactly that, trap it in the bindings of State then God, and never truly free it to be God before the state.
No earthly nation truly accepts Jesus as first – it cannot, a Christian nation can not exist in this regard – for to allow your citizens to first serve a kingdom out-with the states’ control is to invite sedition and rebellion – even pacifistic rebellion and unrest.
It would be like inviting Martin Luther King and Gandhi into the midst of the Houses of Commons to stage a protest, whilst simultaneously banning protests.
This is why the state always creates God in its own image – this is the poison of nationalism and patriotism upon the heart of the Church of Jesus Christ.
But there is more to the blight of patriotism and nationalism on Christians – it has turned a peaceful religion into one of war – this began before the rise of nationalism and patriotism as most historians define it – though one can not see any real difference between the nationalism of Ancient Rome and modern Britain.
The Church fathers were primarily anti-war – pacifism is the name we would give their views today, though there is nuance, according to defenders of Christian warfare (I would argue this a tautology and hypocrisy of one of the highest levels).
The key work, however, on Christian attitudes towards war & peace (in a book of that title, amazon.co.uk link) by Roland H. Bainton (1960/1991).
This survey includes a description of modern war as “incompatible with just war” (Cardinal Ottaviani – see: The Catholic Worker, Volume LXXXIII, Number 5, 1 August 2016, p. 3); and that depictions of the failures (whilst acknowledging the successes) of the Middle Ages; the Renaissance; the 18th & 19th Century; Switzerland during the reformation and the USA during the American Civil War – that these times were essentially “less lethal than our own”.
Bainton highlights using the words of R. H. Tawney that “War is either a crime or a crusade.”
However, modern warfare is unlike the medieval crusades – it is neither the desire to save the heathen or to send them where they “belong”.
And frankly, it never could have been.
Bainton states that “The crusade suffers from the assurance not to say the arrogance of all elitism… it breaks down such restraint as can be placed upon the carnage of war… it impedes the making of a magnanimous peace…” and finally with regards to all war (but specifically crusades) – “The victors in war cannot administer disinterested justice, and least of all is this possible in the case of a crusade.”
Essentially this is because “The crusader is severely tempted to arbitrariness in the final settlement, for the mood of holiness leads to the punishment of war criminals by the victors under the fictitious trappings of impartial justice.”
Arguing further that even in a just war “The Christian in war cannot win without the aid of obnoxious allies… and he becomes therefore in a measure guilty of their crimes.”
And that a just war requires that “war shall be just on one side only” which requires “an impartial court of judicature which does not and never has existed.” to determine which side is just only.
Whilst most modern Christians adhere to a variation of the just-war theory – which Bainton calls the edge of justice rather than the exclusive justice (of just-war theory) – but again, this falls down, as can modern warfare really “vindicate that edge of justice”?
And whilst one can talk of the protection of smaller states – as a way of describing just war, we must not forget “that protection often imperils the protected” especially, I would add, with the American invention of “friendly fire”.
And if to highlight his point, in this age of mass warfare, we can not square modern warfare with any notion of a just war.
Bainton writes that “The possibility of killing in love is remote in the frenzy of battle when passions are unleashed and hate becomes the slogan.”
It is therefore with Bainton, that we have no real reason but to accept that “If the crusade and just war are rejected as Christian positions, pacificism alone remains.” And that “Christian pacificism is not a strategy but a witness.”
Bainton highlights that “The choices which confront the pacifist are almost as grim as those which confront the soldier, and he is not to delude himself by supposing that by his stand he can avoid inflicting all hurt. Yet, if he dissociates himself from the use of war to advance a cause however noble he is not for that reason irresponsible, and he may not be irrelevant.”
I would wish to extol further on this matter, but this is not my primary point.
My primary point on this issue is that Christian Pacificism is the only reasonable position for Christian’s to take in this post-modern world.
This pacificism must be tied to our rejection of nationalism and patriotism – for only by the active pursuit of trans-nationalism, of international co-operation, of seeking to break down walls, boundaries & borders; and simultaneously building bridges, co-operation and dependence upon one another, whilst progressing the cause of peace through pacificism and witness to the Gospel of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, that is the only reasonable and honourable way forward for Christians.
Christians are called to be peacemakers, to be in the world but not of it.
