Fr Tom Writes
Hi, this is my message to the Parish this week,
The American Mid-Term elections are over, hooray! America is just about in one piece, hooray! That last hooray is probably more hopeful than celebratory because while America is just about in one piece it feels like the country is on the brink of some kind of social civil war. That, of course, is little worry to us, we are thousands of miles away and it is quite satisfying to sit comfortably and watch as the world’s peace keeper slowly implodes. Oh yeah, I forgot, we are not sitting comfortably, we are sort of tearing ourselves apart too, albeit in a more British and moderate way. If you took a quick scan of most European countries you would see something similar. Look at Germany, Angela Merkel has stepped down because she cannot govern and the hard left and the far right are taking power from the main parties. In so many places in the West, political views are polarising as people align themselves to evermore extreme political, social and cultural ideologies. The consensus politics of Blair and Cameron seems to be a thing of the past, they are now being replaced by identity politics.
Identity politics is where people vote for the group or party they identify with most not the group or party who promise them the best healthcare or a better financial deal. This is a definite change from the past where economics seemed to dominate political popularity. People used to vote for whoever promised to make them richer, now they vote for who they can identify with and for who stands up for their particular values. In America, identity politics has led to a fractious political climate. Respect and understanding between political groups seems to have vanished to be replaced by vitriol, suspicion and clear hostility. One of the uplifting aspects of the Mid- Term results was the number of women elected to office and not only women but young women from diverse backgrounds. Voters are electing candidates they can identify with. In our country identity politics is not following the traditional left or right, Labour or Conservative lines but is clearly defined by Brexit. As the Americans are realising and as we are experiencing, identity politics does not make for a comfortable or peaceful society.
I have been convinced for a number of years that the Church has a significant contribution to make to society, particularly since the Financial Crash of 2008. Since then inequality has grown and more people need help then ever; the church has an important role to play. I feel that the abuse crisis that has engulfed the church and which seems to be rolling on has significantly compromised the Church’s ability to have its voice heard. It is simply discredited in the eyes of many and therefore seemly irrelevant. But we know that the message of the Gospel is life-giving and life-changing. Jesus has a message to speak to people who find themselves on the wrong side of the poverty gap, just like two thousand years ago he now has a message for those who have fallen through the cracks in society and have few options for survival. We also know that, in this time of social upheaval and division, the message of love of neighbour has never been as important. Although our institution maybe discredited our message is not and it is urgently needed. We are called by Jesus to be his faithful disciples and proclaim his love and mercy to our culture and society by our word and action. It is by what we say and do that we will be identified as followers of Christ- his message is our identity.