God's Heart for the Poor: Another Look at 1 John 3:17


agape.jpg"How does God's love abide in anyone who has this world's goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses to help" 1 John 3:17

Introduction

Before looking into this verse specifically it is necessary to see and understand the wider context in which John is addressing. I will therefore be seeking to comment on 1 a John 3:11-18 and then look at the wider implications of the passage. 1 John is a magnificent letter, written by the apostle John who at the time of writing is an old man. It has been estimated his age is somewhere between 80 & 100 years.

John is also a very straight talker. What you see is what you get. His message could be considered as very simple and basic and yet is extremely profound and fundamentally radical. You could say that the centrality of his message is God's amazing love for us which as I will show later demands a response from us to love others

It is my belief that 1 John on love is probably one of the most intense passages on love in the entire bible, possibly even rivaling that of the famous passage in 1 Corinthians 13.

1 John 3:11-15

11 For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; 12 not as Cain, who was of the evil one and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brothers were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, brethren, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. 15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

Here we have the tragic example of Cain.  John is saying in verse 14 that if we are to really know that we have experienced his salvation, that we have "passed from death to life' then the proof of that is that we will love each other. For John, the proof of our salvation, the tangible sign, the evidence that we are part of God's family is how we love others.

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Post Election Words

This article first appeared as an email to Christians on the Left members. Following the amount of feedback we received from it, we decided it should also appear on this website. 

I write this as I sit on a train. In the week after a Conservative general election victory I am ironically on my way to speak to people from all over the UK who run foodbanks at the national conference of the Trussell Trust. Will their work become even more vital in the next five years? I pray not. I fear perhaps yes. Many involved would rather be seeing systemic change, but don’t want to stop helping those in front of their faces who are in need.

 

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As the dust from the election continues to settle, there will be many words written. Many will be knee-jerk reactions, many will be people vying for position, and some may even be wise, but I think it is good to take time to take stock. In our fast-paced 24hr news media world where our reactions tend to happen at the speed of Twitter, it is good to draw aside and draw on some deeper ancient wisdom.

One of the most profound images I saw last week was a cheeky Venn Diagram.

 

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Whether it is fully accurate or not, it conveys something very important. Not everyone in the UK thinks the way we and our tribes think. Restricting ourselves to the echo chamber of social media confines us mostly to those we agree with, or unconstructive arguments with strangers. For a long time now at Christians on the Left we have been championing putting relationships back at the heart of politics, and I am proud to say that that is what I saw so many of our members doing as they campaigned. Meeting real people on real doorsteps, making their case with grace and truth. We must of course engage with social media, but not fool ourselves that it represents the total picture.

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what are we hoping for when we show up?

download_(1).jpgI’m supposed to write a roughly monthly column for Christians on the Left, but I’ve failed at that recently. Partly it’s because there’s so much noise at the moment, so much opinion, so little certainty, that I quite often think that the last thing anyone needs is me spouting off again. People talking about faith and politics seem so much more qualified, knowledgeable and eloquent than me, i’ve silenced myself. If only some other people thought like that occasionally. That said, recently I’ve been reading Andy Flannagan’s fantastic book “Those Who Show Up” and it has rocked me to the core in the space of two chapters, so here I am again, writing about something I know very little about.

Andy’s book is a call for a both-and kind of approach to faith and politics. We can bring the prophetic voice calling for change, development, justice and progress from the sidelines. Sometimes that is needed. Sometimes it is the only course of action available. At other times, I would say mainly in Andy’s thesis, the real effect can be made by those who offer themselves within the system or the process. Are we willing to suffer endless meetings, bureaucracy, red tape, hold ups and so on? Are we willing to commit to a group of people, to foster community in an area, to seek justice and quality of life for all, not just the people who are like us? Are we willing to be frustrated continually, and yet remain faithful to the vision that we have and are working out? It sounds a lot like the Church of England to me.