These are two fundamentals of Christian doctrine and life – to be peacemakers in a world we are not of.
The experience of being in the world but not of it, is an underpinning of our world-view and any Christian who does not base their conceptual framework on this is failing to realise that we are in the world to influence it (Salt and Light); to act for and the best of interest of peace (violence begets violence); and to provide a ministry to the world (of love; care for the needy; freedom for the imprisoned; homes for the homeless and the sojourners; the lost; the orphans; the widows) – this is the calling of each and every single Christian – we are not called to the trappings of this world, at least not to be trapped by it. Christian’s can be called to the military – I sincerely believe only as support personnel.
Christian’s can be called to politics – but they are called to be change makers (and to hell with economics, perhaps) – they are called to selflessness and sacrifice for the good of others, not for the enriching of themselves.
Christian’s are call justed to serve – to take the least of seats at the table, not the top seat, to be counted less than everyone else; to be the last to eat, not the first; to be the downtrodden, the walked-all-over; we are called to be last, rather than first.
The only first in our life should be God – before nation; before presidents and kings; before flags; before ourselves; before our pride; before our hypocrisy; before the entire world – if you support nationalism – consider that in light of your bible, not your own ideology; if you support war – consider that in light of the Prince of Peace – is your story in-line with that gospel.
For those who would like to read more, please consider (with one caveat):
- Prior, David., Jesus or Britannia? The Christian Dilemma over Patriotism (Bramcote, UK: Grove Books, 1983)
- Bainton, Roland H., Christian Attitudes Toward War & Peace – A Historical Survey and Critical Re-Evaluation (Nashville, USA: Abingdon Press, 1991)
- The U.S. Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, The Challenge of Peace: God’s Promise and Our Response (London, UK: SPCK, 1983)
- Bonk, John., The World at War, the Church at Peace: A Biblical Perspective (Winnipeg, Canada: Kindred Press, 1988)
- Zahnd, Brian., A Farewell to Mars (Colorado Springs, USA: David C. Cook, 2014)
- Machen, J. Gresham., Christianity & Liberalism (1923) – Can be read here: https://reformed.org/books/chr_and_lib/index.html
- Blog Article: Pavlovitz, John., The Heresy of Christian Nationalism (JohnPavlovitz.com, https://johnpavlovitz.com/2018/02/13/christian-nationalism-heresies, 2018)
- Blog Article: Spencer, Andrew. Christianity or Nationalism (Ethics and Culture, http://www.ethicsandculture.com/blog/2018/christianity-or-nationalism, 2018)
 I do not agree with Spencer that there is such a thing as a healthy form of Patriotism, however, I am not as set on this opinion as other points – simply because we are, as he notes, called to seek the good of the city we live in & it may be possible to be nominally patriotic without any real religious-like devotion.
Since writing this article I have come across the following blog posts, some are rediscoveries:
- Notes on Christian Pacifism: http://gettingtothetruthofthings.blogspot.com/2018/01/notes-on-christian-pacifism_7.html?m=1
- What I – A Pacifist – Would Say To Obama About The Crisis In Syria: https://reknew.org/2013/09/what-i-a-pacifist-would-say-to-obama-about-the-crisis-in-syria/
- No Christian-Pacifists are not cowards: https://www.patheos.com/blogs/formerlyfundie/no-christian-pacifists-not-cowards-christian-gun-slingers-might/
- Does Following Jesus Rule Out Serving In The Military If A War Is Just?: https://reknew.org/2008/01/does-following-jesus-rule-out-serving-in-the-military-if-a-war-is-just/
- American Crap: https://www.redletterchristians.org/american-crap/
Saving Notre Dame de Paris
THIS CONTENT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MY OLD SITE AND FORMS PART OF THIS SITE’S ARCHIVE
Some of you may have been wondering why I haven’t posted in a while. In truth I had planned to rest over the weekend and come back on Monday with a couple of in-depth feature articles; however, as you can see it is now the following Friday and nothing else has materialised (And I’m not promising anything more this weekend). I’m afraid a trip to hospital last Sunday due to a bout of viral meningitis put paid to my plans.
Also the fact I never wrote a word of what my features were going to be about; stored in my head – which means, until I am fully recovered I am unlikely to remember what they were about it, if I ever do. Note: Always write your thoughts down!
