December 2016 & January 2017

Celebrating the coming of the world’s greatest ever radical

Winston Churchill once famously said, ‘Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others.’ And much has been said about the nature of democracy of late. Western intervention in the Middle East has occasionally been claimed to have resulted in democracies, in that in some countries, some people have been able to vote. But, as I see it, there is much more to democracy than that, for I feel that, in addition to the ability of all people of voting age to vote, there needs to be three other conditions before any country can reasonably claim to be democracies. They are:

1 The views of minorities are respected

2 The government rules with the consent of all the people

3 The rule of law is respected.

And I am writing this now because I fear that, in all three regards, there are signs in the west of these conditions being in danger of being flouted. Let me give you three examples:

The recent referendum in this country gave a clear result which any upholder of democracy should respect. But the vote was on whether we should leave the EU, not how we should leave the EU, and in that latter question, everyone should feel free to have a say. Yet, many leaders of the leave campaign claim that, as they won the vote, they alone should be the ones to determine the second question. That is not democracy: it is mob rule. The USA has had just emerged from a very polarising presidential election, and, after such an experience, the prime consideration must be how to draw people together, but the initial moves in the new regime, with some people with extreme views given prominent positions, is clearly not bent on achieving that. That is not democracy: it is mob rule. A recent decision by the High Court in this country led to a front page in the Daily Mail with pictures of the three judges concerned under the headline Enemies of the People. This front page, incidentally, was identical to one in a newspaper in Germany in 1933 by a paper which supported the rise of Adolf Hitler, as, incidentally, did the Daily Mail. To attack judges is not democracy: it is mob rule.

Now I am sure that some of you, if you have got this far, will be apoplectic with fury with phrases like ‘The church should not involve itself in politics’ flying out.

Well, let us just look as what we are celebrating over December and January. We are preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ, we then celebrate that, in Christ, God is with us and he is calling us to work for his kingdom here on earth, and then, in Epiphany, we celebrate that Christ’s presence is known throughout the world. And that kingdom which we are celebrating is one of peace and justice and love and reconciliation. And that means peace for all people, justice for all people, love for all people and reconciliation between all people. And if we are truly celebrating the coming the coming of Christ, then we will all work to make sure that his peace and justice and love and reconciliation flow throughout all the world, ignoring such things as national boundaries and differences of race, creed, gender, age, colour of skin, sexual orientation or disability. These all meant nothing to Christ, and, if we are truly his followers, then they should mean nothing to us. If they do, however, then that is a sure sign that celebrating the coming of Christ at Christmas actually means nothing to us. And if you can tell me how you can work for peace and justice and love and reconciliation without getting involved in politics, then I would be very interested to hear from you. Jesus was, after all, the greatest radical the world has ever known. And let us be clear, where there is mob rule, there is no peace or justice or love or reconciliation

I have in the past sometimes said that the only threat to being a Christian in this country is that one might be subject to a little gentle mockery. I hope we are not, but think that we might be heading for a situation where that is no longer the case and where it becomes our duty - and our joy - to proclaim loudly and clearly the values of the kingdom of heaven. And our celebration of Advent, Christmas and Epiphany is a timely reminder of what being a Christian is truly about. So let us make sure that when we go to welcome Christ at the crib this Christmas, we do so as people who really want to be his followers, rather than as people who are just interested in when we can start to open our presents.

 


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