As I wandered through our estate on Monday morning, I wondered who must have been excavating or sandblasting. That was my glib presumption based on the fact that every car on the street was covered in spotted brown dust. Even the 'Boris bike' saddles were smeared in the stuff and you couldn't wipe it off without some effort.
So when I arrived in Westminster and noticed that every car was similarly covered in the stuff, I was startled. Something was not normal. Of course most of us now know the explanations that emerged over the course of that day, and sitting here on Thursday morning I can still only vaguely see Big Ben from my window because of the haze.
Tomorrow sees the community launch of'Christians on the Left' It is drawing many involved in Christian social action together to hear from experts in the field, including Matt Barlow (CEO - Christians Against Poverty), and Chris Mould (CEO - Foodbank Network). The provocative question to be discussed in the first session is "Why do we hide the faith aspect of our community work?" This comes in light of the struggle many churches and agencies have in articulating the 'spiritual' aspect of their work to local and national government or the media.
The presentation of the visible and invisible work of the church, or the external and internal work, as two separate (and at times even opposing) options is unhelpful. Often, such binary distinctions are reinforced by the language of popular media in mass society , and Christians simply dance to the tune of the world.
As I was praying and preparing what I might say at the parliamentary launch of ‘Christians on the Left’, the phrase, “They came expecting fireworks” dropped into my mind. It seemed an appropriate starting point for an event happening in the Houses of Parliament on the night of the 5th of November!
It's in the nature of a launch, with a new website (already visited by people from 42 different countries), a storm of twitter messages and huge amounts of enthusiasm in the room (140 people squeezed into every crevice of Committee Room 11), to look for some fireworks and glitz. I was able to encourage everyone that in the 24 hours the site had been live we had already accrued a raft of new members. Energy was high.
So I went on to point out that..
I have become more and more convinced that transformation only happens when folks with a passion for certain policies also flesh them out in their lifestyles. Our nation has seen too much of those who espouse certain policies but whose lifestyles look no different to anyone elses. There are also plenty of us who studiously try to model a different way of living that springs from a different set of values, yet step back from arguing to see those values fleshed out in public policy. Both sides of the coin are required.
As Christians on the Left, we are in a unique and potentially prophetic position, speaking and acting in a way that goes against the consumerist, individualist grain of our society. Never has this been needed more, as society's ability to even imagine a different way is shrinking fast. People need to see what community based on co-operation rather than competition could look like.