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Caution: what Iran wants is not clear

RTR4VXAH-1024x542.jpgFollowing on from his article 'the Iran threat: inconclusive evidence' which can be found here Bob Glaberson takes a look at the evolving talks, arguing that clarity of purpose and conviction based on an accurate reading of the record is necessary.

The ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program do not exist in a vacuum. They are shaped by and reflect the wider aims of both sides. What Iran wants, its aims and intentions on the international stage, provides the key to what it hopes to achieve in the talks. It is therefore essential that the 5+1 nations (France, Britain, the US, Russia, China and Germany) keep first principles in mind: what does Iran want and what sort of threat does it pose? The strength of will to create a strong agreement depends in the last analysis on the answers to these questions.

Unfortunately, many people today think that it is clear what Iran wants. Some believe the evidence shows that Iran has taken a turn toward moderation; others think that it still has a radical agenda. Iran’s actions have not been consistently moderate or extreme. It is best therefore to describe its behaviour as unpredictable. 

Many of Iran’s policies are fluctuating and inconsistent:

  • In its dealings with the US the fact that Iran is currently willing to be flexible, to cooperate with it in the war against ISIS and to negotiate over its nuclear program must be set against a background of ongoing hostility.
  • In 2013 President Rouhani sent a Rosh Hashanah greeting to Israel. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/iran/10289654/Hassan-Rouhanis-Twitter-message-to-Jews-is-at-centre-of-Iran-power-struggle.html On the other hand Iran remains committed to a policy of not recognising Israel’s right to exist.

 In addition, Iran’s various policies are often ambiguous:

  • In Iraq, the Islamic Republic has a need to prevent Sunni forces from posing a danger to Iran and its interests. This does not preclude the possibility that it may also have ideological reasons for extending its power and influence into Iraq.
  • Iran’s pursuit of regional supremacy may be designed to bolster its security and / or by an anti-American animus fuelled by extreme ideology.

So varied and ambiguous are Iran’s different policies and behaviours (including verbal behaviour) it is difficult to see what motives guide their actions. A willingness to adopt a wide range of behaviours has sometimes been described as ‘pragmatism’ e.g. adopting whichever policy ‘works.’ But even an ideological regime may find that it works to adopt enough moderate policies in the short term to better promote radical ones in the long term. The toning down of rhetoric and agreeing to cooperate may paradoxically be the best way to achieve radical goals.

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Blue Labour: stories of the Common Good

The American Theologian Stanley Hauerwas cites the story Watership Down to demonstrate the ‘…moral significance of narrative for construing the Christian life’.[1] In an essay in which he thoughtfully unpacks this point we are instructed that ‘…Watership Down is mean’t to teach us the importance of stories for social and political life’.

In many ways ‘Blue Labour:forging a new politics’ published in February is a collection of stories in essay form situated in the broader story known as ‘Blue Labour’.  Blue Labour offers a social and political narrative that speaks of the primacy of faith and family life: those anchors that give working people meaning and belonging, including also the value and dignity of good and meaningful work. It also honours a sense of ‘place’ in undergirding the attachment ordinary people have to their local community. A disposition that has been degraded and tested in the modern world but still holds true for many people. It is these stories and traditions which constitute Blue Labour. Blue Labour allows these stories to be articulated and therefore offers a real opportunity for Labour to re-connect with ordinary people. Allowing those stories which secular modernity resists or disowns to be fully expressed implicitly recognises the importance of the people who can articulate and identify with these stories.

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Why Christians should be involved in politics - and on the Left

Christians should be more involved in politics, and on the Left. That was the theme of my Portsmouth Cathedral Lent lecture last month, when I spoke to the title 'A faith based manifesto?'.

In the lecture, to a mainly church audience and including both theological and practical perspectives, I talked about how an appreciation of the whole Gospel should lead us into greater political involvement. I noted that, at the least, politicians 'show up' to make decisions and if we think we can do better, we should show up too. I looked at some of the pitfalls of getting involved. I also argued that the challenge of inequality should be something that encourages Christians to get more involved in politics. Finally I discussed the need for vision and hope in politics today.