Today is Good Friday, which is where today’s post seemingly is, but as Christian’s we look forward to Easter/Resurrection Sunday – for out of the ashes shall rise the glorious phoenix.
Anyway, looks like I choose a great time to be ill – Notre Dame’s demise (reminiscent of York Minister, 1984) and all the obvious links between that and Grenfell which are being made ad-nasium on Social Media.
And I say ad-nasium because if I wasn’t already feeling queesy, they probably would be, whilst I am not unsympathetic to the point all these memes are trying to make, I do feel they are making a political point out of two tragedies.
Whilst one is horrific for its sensless loss of life; the other for the it’s damage to one of the Medieval world’s wonders of architecture – they can’t be compared; life is obviously more important. No amount of millions could replace life – and I’m not sure the former residents of Grenfell tower would want it rebuilt. Aside from the £21+ million already distributed to them; what would the other £780 million do?
What £800+ million can do is rebuild one of the great wonders of medieval architecture. Then there is the obvious issue of should we? If there are sick and hungry people dying on the streets of Paris, never mind anywhere else, should we really waste money rebuilding Notre Dame. My answer is simply – yes we should rebuild Notre Dame; more complex in my thinking I would add, we can feed the hungry; heal the sick and still rebuild Notre Dame – we can do both.
Rebuilding Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady in Paris) is more than the history – though it is a call to remember that history. It is more than the cost. It is more about what it represents as a symbol of what Notre Dame represents.
In this age where the Roman Catholic church is being remembered for all the wrong reasons; and yes it has done plenty of wrong in its 18+ Centuries of existence, its actually about what the Catholic Church has done and continues to do right.
The Catholic Church has always and continues to be one of the largest supporters of the poor; the sick and the disabled globally – it has since the foundations of Notre Dame were laid given refuge to the homeless; those infirm and those who are hungry. Notre Dame during the hey-day of Catholic Europe would have put a roof over the heads of those without homes – something most Medivael Churches did; it would have had a poor box, to provide financial assistance to those without means. Monastics gave up time and space specifically to heal the sick as the first kind-of mass hospitals.
Christian’s such as myself, Catholic or Protestant, should remember the calling of the Church – to be salt and light to the nations; but also:
“…to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord ’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion – to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.”Isaiah 61:1-4 (NIVUK)
Some of those verses were quoted by Jesus in his first Sermon in Luke’s Gospel (4:18). And that’s what Notre Dame should represent – not because it hasn’t meant this for most of its life, but because that’s exactly why medieval cathedrals were built – forget the politics – the heart behind the politics – forget the financiers – think why the Roman Catholic Church of Medieval Europe desired to build churches – yes, they were it’s pacifistic castles; but they were where the people of God could gather and where they could proclaim Jesus but and almost more importantly they were the focal point of the work of the church in the community.
Notre Dame, however, is not just special because it was a homeless shelter; a place of worship; an early hospital; an early benefits centre – most if not almost all European churches of the time did these things and in that sense they all deserve to be preserved. Notre Dame however, like York Minster; like St Paul’s, London; Coventry Cathedral and many across Europe which have been destroyed and rebuilt – in the case of Notre Dame at least three times (now) if not more. And that is one of the great symbols it represents – from the ashes it rises.
Like Paris after the French Revolution; it’s disciples 100 years later; the second world war.
But more than Paris, it is a symbol of Europe having overcome the issues of two World Wars, having united all of Europe (pretty much) into one global superpower of equal trade and co-operation – that’s symbolised by Notre Dame.
More than this we must think about what would become of Notre Dame’s ruins, if it was decided not to rebuild it – would we waste time clearing the site, and preserving it as a ruin for generations to come, with all the cost that preservation comes with in the immediate not just future sense.
Then we would need to talk about the fact of ownership – Notre Dame is not actually owned by the Roman Catholic Church, despite being a Roman Catholic Church. It’s owned by the French republic – that is the government and people of France. The cost of this, whatever is decided is actually borne by the republic of France – whose primary responsibility should be its people; and the Catholic Church would view its own role there too, as serving the people.
Who is better placed to bare the cost – the republic or the Church; or as has been proposed here – those who have donated, the billionaires and millionaires – in theory relieving the state and Church of the burdon of repairs, thereby enabling the state and Church to continue their work of relieving the needy and poor.
