Reader Writes - August 2019
By the time August arrives we’ll have a new Prime Minister. The democratic process that delivered this outcome has been rather breath taking. I’d like to blame the system but we all have more grounds to deplore the way in which Conservative MPs have abandoned the centre ground and tacked hard to the Right. Bring it right home to Kington. We live in a beautiful landscape created and sustained by hard working farmers; you only have to listen to them to know how worried they are about their businesses, food and indeed the landscape we take for granted. But the real scandal may be our own tendency to deference and the fatal comfort of liking a “strong leader”.
People flock to support the one who will “make Russia great again” or put the Great back into Turkey. Authoritarianism and our own weakness for it are serious dangers in a world struggling to build and protect civil society. At the recent G20 summit Mr Putin, without irony, claimed in an interview that Western “liberalism” was obsolete; he was saying therefore that authoritarianism, the murder of journalists, rule by oligarchs were all justified. Thankfully the president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, replied with a swift rebuke defending European liberal values including the rule of law, human rights and freedom of the press.
A digital world, and especially social media, amplifies noise over reason. Populist politics thrive in an echo-chamber of intolerance and uninformed prejudice. Most of us wince or worse when we see western leaders sharing happy photo-shots with tyrants whose dungeons are beyond the reach of the law. But it’s no good moaning about it because we ourselves are the fertile medium in which populism takes root and thrives. Should we bother to be worried by this? Yes, we certainly should! Christians recognize the dignity of the individual at the very heart of society. Whether you are of faith or no faith, all people recognise the basis of Christian ethics where God has established the value and rights of the individual.
A month ago we welcomed Linda MacDermott, our new curate, into our church and community. Her ordination in the cathedral was a wonderful celebration of the faith and values we live for. The theme of servant-hearted leadership and sacrifice was a welcome repost to the unashamed populism gripping our domestic leadership contest and weighty world events such as the risk of another Middle East war. Paul, in Philippians, urges us to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as more important than ourselves” and to “look not to our own interests, but to the interests of others”. Someone, perhaps a Christian, gave the military academy at Sandhurst the motto Serve to Lead; how spiritually wise.
Jesus himself perhaps left the most radical and abiding instruction on leadership. He knelt before his disciples and dismissing their misgivings he washed their dusty feet saying “If I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example”. The one who called out hypocrisy fearlessly and taught that the truth would set us free, knelt down, took a towel like a servant and washed their feet. We should demand and vote for leaders who have integrity, wisdom and are servants of the people.