Thursday, April 22, 2010

Where Was the Foregin Policy?

Tonight's Leaders Debate on Sky is being picked over by pundits ad nauseum, so thought I would add my own twopenny worth.

It was meant to be in foreign policy (although less than half was - especially if you take a pointed question about the Papal visit as being less about foreign policy and more about relationships with faith communities, which the leaders seemed to do). So we got Europe (sort of), Afghanistan (a lot) and the Special Relationship with the US (again, sort of). But nothing on overseas aid.

Four or five years back, that would have been in the top three questions asked by the audience or the pundits. Not now - the world's poor have dropped off the agenda again. Depressing. Inevitable, but depressing, because this election will once again be fought about who is going to put more pounds in my pocket - and the swing voters in middle England will be the ones who's pockets that party will want to promise to line. Our own poor, and the poor of the developing world, once again, not getting a seat at the table.

Update 4 May 2010:
Well, it seems the lack of Development related policy or questions was no surprise to some, and that that other have been dissecting the limited differences between all the parties (who all adhere notionally to the target of 0.7% of GDP going in aid by 2013). All well and good. And the One Campaign has got all the party leaders to go on record with their fairly trite statements on aid policy. All seem to be saying the same things, and none of them are bad. But I fear that the world's poor have genuinely slipped off our radar as a nation.

In Sarah Bosley's Global Health Blog in the Guardian this morning there was a pointed piece about Avastin, a bowel cancer drug that can (in very small doses) cure wet age related macular degeneration. But the drug companies are peddling the low doses of Avastin at a hugely inflated price and under another brand name. And this goes on all the time with diseases in the developing world, where treatments are denied the poorest of the poor because of profiteering. But this gets hardly any media or political attention.

This morning I led a morning devotion on Ezekiel 16 (one of the stronger passages in a pretty hard hitting prophetic book). Verses 49-50 say something quite scary - the sin of dear old Sodom, destroyed by sulphurous fire in Genesis, was not as is widely assumed, homosexuality, but rather that they sat back comfortably engrossed in their own pleasures and problems while the poor and vulnerable around them starved.

I fear for our nation - that we have let our own concerns (however relevant and valid they may be) deflect us from the real needs of the poor and our obligations to them as the rich world. And what judgement awaits us for this? Hmmm, read the rest of chapter 16 in Ezekiel and beyond...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BBC News - Will Christians swing the 2010 UK election?

Interesting article on the BBC News - Will Christians swing the 2010 UK election? - there is definitely a far more high-profile mobilisation of the Christian electorate this year than I can ever previously recall, and all the major parties (and not a few of the minor ones) seem to be playing up the Christian vote.

Wonder why the sudden sea-change? Is it because we are becoming more political as British Christians, or is because we tend to vote more than the general population, so in a close contest the parties need to court us? No easy conclusions, but perhaps both are true.

I see two dangers - firstly that we end up like the US Evangelicals and become too wedded or identified to one set of political issues and one party, or secondly that we end up being useful idiots to parties that dump us once it is more more politically expedient to do so, as the Republicans did evangelicals in the last US election. Either way, the temptations of power and empire are the ones we must abjure as followers of the King whose Kingdom was not of this world, whilst engaging with the political world in a constructive and Godly manner. Not an easy tightrope to walk, but one we should not avoid.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Marriage does little for child development


Not really a surprise - it isn't marriage per se, but the people who tend to get married that has an impact on the development of their children.

Which does suggests that in finding policies to help lift children out of the poverty trap and improve social stability it is not so much finding tax incentives for people to get married, as addressing the wider social, educational, economic and health issues that affect families of all shapes and sizes.

As a Christian I believe in marriage, but recognise that it is only one of a whole tapestry of social strands that build stable individuals, families and communities. And it is the wider social, economic, political and spiritual changes in the life of our nation that has eroded many of these strands in many of our communities.

Once again, it is easy to address the surface issue without going deeper in a hunt for attention grabbing policies.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Another Christian Declaration ahead of the General Election

This time Steve Chalke's network, Faithworks has launched The Faithworks 2010 Declaration calling on the major parties to recognise the role of faith based organisations and churches to local communities and service provisions across the UK, and the centrality of the Christian faith to those responses. It also calls or stronger national and local government partnerships with the Christian FBO sector which recognise rather than marginalise the core Christian faith at the heart of the work done by churches and Christian organisations.

It is encouraging to see the number of Christian organisations really engaging in this general election (the Evangelical Alliance are asking people to tweet or Facebook their manifesto priorities, CARE are asking Christian to Make The Cross Count, etc, etc.) - and showing the breadth of concerns and involvement that Christians in the UK have with the life of our nation. We may not all agree on what the core issues are, but we hold the same Lord to be at the centre of our ethics, values and practices.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Westminster2010 - Protecting human life, marriage, and freedom of conscience

Following the US 'Manhattan Declaration', British Church leaders have today launched Westminster2010 - Protecting human life, marriage, and freedom of conscience, a declaration of Christian conscience, valuing human life and justice for the poor and marginalised ahead of the UK General Election, (expected to be called next week).

The leaders (including former Bishops Michael Nazir-Ali and George Carey, Steve Clifford of the Evangelical Alliance, Cardinal O'Brien, leader of the Catholic Church in Scotland, and the heads of several other Christian denominations and national organisations) call upon all the major parties and candidates to listen to the voice of Christians (amongst others) at the election, recognising that the voices of Christians have been somewhat in danger of being marginalised in recent years.

In particular the Westminster Declaration sets out a broad range of policies that unite churches in the UK, including support for marriage, freedom for those of faith to live their lives according to their beliefs and opposition to assisted suicide and euthanasia.
It also calls for Christians to support, protect, and be advocates for children born and unborn, and all those who are sick, disabled, addicted, elderly, poor, exploited, trafficked or exploited by unjust trade, aid or debt policies.
The timing of the launch of Westminster 2010 ahead of the call of the General election is designed to send a clear message to all parliamentary candidates that Christians will be supporting those who will both promote policies that protect vulnerable people and also respect the right of Christians to hold, express and live according to Christian beliefs.

You can sign the declaration here.

(At time of posting, the site seemed to have crashed, but should be up again soon).

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Pullman's Latest Offering Gets a Thoughtful Christian Response

Bishop Alan’s Blog: The Goodman Philip and the Scoundrel Pullman?

A typically thoughtful review of Philip Pullman's 'The Goodman Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ' - suggesting it may be a more helpful and thoughtful read than the provocative title suggests. I may now even be tempted to borrow it from my local library! Sadly, I fear this may not be representative of the mad eyed responses I anticipate flooding in from many of my fellow believers (sigh)

Posted using ShareThis

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Think local to change face of Britain, urges David Cameron - Times Online

Think local to change face of Britain, urges David Cameron - Times Online

It is encouraging to see words like 'Community' and 'Civil Society' being used in the language of the general election. However, while none of the parties has it really nailed, they are coming out with some good ideas. Ideas, however, have a habit of biting the dust once an electoral mandate is received.

Meanwhile the local community groups and churches will get on with the job we do best, with our without the Government's support, whether it be blue, red or yellow come June.