You can download our July 2016 newsletter in PDF format by clicking this this link.
By the time this month’s Newsletter goes to press, the EU referendum will be over, and we will be starting to come to terms with what the political landscape looks like.
If you’re anything like me, you might have been left somewhat reeling by the events of the last few months; from the claims and counter-claims of the opposing sides, from the frequent appeals to both our greed and our fear, from the egos and personalities on display—it has been quite an exhausting process. And I’m sure many of us would have been tempted to stick our heads in the sand or our fingers in our ears and just pray for it all to be over! But as July begins we might contemplate once again how, as individuals and as a Church, we engage with the political and social situation in which we find ourselves.
There are many and various perspectives on how faith and politics mix, ranging from those who would claim that Jesus would support a particular political party or a certain policy, right through to those who would say that religion has nothing to contribute and should stay well away from politics. There are those who would closely associate religion with the established political order, and those who would see an essential part of the Christian faith as being its capacity to protest against that very same political order.
It can be confusing, and—again, perhaps—something which we don’t have the inclination to engage with.
I am certainly not an expert on any of these issues, but I do find some of the writings of Anabaptist theologian Stanley Hauerwas helpful in considering how the church might exist in relation to society and politics. In his book A Community Of Character Hauerwas suggests that the church’s “first social task in any society is to be herself”. By this he means that church is to be a space and a place in which “people of virtue” can be developed. As the church always has to function within a political context he suggests that the challenge is always for the church to be a “contrast model”, and to be a “community formed on trust rather than distrust.” Such a Church—which in an individualistic society, displays counter-cultural characteristics such as obedience and community—should not reject or withdraw from the world, but serve it on her own terms, seeking to make positive contributions to whatever society she finds herself a part of.
I don’t know if I entirely agree with Hauerwas’ perspective (or fully comprehend its implications!) but it is perhaps something to think about as the dust settles from the referendum and we continue to minister together as a Church, and in the wider community of which we are a part.