There is a fear gripping our nation.

 Whether we are Brexiteers or Remainers no one knows how all this is going to turn out.

The uncertainty is adding to a sense of impotence in an already stressed society.

In our conversations we don’t have to scratch very deep to discover that beneath the surface there is much anxiety.

Like the Brits that we are, we try to stay calm and carry one, but there is no way of hiding a lurking fear, and it is very real.

 

When people are disappointed, disenchanted and distressed at what they see happening in their world, they can even begin to lose hope.

Rabbi Sacks – one of the finest teachers of religion today – has recently said that when this happens people also begin to believe in magical thinking which today takes one of four forms:

The far right, the far left, religious extremism and aggressive secularism.

The far rights seeks a return to a golden past that never was.

The far left seeks a utopian future that will never be.

Religious extremists believe that you can bring salvation by terror.

Aggressive secularists believe that if you get rid of religion there’ll be peace.

These are all fantasies.

And pursuing them will endanger the very foundations of freedom. (Morality in the 21st Century)

 

Often in history, when uncertainty and fear have gripped a population people tend to seek easy answers to complex problems.

A belief in quick fix solutions gives rise to populist politics.

Today, populism has returned with a vengeance.

Much of it is fuelled by an unrestrained social media.

Its users can comment freely and forcefully on any issue.

And they can receive as much attention as any expert in the field.

The problem is that not everyone is an expert on the issue they comment on.

Ignorance, and on occasion the carefully devious politicking of others, has led to intolerance, prejudice, division and hatred. These are becoming recurring themes in the discourse.

Abhorrent views which some of us never thought we would hear in our lifetime are becoming accepted as the norm.

The fact that senior politicians are able to ‘get away’ with islamophobia and antisemitism is indicative of the challenges we are facing as a people of faith.

 

As in the days of old many will go with the flow, join in with the tribalism, the rhetoric designed to divide and the scapegoating that leaves the minorities and marginalised vulnerable.

Few will have the confidence and the courage to take a stand and resist.

But resist we must.

 

I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil,
to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with those who work iniquity;
do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141)

 

We are facing a stark choice:

Turn to God and his saints for guidance or turn to the populist politicians that promise much but will deliver little other than deeper division and hurt.

You will recall that Moses once put before the people a choice:

Today I put before you, life or death, blessing or curse; choose life so that you and your descendants will live. (Deuteronomy 30.19)

Today we are facing that stark choice again.

We can bless our neighbours or curse them, we can nurture life or destroy any seeds of hope.

 

These are unprecedented times for our nation, but not so for other nations across Europe.

Their past experience has much to teach us.

In their time of trial they too had a choice: to embrace the populism or resist it.

Many made the wrong choice, especially the German church of the 1930s.

Thankfully there were some brave souls, but all too few I hasten to add, who stood against the rising tide of false promises that led to division and hate.

It is to them we should look, listen and learn.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer himself not without blemish):

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.

This is our time to speak out.

To speak out against the evils of our age.

To act in the causes of righteousness, justice and truth.

To counter fake news with Good News.

This is our time – we must not miss it.

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