Whilst these billionaires and millionaires could and should also be giving money to the poor – that is ultimately a matter for their own conscience, it is good too that they have shouldered the burden of this public building – as that will prevent the unnecessary re-focusing of the State and Churches own finances – meaning any money given by the billionaires and millionaires to support those in need is actually on top of the government and church service to the needy; rather than replacing them.
Whilst you may not agree with the existence of Billionaires and Millionaires – the fact is they do exist; and nothing will change that – surely relieving them of a few million to help the state and church is better than them keeping it in high-yeild tax havens and bank accounts?
How better to enable those who care for the poor best – the Churches – than to free them from the financial burden of repairing the symbol of that hope – that hope that lifts them higher? How better to serve the poor than by enabling the state to provide the welfare needed – rather than burden them with the financial difficulties of trying to fund the large scale renovation and restoration of one of the most important historic buildings in Western Europe (and there’s a fair few of them too)?
And I appreciate my answer here will not satisfy many – the sheer cost of restoration is seemingly extausionate, and £800 million may be a little much for a symbol – but it is not our money, it is the money of those millionaires and billionaires (whether legally or illegally obtained). And if they wish to pay for a symbol all power to them – you are not judged for the car you have bought, the TV or games console, why not celebrate rather than castigate those who invest in symbol of hope, rather than personal pleasure and gain? Repairing such a monument, would actually help the continued upkeep of the building, potentially lowering latter costs, for a few years at least. Aside from that – ruins don’t have quite the same power to captivate the imagination.
Ruins don’t lift the soul and bring people closer to God, as much as a living-breathing Church building. Especially when that building is filled with the people of Jesus – praising and praying together. Those people who are then called to go out into the world with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; with the message of the gospel – and who are called to put that Gospel into action – through caring for the needy, the poor, the broken, the imprisoned, the hungry and those without.
And as Christians we also have to ask ourselves, within reason – how much did the cross cost? And is £800 million really on a par with that cost, I don’t believe so – so if we as Christians are calling on the world to heed the Cost of the Cross; how much is a symbol of that greatest of sacrifices worth? I’m not sure we can put a price on a symbol that points to Jesus, on a symbol that shops the hope of the Cross so elegantly, especially one which has such an age. I would not advise such a cost today for a new Cathedral – but to preserve the heritage and all that that symbolises, to restore that and show that destruction (symbolic of sin, shame and guilt) is not the end of the story is surely more important than our own left-leanings.
Whilst I appreciate that this is all my opinion, and yes I still cough at the cost, and it does make me a little sick. But I have to remind myself that God is sovereign and his word and will shall be accomplished in this matter. I sincerely believe that he not only wants the restoration of Notre-Dame de Paris, but also of all those listed in Isaiah, but also of the whole world. And I believe that the restoration of Notre-Dame is a-part of that calling, that light we are to be to the nations as Christians. Notre-Dame can serve as a beacon to the message of the cross, the message of resurrection, ultimatley, the message of Salvation through in Christ alone.
And like the Cross – and the resurrection of Jesus – what better way to symbolically represent the power of a resurrection to lift the soul, in a world so desperately in need of that hope?
After Brexit: Who turned out the lights?
THIS CONTENT WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MY OLD SITE AND FORMS PART OF THIS SITE’S ARCHIVE
It is gone 10 pm on Monday, and I sit here contemplating another couple of days of Brexit mayhem. Journalists, commentators, bloggers (such as myself) and even politicians are playing the same “game” of will-she-won’t-she and what-will-she-do that they’ve been playing for approximately the past three years, ever since Theresa May became the Prime Minister.
And no I don’t entirely blame Theresa May, our society is poised on a knife edge; some like myself, crave the next revelation – in hopes we can predict the next step – more often than not we hedge out bets, not just us bloggers and social media aficionados, but even the journalists, politicians and commentators have spent the best part of three years making at times educated guesses, other times wild leaps of logic. All the while hedging their bets.
That’s why there’s probably a forests-worth of newspaper and internet articles (if printed) on “What could happen next”. Because it’s everyone hedging their bets.
