The keynote speaker at the conference I have been attending this week was The Attorney General, the Rt Hon the Baroness Scotland QC who spoke on the importance of faith in the public space. She was clear and positive about the role individuals and faith groups have to play in a society in which she said “faith flourishes when respect for it is freely given by individuals and it is not just defended by public institutions.” She added that faith matters in the public space and it has the potential to make or break the modern world we live in when it is too often misunderstood to the point where it provides fertile ground for conflict and intolerance. Baroness Scotland, a Roman Catholic, shared how she has worn her cross every day of her adult life and often prays when on the front bench as well as before taking major decisions. Inspired by the vision of President Obama she that with faith inspired idealism it is a case of, “Yes we can and yes we must- the cultivation of respectful, positive relationships between the faith communities is vital. It is important that people gather around a common purpose for a concrete outcome.”
She slammed religious extremism as diminishing God. “He is not a God of one group but God of all and faith is not an optional extra. It goes right through you and is reflected in everything you do and aspire to achieve.” It’s hard to imagine the Christian faith having a better and more well-placed advocate in politics and the public space than Patricia Scotland.
Two-thirds of voters continue to demand an early General Election. Tomorrow sees the start of the week of prayer for Parliament and Whitehall- and God knows they could do with it. The prayer most politicians seemed to have been offering up in recent weeks is that their expenses will not be published in The Daily Telegraph. The Bible Society, Christians in Parliament, Christians in Government and 24/7 Prayer have developed and launched a prayer resource to help Christians and Churches pray more effectively for politicians.
The pack features a parliamentary prayer guide, a 60-minute prayer meeting plan and a 7 day personal prayer guide for individuals as well as advice on ways to pray.
Let’s hope none of the Christians in Parliament figure in future Daily Telegraph revelations.
So if you’d like to find out more visit http://www.christiansinparliament.org.uk/
Yesterday I was shopping in my local high street and came across a stall staffed by half- a dozen members of the British National Party (BNP). I could have walked straight passed and ignored them, but decided to ask them a simple question. I first asked the lady behind the stall with all the leaflets- “Could my black British friends join the BNP if they were so minded?”- she wasn’t sure. I then directed the same question at the candidate standing for the BNP. He said emphatically “No!” I asked why not, as this is a British National Party and my black friends are British. He said it was because of the colour of their skin. He then added that he wasn’t racist- it was just a matter of keeping Britain a pure white country. He then got a bit of a history lesson from me about the so called ‘purity’ of the very mixed race nation that is Great Britain and our very proud history as a tolerant and inclusive nation. After around 10 minutes of this he then started to get angry, raised his voice and completely disengaged from any kind of rational and informed discussion. He saw me as someone who had betrayed his vision of a pure, white nation. A woman who was giving out leaflet swore at me when I took a couple, tore them up and then put them in the waste bin.
On this day of Pentecost we remember how the Lord sent his comforter- the Holy Spirit- who then inspired and equipped the apostles to go out to the nations with the life-transforming message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This message would set the prisoners free, clothe the naked,bring hope for the poor, feed the hungry and care for the fatherless. For over two thousand years it has been a message of hope, love and inclusion that pays no regard to colour, creed or nation- the first truly international faith.
My conversation with the BNP reminded me just how for from the central message of Christ- love and inclusion- their policies are and has made sure that I will be voting in the forthcoming elections if only to help ensure they get no encouragement whatsover. If you are reading this as a Christian, atheist, agnostic, humanist and you despise racism and what it stands for then please think about casting your vote on June 4th for any party but the BNP. Show them that Britain’s not racist.
The Times Newspaper recentlycarried an interesting piece from former hostage and special envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury on the importance of Independent MPs at Westminster. Terry says about recent events; ” As spectator sports go I have to confess to mixed feelings. I take little delight in seeing anyone publicly injured and humiliated. But along with the vast majority of the population, I am amused and angry. Amused at the ducks, the moat, horse manure, dry rot and phantom mortgages. Angry that, as Jonathan Aitken (who ought to know about these matters) said on the Today programme, compliance has replaced conscience. The truth is that the gunpowder has been accumulating for a very long time. Increasingly a professional class of politician has grown and the more professional they have become, the more remote they are.”
