Who is my neighbour?
In a recent letter, the House of Bishops posed this question to the People and Parishes of the Church of England; “Who is my neighbour and how do we as Christians and as a Church address the upcoming General Election.”
This letter from the Church if England’s House of Bishops was addressed to all members of the church. The Church of England strives to be a church which seeks the good of all the people of the country and it is hoped that others, who may not profess church allegiance, will nevertheless join in the conversation and engage with the ideas that are shared in the letter. The letter is 126 points long and therefore too long to print here in full, but below are a few extracts that may whet the appetite. The Church of England are clear to state that the letter is not a shopping list of policies that they would like to see, but it is a call for the new direction that they believe our political life ought to take, or at the very least it will open a debate on the issues of today.
To read the full letter go to:
2: Followers of Jesus Christ believe that every human being is created in the image of God. But we are not made in isolation. We belong together in a creation which should be cherished and not simply used and consumed. This is the starting point for the Church of England’s engagement with society, the nation and the world. All that we say here follows from this. Anglicans do not have a single view on which political party has the best mix of answers to today’s problems. As bishops we support policies which respect the natural environment, enhance human dignity and honour the image of God in our neighbour.
7: The claim that religion and political life must be kept separate is, in any case, frequently disingenuous – most politicians and pundits are happy enough for the churches to speak on political issues so long as the church agrees with their particular line. But Christian engagement with political issues has to go deeper than aligning the church with one party, policy, or ideology.
12: Christians everywhere and throughout the ages have prayed, as part of The Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come, Thy will be done, on earth as in heaven”. That is why politics and the life of the Christian disciple cannot be separated. That is why the church calls its members to play a full part in the political life of the nation and to support politicians and the government with their prayers.
27: It is vital to find better ways of talking about many fundamental questions facing us today. To name only a few of the major questions which contemporary politics seems determined to avoid, we need a richer justification for the state, a better account of the purposes of government, and a more serious way of talking about taxation. Most of all, we need an honest account of how we must live in the future if generations yet to come are not to inherit a denuded and exhausted planet.
38: Our political life would be enhanced if we could acknowledge that a modern nation, where ties of kindred and neighbourliness are often very weak, requires state-sponsored action to underpin the welfare of each citizen – but that this provision must neither supplant local voluntary action and neighbourliness where those things exist, nor ignore the way in which dependence on state provision can undermine individual initiative and responsibility. Beveridge understood that if the state is given too much power to shape society it will stifle the very voluntarism that prevents the state from being hopelessly overburdened by human need.
43: Today, a fundamental question is about the extent of social solidarity in Britain. Are we a “society of strangers”, or are we a “community of communities”?
47: Because God chooses to love every human being equally, and demonstrated this love in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, it matters when material barriers are erected which divide people and communities. When people’s experiences of belonging to the nation become too different, they feel no common bond or sympathy with each other.
49: It would be easier for people to forge strong social bonds if we could recognise that a sense of “place” helps to form people’s identity in community. Information technology may mean that physical presence is no longer necessary for many purposes. This has often been positive, and has made many kinds of human interaction easier. But people cannot so easily be uncoupled from the geographical spaces they inhabit.
64: Restoring the balance between the individual and the community around them is a necessity if every person is to be truly valued for who they are and not just on a crude calculus of utility. It is vital to move beyond the superficial equality of free consumers in a market place of relationships and to see the virtues in the relationships of family and community which are given, not chosen.
To read the rest of the letter go to the link at the beginning of the article.
Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8