It’s a game I’ve played, and probably will continue to until this whole fiasco is resolved, in whichever way it becomes resolved, then I, every other blogger, every journalist, every commentator, every politician will move on – and those who don’t will be fringe people – not in a bad sense. They’ll be academics lecturing and running seminars about Brexit at university, they’ll be the modern studies teachers teaching it to their high-school students; there will be (in about a decade, possibly less) historians writing academic articles about it. And then there will be the books, the people writing about it to make money – those with a key role (or even in some cases a mere footnote of a role). There will be others who write about it in retrospect, such as journalists and political theorists.
But there is one group of people who will have been, for all intent and purposes, been forgotten, the people, the public. Those who voted leave, those who voted remain. Those who couldn’t vote, because they died the day before, the day of, the day after the 2016 referendum, for them it may have been a small mercy.
Then there are those who died because of Brexit, the economic policy of austerity is over, but not so felt by the common man – as the pound dropped and it just didn’t stretch far enough to pay for heating; for food or for the NHS. I don’t know if we can blame this on the tumultuous past three years alone, on the governments miss-handling of brexit alone, perhaps we can’t. But I’m not sure it doesn’t deserve some blame.
I can’t say what will happen this coming week – deal; no deal; extension – who really knows? But what I can say is that whilst defending the vote of just over half of those who voted, which yes, we must respect within reason, that every actual person has been forgotten. Everyone who is not financially stable, who is less than £1000 from destitution. I believe these people have been forgotten.
Whether the value of the currency rises or falls, it matters not, if we can not in this day and age, in this “economically developed” country feed those without; clothes those who have no clothes; care for the sick, the disabled, the elderly. How can we claim to be more enlightened than previous generations? We should not celebrate the history of the workhouse, but at least it was an attempt to solve some of those issues – it wasn’t a good answer, by any stretch of the imagination. If we must rely on feelings – let’s us consider if we feel like we are even reaching the level of the Victorian workhouses in out care for those less able to care for themselves.
How can we claim to be more enlightened than those who advocated eugenics policies? One could say, without too much exaggeration, that based solely on the sheer numbers of those who have died waiting for universal credit, hospital treatment, community support, justice, and the review of their PIP assessments – we have created our own approach to eugenics.
We are not so merciful as to breed or aborting them out of existence; as down-syndrome has been in Iceland – no, we have instead killed them through sanctions; cost cutting and defunding for the NHS and local councils.
And yes, you may not have been personally directly responsible for any of that, but did you stand by and do nothing?
Did you protest in the streets? – I didn’t, no, I am writing from guilt here too.
Did we see the hungry and feed them; or the thirsty – did we quench that thirst?
Did we see the homeless or the sojourner – and give them shelter?
Did we giving clothing to those without?
Did we visit those in hospices; retirement homes; hospital and prison – and not just because they were related to us, but because we knew a kind word, a good helping hand and a friendly smile – might just be enough to save a life?
I’m not sure the way the system of our health, social care and general government remembers that standard – that lofty goal of loving your neighbours even as you love yourself. I think individualism may have, as always, in every society since the dawn of time, become the scourge of our civilisation. In the traditions I come from we don’t call it individualism – though I understand philosophically why it is called that, we look at its root, we call it selfishness.
And I look at myself, and I wonder, just how selfish can I be? I mean I am not rich, but do I need that second-hand computer game? Sure I really want to play it, but that’s £10 that I could give to the guy who begs less than 100 yards away from the game shop.
Or how about that £2.95 for a latte; £2.55 for those Hoisin duck wraps; £3 for that multi-pack of crisps that gets demolished in a day; or that £1.50 “sharing” bar of Cadbury’s chocolate – that’s £10 I could buy extra food for someone in need – in the supermarkets that £10 still goes a decent way, especially if you avoid branded stuff, which I tend to anyway.
This brings me back to the government – how you might ask? Well, how can I ridicule the government, complain about them not meeting what I expect of them, if I don’t do what I expect of me? I’ve always considered myself a fairly caring person – aside from my misspent youth, and even then, I was still the kind of guy who cared.
But how can I, if my tradition, calls me to be an ambassador, and an example, a light to others – how can I expected a government or even the wider society to follow my expectations if I don’t show them how? Moving back to the government, you’ve had too much introspection from me for one day.
The Institute for Government, estimated that the final cost to the public purse could be in excess of £2 billion. Since the referendum in 2016, Brexit has (probably not on its own) shaved an estimated total of £64.5billion from the UK economy. And our NHS was going to get £350million extra after Brexit?