The lecture text can be found here.

 

Stephen Beer

www.stephenbeer.com

@stephen_beer

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Book Review: Religion in Britain – A Persistent Paradox by Grace Davie

book_review.jpgProfessor Davie’s long-awaited second edition to her original 1994 book, Religion in Britain since 1945, should not be a disappointment to those who believe that religion still continues to play an important role in the fabric of the United Kingdom, despite the onward march of secularization. The central theme of the original book was the contradiction between religious belief and practice which manifested itself in the subtitle of Believing without Belonging, a theme which was quickly taken up during subsequent sociological discussions or studies into religion. This follow-up book deals with another central paradox; that half way into the second decade of the twenty-first century, and despite diminishing church attendances and increasing secularism within mainstream society, religion still commands a growing influence in public life and debate, hence the Persistent Paradox of the title.

As a friend of the Theos Thinktank, I was fortunate enough to be invited to attend the book’s launch at their Westminster offices, where in front of an audience of academics, politicians, clergy and other interested parties, Prof Davie outlined her findings from a period covering the end of a long succession of Conservative Governments in 1997, through the rise of New Labour under Tony Blair and its thirteen years in office, until replaced in 2010 by the current Tory/Lib Dem Coalition headed by David Cameron, right up to the present day. (On page 28 however, it incorrectly describes David Cameron as becoming Conservative Party Leader in 2003 when it was in fact 2005, replacing Michael Howard after the General Election that year). In the preface, she outlines how the debate about the high public profile given to the churches has become much sharper since the mid-1990’s leaving a nation which she says, still has a deeply embedded Christian heritage, but which is now both increasingly secular in outlook and more diverse with regards to its religious profile. In this second edition only 10% of the original text has been retained, such has been the dramatic change in the last two decades it has necessitated a comprehensive re-write.

The book is divided into five distinct parts covering eleven chapters, with the introduction in part one setting out the framework of factors which need to be taken into account when discussing religion in modern Britain. These include the cultural heritage that Christianity has bestowed both physically with its buildings, but also in terms of the calendar cycle; the role of the historic churches in influencing morality which although diminished in recent decades, still occupies a place in the national psyche at certain times; how Christian religious practice has been marketed in a switch from obligation to attend to one of attendance by choice; the impact of immigration and in particular the introduction of new religious practices in the public arena; and how the presence of religion in the public debate impacts on the secular elite and the framing of parliamentary legislation. The findings for each are discussed in concise detail in the subsequent chapters, each of which is clearly structured to provide an overview of the subject, the specific arguments and counter-arguments involved, before drawing the various threads together in conclusion.

The primary focus of the book is on the Church of England, which as the established church has its own special place within the constitutional settlement of the country. Interestingly Davie makes several observations in the book about the future of the Church in particular her assertion – although not a unique one – that the current structure of the church cannot be sustained financially in the long term, and like any institution facing such a severe crisis, far-reaching and sometimes painful changes may have to be made in addition to those which may already be taking place. The advantages of having a weak established church are also explored in some depth and may be the cause of further debate within the church, in particular what some may regard as an unacceptable reduction in influencing areas of public policy where the church has a special interest, such as end of life care, marriage, rights of the embryo etc.

This takes us back to the central theme of the book. That despite the increasing secularization within a multi-cultural and multi-faith society, when it comes to influence and profile, religion whether Christian and other faith varieties, still manages to make its presence felt in the public arena together with the challenges such a presence brings. Although this book is targeted at a primarily academic/theological audience, it sets out in clear precise language the findings of much detailed research drawing not only on Davie’s thinking and previous work, but also referencing the work of academics, theologians and other experts in their fields, to support or challenge where appropriate, the arguments made.

