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.