That’s just one thought, I’ve seen it repeated online a few times – how much money has been wasted on Brexit, that could have properly funded schools, the NHS, the benefits system, pensions, council’s, care homes, hospices, youth projects, the arts, and so many many worthwhile projects?
Here is the scary thing – I’m not sure it would have been spent that way if the UK had voted to remain; and David Cameron was Prime Minister, George Osborne was Chancellor (for how long after the referendum, I’m not sure) – I wonder if the illegal campaigning expenditure of VoteLeave etc would have resulted in prosecutions; or whether we’d have let them lick their wounds and gone quietly into that good night.
I don’t for one moment, however, believe that the NHS, Education, Council’s, Prisons, Benefits would have seen any really significant cash injection. I don’t think the evidence to support that they would have done is there. But what about after?
Whatever the result – I don’t believe the current government in its entirety will seek to protect the people it is sworn to protect, from crippling financial hardship; from the NHS cracking apart at the seams; from the Education systems falling down – I can’t see any humility in JRM; Boris Johnson; Michael Gove that would leave me to believe they give one iota for the common man.
I can just about see that in a glimmer, perhaps a glitch, in the MayBots programming. I can just about see it in Amber Rudd. But I just can’t see it in its entirety within that government.
After Brexit, whether we go down the path of no-deal; deal; or revocation – I’m not sure the ruling party actually care enough, to save lives that in some respects their policies have destroyed, and in some cases killed. After Brexit I am convinced that they won’t care enough, overall, to see you as anything more than a potential voter. I’m not sure they care – but maybe that’s because they weren’t shown how to care?
Perhaps because they weren’t raised in that village, where children are raised by everyone in the village. Perhaps they don’t know how to behave because the tradition of myself, that includes me, have not modelled the right way to behave.
I am a student, in some respects, of the theology of a man called John Wesley, with his brother Charles, they founded a Church called the Methodists. I understand Methodist theology, whilst not being one myself, I have a sense of kin-ship with it. This is why I have to ask myself if the Church has not modelled the behaviour we should have done?
Margaret Thatcher was a Methodist, her father one of its Ministers. John and Charles Wesley were Anglican Ministers until they died – devoted passionately to care for the poor, the imprisoned etc.
May is an Anglican. I don’t know how either May or Thatcher’s supposed theologies fits their politics. But not Wesleyanism, not Anglican-catholicism. Which makes me question, is the Church being the light she claims to be; or is she modelling bad and evil approaches to loving the world?
I know we have our bad apples. I’m an evangelical – we have more than most – but this is not the theology of Wesley, this is not the theology of Jesus. And that’s why I have to ask, has the Church screwed up so badly that two or more Prime Minister’s, claim Jesus as Lord and Saviour, whilst desecrating the things he cared for – the people?
This ‘thing’ I have no answer for; but I do have a challenge for my fellow Christians – my fellow theologians; pastors; Christian bloggers et al: We need to show the world the people Jesus cared for – to him there was no deserving poor – all where in need of his salvation – we need to be better lights, we need to be better witnesses, we need to be better ambassadors. And this is not a call to policy making; oh no, heaven forbid; this is not about “Christian issues”.
This calling-out is about challenging where government policies harms the disenfranchised, the disempowered. This is not a call to rally around particular issue politics – though I can see how that could be taken there. No – Jesus shunned the power of this world, he did not crave it for himself. He came to empower, thorough his blood; to heal by his love – and that is what I’m trying to communicate. Not a Political mumbo-jumbo of “I’m so pro-life, I hate killers of unborn-babies; but I own a gun so I can shoot the immigrants” – that is the politics of people seeking power – when Jesus commanded us not to take up arms or power, but to lay ourselves down, to sacrifice ourselves, to hand over our time, our energy and our love, so that we might be salt-and-light to a screwed-up world. This was the theology of peaceful resistance, this was the theology of social care. The Church used to run hospitals, care homes, children’s homes (we still do, but not so much in the UK, and I’m not advocating we should go back to burdening that responsibility in totality). I ask friends far too much, has the Church abdicated it’s responsibility by handing over its ministry of care to the state?
Has what we the people of Jesus did for free become what private companies can charge for?
Have we become so wedded to the ways of the world that we can’t be the light we are called to be?