I found this an absorbing book, easy to read and to digest and one which could and should be read by anyone who professes an interest in the place of religion and religious belief in public life. In her final conclusion, Prof Davie expresses the hope that her book will improve the religious literacy of those that read it.

In my view, this is something that is certainly achievable.

Michael Cronogue is the West Midlands delegate to the national executive.  He previously campaigned on behalf of people living with Motor Neurone Disease and other neurological conditions with various responsibilities for PR and media including editing newsletters, blogging and creation of social media presence.

 

 

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These are the days of Elijah…and Obadiah too

images_(1).jpgAs the General Election approaches many churches in the United Kingdom will rightly want to take seriously this important national political moment.  Churches will pray for the election and the candidates. They might perhaps hold ‘hustings’ debates to facilitate a serious discussion of the key issues. A key driver will be a sincere desire to be ‘salt and light’ and an influence for good as the election proceeds.

The Church of England recently made a positive and welcome contribution to debate, seeking a ‘..call for the new direction that we believe our political life ought to take’. In a letter aptly entitled ‘Who is my neighbour?’[1] The House of Bishops stressed that the key election issues highlight the need for ‘..a fresh moral vision of the kind of country we want to be’. Given the challenges we face, we need more not less emphasis upon a common good approach to political life.

Of course engagement and interest may vary and Christians are not immune from the culture we live in and attitudes that prevail. As the election draws near we will be reminded (very swiftly I expect) that we are in the midst of a time of deep disenchantment with politics and politicians.  The reasons for this are complex and this perception will filter down to Christians. In response ‘Those who show up’, a positive Christian initiative is attempting to highlight the positive need for Christian engagement in public life up to the election and beyond.  Such endeavours are vitally important particularly when there will be a lot of anti-political ‘noise’.

However my specific concern is this: How do we uphold the good that is done in politics and not lose sight of the central purposes of God’s Kingdom and the significant place of the church? How can we be political and not lose our prophetic edge?

In seeking to unpack this question I find 1 Kings 18 and the story of Elijah and Obadiah a helpful starting point. It reminds us of the need to remain faithful to the Kingdom and also to be wisely and thoughtfully engaged in politics.

This passage suggests a dynamic interaction between Obadiah who works within the ‘system’ and Elijah who challenges the ‘system’ and the powers in his role as a prophet. Both are valid, but not equally. I would submit that Elijah is the fulcrum of the story. We see the value of Obadiah’s faithfulness but it is Elijah who confronts Ahab and the pagan prophets.

Through the account of Elijah and Obadiah we learn that good can be achieved within the system, that revelation shapes prophetic action and that the Kingdom is the ultimate source of authority and is not subject to the temporal powers.

In the passage in question we see that Obadiah who faithfully serves King Ahab has achieved good whilst in that role. We are told in verse (4) that he had protected one hundred prophets from death at the hands of Jezebel and in verses five (5) and six (6) he is sent to see if grass can be found to feed the animals as a famine was besetting Samaria.   Crucially we see that he is an active believer, his faith is not nominal. In verse twelve (12) he pleads with Elijah that he has ‘..worshipped the Lord since my youth’. Thus godly devotion and political service are not incompatible. Discipleship and spiritual formation makes for good politics.

Obadiah underlines the fact that good can be achieved in politics, even though any earthly system of governance is flawed. Politics reflects God’s rule albeit in a limited and constrained manner. God by his grace is at work through the gospel message of his incarnated son who came to redeem all things.  God’s plan is to restore all things (Acts 3v21) and that means he is interested in every human activity and institution.  Therefore, politics cannot be immune from the reach of God’s amazing love, indescribable grace and the extension of his Kingdom.