The former Church Army Evangelist was irritated by Roy Hattersley recent observation that independent MPs were a waste of space. Waite says, “ He knows as well as I do that there is virtually no difference between the two main parties in Westminster and the vast majority of Labour and Tory politicians are gagged, bound and beaten by the whip. No self-respecting individual in touch with the the people of this country and wishing to represent them could possibly submit to that. It reduces the individual to mere voting fodder and that is what the majority have become. Small wonder that they turn their attention to dealing with dry rot at their second home rather than speaking boldly in Parliament.” It seems as if Terry’s frustration that politicians see themselves as an elite class has had an impact “Quite truthfully my mind is not yet made up and I guess there are a number of people in the same position as myself. We want the best for our country and if we take on the burden of office we will not take it on lightly and certainly not for personal gain. Perhaps a main contribution will be to put a bit of ginger into Parliament and encourage the long overdue reform of both houses. It is a total disgrace that once reform of the Lords was set in motion it was put on hold mainly because further reform would be too great a threat to the Commons. . Parliament is important but not the moribund Parliament we have suffered for far too long. The transformation from duckhouse to doghouse was rapid and took everyone by surprise. Now is the time for the people of this country to rally round those men and women willing to serve their country as independent Members of Parliament. They won’t have all the answers but they may well bring some fresh air into a political hothouse that has been suffocating for far too long. “
Sounds to me like this is the beginning of a stump speech. Terry’s autobiography “Taken on Trust”was considered a classic account of man’s survival at the limits of human endurance. If he can survive the Lebanese gulag with the three resolutions of no regrets, no false sentimentality and no self-pity- he sounds like the right sort of independent guy for Westminster.
For the full report see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article6367904.ece
This is the text of a Joint Statement from Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury and Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York:
“The European Parliamentary and local elections on June 4th will take place at a time of extraordinary turbulence in our democratic system. It is a time for great vigilance over how to exercise our democratic right to vote. The temptation to stay away or register a protest vote in order to send a negative signal to the parties represented at Westminster will be strong. In our view, however, it would be tragic if the understandable sense of anger and disillusionment with some MPs over recent revelations led voters to shun the ballot box. Those whom we elect to local councils and the European Parliament will represent us and our collective interests for many years to come. It is crucial to elect those who wish to uphold the democratic values and who wish to work for the common good in a spirit of public service which urgently needs to be reaffirmed in these difficult days. There are those who would exploit the present situation to advance views that are the very opposite of the values of justice, compassion and human dignity are rooted in our Christian heritage. Christians have been deeply disturbed by the conscious adoption by the BNPof the language of our faith when the effect of those policies is not to promote those values but to foster fear and division within communities, especially between people of different faiths or racial background. This is not a moment for voting in favour of any political party whose core ideology is about sowing division in our communities and hostility on grounds of race, creed or colour; it is an opportunity for renewing the vision of a community united by mutual respect, high ethical standards and the pursuit of justice and peace. We hope that electors will use their vote on June 4th to renew the vision of a community united by the common good, public service and the pursuit of justice.
They are so right. My previous post at https://unfinishedchristian.wordpress.com/2009/04/07/the-bnpwhat-would-jesus-do/#comment-169 has proved to me the most viewed and commented on so I guess this has stirred up emotions on all sides about free speech, democracy, racism, hate and unity. I hope you are encouraged to do the right thing and support unity, diversity and justice.
Do you believe in miracles any more? Here in the UK the tide of public mood is turning and the politicians are beggining to smell fear for the consequences. Each day we read of more and more relevations about how badly our elected representative have behaved and their credibility is ebbing away.
How long will it be before the tide turns against war, poverty and the message of Jesus sweeps across the nation in a way which transforms our politics, churches and our way of life? I was reminded of Roger Waters and his Radio KAOS project from a few years back.
Listen, enjoy, hope, seize the moment for Christ and pray.
For the past few weeks our trust in politicians has been rocked by daily revelations about over-claiming expenses or second and even third home allowances. A profession that has been for too long merely tolerated by the people rather than truly loved or trusted now finds it’s reputation at rock bottom.
How ironic then that inthe book of prayers bought for me by my daughter this week, I find a prayer chosen by a former politician that sums up the situation. Margaret Thatcher selected the following prayer which she thought seemed “appropriate to politics”.
Thou, O Lord, that stillest the ranging of the sea, hear us, hear us, and save us, that we perish not.”
Somehow I think a few politicians will need more than a lifeboat to keep them from perishing at next year’s General Election. Perhaps Billy Bragg will get his great leap forwards after all .