Robin Blount: ecumenical notes, cruise ship chaplaincy and lots more

Who and what am I ?

26 October 2022

One of the songs that we've been hearing throughout this present government soap opera is that politicians are concerned more about their party's re-election than with their country's restoration. It has been difficult to think the best of some of those leading characters in the drama, when that re-election concern is heard so often in face-to-face interviews for Channel Four News.

I used to think that candidates for election to Parliament were entering the race for the best of motives. Surely they were looking for the chance to make a positive contribution to the country's wellbeing, and certainly there are many MPs who fill that role well and never seek higher office. But, as they say, the higher up the ladder you climb, the further you have to fall if you slip. When the first thing on your mind is re-election, then you've slipped a long way down the greasy pole.

We can all think of MPs who have been beacons of hope during their parliamentary career. These are MPs for whom their election was an opening door for service to the common good, the opportunity to put into practice their ideas and concerns for their constituents. It might be said of such people that their parliamentary service was a job rather than a career.

It makes me think of what it must be like to be Jewish, or Muslim, or Hindu. The other day there was a picture of Rishi Sunak putting Diwali candles on the doorstep of Number Ten, and I want to believe that this was not just a photo opportunity but rather an act of devotion from a practising Hindu. There's a real sense that being Jewish or Muslim or Hindu is entirely who you are, that there is no separation between who you are and what you are, no separation of your life from your religion. Those Ten Commandments of Moses were the rules of community for the emerging nation of Israel, rules that would safeguard every person and ensure the establishment and continuity of a nation held together in a common faith. There would be a deep sense of unity and commonness of purpose that was the right and the responsibility of every person in that nation.

So what happened to Christianity, with its divisions and its empires? Why is it that we worry more about preserving our traditions than about changing the world? Why is it that we worry so much - or even so little - about what we believe, or about what we don't believe? How did it happen that Christianity became part of our national constitution but only a very small part of our national life? Why does it still surprise me to find people who profess no religious awareness and yet live lives that display love and compassion to all around them?

Maybe we should talk of "being Christian" rather than "being a Christian". Being Christian means putting our faith into action - letting it inform our daily living. Let there be no separation of what we are from who we are.

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