It must be possible to appreciate God’s plan of ultimate redemption and respect where through political action and struggle justice and righteousness have prevailed. Political action in the United Kingdom has seen health care established, minimum standards in the labour market, the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade and the foundation of the welfare state following years of destitution in parts of the country. Those who criticise politics in a blanket and cynical way should reflect on their lazy thinking when they overlook these important achievements. Prophetic engagement by the church should not inadvertently endorse this attitude (which feeds populist politics) and in some respect is generated by the parts of the press interested in sensation and excessive negativity.  Many politicians in all parties enter the profession with some measure of good motives, however defined.  Again this does not mean that they are perfect or indeed the system cannot be improved but our assessment of politics must be clear and balanced. MPs and local councillors work long hours serving their community and constituents, helping people who have no voice and little resources. This is barely mentioned in the national discourse. There are many Obadiah’s in the UK, serving their local community through politics and achieving good. This might be limited and temporary but it should be acknowledged.  

Of course the Obadiah analogy is not confined to politics, good can be realised in all manners of public life and community work such as being a school governor, journalist, business person, classroom assistant or road sweeper. My concern, experience and reflection is focussed on the political realm. If we can appreciate the virtue of pragmatism, then we can understand how Obadiah saved the lives of the prophets and how Wilberforce was single minded in challenging the slave trade. Obadiah is a pragmatist, he has the ability to gets things done.

What we don’t know is the things that Obadiah didn’t do, perhaps the things he did because he had to do but would rather not have wanted to and things he did that might look dubious to our ‘modern eyes’. We don’t know. All Christian politicians will need to know that there is a time to comply and a time to defy the established political order. This is not a straightforward matter. It calls for discernment and grace.

And now to Elijah. I would submit that if Obadiah signifies legitimate political service as mission, then perhaps Elijah is representative of the Kingdom of God. We see that from verse one (1) it is the word of God, his prophetic revelation which sets the scene for the activity: ‘…the word of the Lord came to Elijah’. Could this be an encouragement and corrective to all of us? We need to seek God’s guidance and word in all our activity. Without it the scene is set by humanistic and secular assumptions and well-meaning liberalism dressed up as Christianity. We are not here to endorse the liberal social, political and economic order. Engagement with the political culture should not mean we become assimilated to its presuppositions.

We see that Elijah carries God’s authority and Obadiah recognises this, in verse seven (7) he bows down at the sight of Elijah and calls him ‘..my lord’. Elijah then instructs Obadiah to tell Ahab that he is here. Elijah is confident, aware of his mission and unbeholden to the powers. This is why we must never conflate the temporary, important work of politics with the Kingdom or see the Kingdom and church as somehow ‘marginal’.  Politics is important and can make a difference, but it is imperfect and imperfectible, limited, hollow and it cannot save, transform and redeem. Of course much of political discourse acts to mask and conceal this fact. Like Elijah the church is to know its mission, to be clear on its role and speak truth to power and not ‘baptise’ and sacralise earthly powers. There will be tension and there should be. I heard the American preacher Louis Giglio preach in 2013 and say that the world thinks that the church is marginal to it when in reality the world is marginal to the church. This may sound arrogant but I would submit that it is true. We need to be absolutely clear on this. We cannot do politics without theology and unless we get our theology right our politics will be wonky.

Finally, Elijah is simply not beholden to the powers. Obadiah who works within the system fears for his life (the powers like all Empires rule through fear and as feeble humans this will impact us) but Elijah won’t have any of it. He must present himself to Ahab. See verse fifteen ’…As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today’. See the operative principles: God lives, we serve him and we must surely do his will. Everything else is commentary. Walter Brueggemann describes Elijah as someone on a ‘…rampage of transformative action, confronting and challenging the power of the throne and creating, beyond royal control, zones of new life that defy any normal explanation’.[2]  

How can we operate in the community, politics, commercial and social sphere and create these ‘zones of new life’? This election is important for many reasons but there is a bigger, deeper and richer story of God’s politics, his rule and reign which is life giving.

The last twenty years has seen a growing appreciation that evangelism and social action are integrated activities. Flowing from this Christian engagement in politics has taken a fresh, more positive tone within the mainstream. Yet, my sense is that there is much more to do in our engagement and crucially in our theology.

