A Statement on the Present Crisis

8 September 2019

A stupefying fear is gripping our nation. So stunned are we that many of us are unable to express our concerns let alone formulate some kind of action. We know that things are not okay and yet we are so overwhelmed by the relentless rhetoric of our politicians that it is as if we have become perturbed and paralyzed in equal measure.

The seemingly unstoppable downward spiral of dishonesty in British politics is becoming so normalized that those who dare question a blatant lie with an appeal to the facts are somehow seen to be missing the point. There is little care about consequences anymore, this is now an age of impunity. Even the Prime Minister is threatening to ignore an Act of Parliament and by doing so a substantial section of the electorate, maybe even the majority, applaud him; this could be seen to be the promotion of anarchy, it is certainly an unhelpful and unhealthy precedent for our nation. It seems that the old rules that held us together for so long are now falling apart. Our constitution may not be without fault but thus far has been sufficient to restrain the demagogue and promote the nation’s interests. Let us be clear: a demagogue is one who seeks to appeal to the prejudices of the people rather than draw on rational argument. Tyranny has so often followed a time when little regard is shown for authority.

And where is the Church in all of this? I can’t help but consider the possibility that future historians will conclude that we were so focussed on making disciples that we overlooked our neighbours’ needs; we were so keen to increase membership and secure a future that too great an emphasis was placed on evangelism than on addressing the societal changes of the last decade. We sought greater attendance and failed to hear the cries of the neglected and hungry. Our voice of righteous protest is muffled because we have been blind to the signs of the times: we overlooked the fact that inequality causes anger and anger mistrust and mistrust populism. If we shout now then the response of our critics may be that it is a case of too little too late. But we know that throughout history the Church has always been at its best when its back was against the wall. So now is the time for us to come out of the corner and fight for the truths that show the lies up for what they are, to express the love that dispels all fears and to bring a halt to the rush to the cliff edge.

Much of the German Church in the 1930s left the politics to the politicians, the same mistake cannot be made again. Learning from this error the Latin American Church resisted the dictatorships, the South African Church stood against the apartheid regime and similarly the British Church must rise to the challenge of today. It is incumbent upon us to not reflect the tolerance so many have to the utterance of lies; it is necessary for us to not be swept along with the tide of intolerance that marks so much of social discourse. There is no shame in listening to those whose views differ markedly to our own. There is nothing wrong in learning something from someone we thought we had no common ground with. There is everything to gain from open hearts and minds. We are far more complete when we come to lay down having done what is right in the sight of God.

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