I believe that we need both an affirmation of the legitimacy of political service and a more mature understanding of the political dimensions of the church in an eschatological sense. We also need a wise understanding of the powers. In these endeavours a reflection on the example of Obadiah and Elijah is a helpful starting point from which to set our compass.

Ian Geary, Executive Member, Christians on the Left

 

 

 

 

 

 



[1]Who is my neighbour? A letter from the House of Bishops to the People and Parishes of the Church of England for the General Election 2015’, The Church of England, 5 February 2015, https://www.churchofengland.org/media/2170230/whoismyneighbour-pages.pdf

 

[2] Walter Brueggemann, Truth speaks to power – the counter-cultural nature of scripture, (Westminster: John Knox Press, 2013), p. 84.

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BEING POSITIVE ABOUT COALITION

download.jpgTom Carty argues that Labour must explore the scope for an anti-Tory coalition including the SNP and the Liberal Democrats

Close your eyes and imagine the scene outside 10 Downing Street on 8 May as David Cameron returns from the Palace, confirmed in office. It is such a distressing thought that you have probably avoided (or suppressed) it. However, the most recent polling evidence suggests we had better turn our minds to it. Once you get over the nausea, what this painful exercise does is bring home what is at stake on 7 May.

A choice of society

For the first time since the elections of the 1980s, 2015 involves a choice of society. It puts you in mind of Neil Kinnock’s prophetic warning in 1983, that if the Thatcher government were returned to power, then it would be better not to be old, poor or sick. The consequences of a Tory victory, both domestically (for example: under the cover of austerity, a continuing radical attack on benefits and on services provided by local government, along with tax cuts favouring the rich) and internationally (for example: a Eurosceptic-driven referendum on continuing membership of the EU), mean that we have an overriding duty to prevent it. If Labour fails to obtain an overall majority it must therefore be prepared to enter a coalition or other arrangement reflecting the anti-Tory majority in the country. To do so will involve unlearning expectations and reflexes which belong to what is for the foreseeable future, whether we like it or not, the lost age of majority governments, and embracing the new political landscape with humility as expressing the will of the people.

Facing up to the implications

Coalition politics is still unfamiliar territory for the electorate, as it is for politicians, but we are probably going to have to get used to it, so the sooner Labour does think practically and speak honestly about the implications the better.

To spell out a couple of those implications:

• If Labour falls short of a majority in the next Parliament, it will almost certainly mean it will have to enter into some sort of agreement, if not a formal coalition, with the SNP (which certainly counts as anti-Tory, and which has already stated that it would not in any circumstances sustain a Conservative government in power, but that it is ready to lend its support to a progressive alliance). This will be very hard for many in the party to accept, as the strength of the SNP will be in direct proportion to the scale of its victory over Labour in Scotland.

• It's likely the Liberal Democrats will be much diminished in the next Parliament. While permitting them for the first time since the Second World War to demonstrate that they are more than a party of protest, coalition with the Tories has been a bruising experience. Many would welcome the chance of demonstrating their independence of the Tories and Labour should be prepared to accept that as party they have a natural place in an anti-Tory constellation. Again, this will be difficult for most Labour supporters (not to mention the wider electorate) to accept.

Advantages and priorities of a progressive coalition

A Labour-led 'big tent’ coalition, which would also naturally include the Greens and Plaid Cymru, has the additional advantage of isolating the Tories, leaving them with only UKIP and the DUP as potential partners. We also need to remember that they did not win in 2010 (in fact they have not won a majority since 1992), and a further defeat involving loss of power would lead to a change of leadership, with factionalism and more extreme policies crippling them in opposition. Boris Johnson is waiting in the wings.

Any coalition will have to be carefully prepared and presented because neither the party nor the electorate understand coalition politics. Securing acceptance will depend above all on the content of the coalition agreement. There must be no hint of secret deals or quid pro quos. The parties must demonstrate their willingness to work together, that they are prepared to compromise on treasured policies. They must address the issues raised in the pastoral letter of the Anglican bishops and positively articulate the genuine common commitment of the coalition partners to social justice and public services, as well as to EU membership. We can also assume that the presence of the other parties will strengthen Labour's resolve to entrust to a broad-based national constitutional convention urgent, and related, questions such as electoral reform (in the light of the changed party landscape), the future shape of the Union, parliamentary reform (including the representation of England, and the replacement of the House of Lords with an elected upper house).

If you have any lingering doubts, just consider the virulence with which the right-wing press attacks the prospect of a Labour/SNP alliance. So scared are the Tories of the threat this poses to their continuing grip on power that, like former party chairman Kenneth Baker, they are even willing to consider a German-style Grand Coalition of the two main parties. But London is not Berlin, and Merkel's CDU is a very different creature from the Tory party, which like UKIP, is simply not koalitionsfähig (suitable for or capable of coalition), to use a neat German term. Fortunately, all the other parties are.

Tom Carty (tomcartysite.co.uk) is the author of 'The Jesus Reader. The Teaching and Identity of Jesus Christ', Columba Press, Dublin.

 

 

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Liberty, equality, fraternity

George Orwell said that 'in a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act'.  Inspired by his comment, I'd like to leave you with three revolutionary words, words that in light of the Baga and Paris attacks of last month, we must hold on to more dearly than ever.  These words are: liberty, equality, fraternity. 

First, liberty.  We must not take our freedoms for granted, freedoms that allow us to meet here tonight unhindered.  In fact, we must cherish our freedom and delight in our democracy, even when it frustrates us.  But that freedom is not an excuse for rampant individualism.  Rather, it is in the service of others that our freedom finds fulfilment: in community; for community.  And so we reject the Tea Party types who reduce and individualise the complexity of life and the entire mission of God to the erroneous equation of personal salvation + GDP alone.  Or, put another way, saving²  - financial and spiritual.   We reject their libertarian market society and market theology.  We choose liberty to serve: to serve our God, to serve each other, to serve our world.

Second, equality.  In this we look to the very beginning, when God created our species in His image and gave us the privilege and responsibility of looking after His planet, our home.  The Greek word for home, oikos, gives us both ecology – which sustains and inspires us – and economy – which also sustains and inspires us.  But we affirm the economy as the servant of society and not the master, a means to a just and flourishing world, and not the end.  So we reject the failed neoliberal policies that with one hand take good jobs from good people and outsource them, and then with the other hand, take away the social securities that these same people have been left to depend on.  Is it just me, or does the nasty party just keep on getting nastier?  We also hold to account the Church when it becomes too cosy with Capital, when this ecclesiastical capture gags it from speaking out against inequality and injustice.  We choose equality: before God, with each other, in our world. 

Thirdly, finally, fraternity.  The visionaries who coined these three revolutionary words knew that there would always be a tension between liberty and equality.  So they added another word to mediate the strain: fraternity, or love.  Not a cushy, mushy sort but a fierce love that is graceful and true.  A love that, as Andy Flanagan, Director of Christians on the Left, sings, 'equals sacrifice.'  For in the end, what matters most in life is not how much we earned or spent, but how much we loved.  And if relationships are the currency of life, then love is the glue that binds it all together.  I don't know how often love is mentioned in these hallowed halls but, let me tell you, we need a whole lot more of it.  The question, therefore, isn't should love underpin our politics and policies, but how?  So we reject plutocratic pharisaism in this province, that sucks all the love out of life.  Honestly, I've seen more grace in graveyards!  We choose fraternity: with God, with each other, with our world.

Three revolutionary words: liberty, equality, fraternity.  But I finish with some even more powerful prose from the greatest revolutionary who ever lived, words of faith that must inform our beloved democracy in a new Northern Ireland and beyond:

The Spirit of the Lord us upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour.

This is our vision.  This is our mandate.  This is Christians on the Left.  We invite you to join us.

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