When Bishops are silent they are failing to give a moral lead and when they speak out they are accused of being too political. Yet the Pastoral Letter from the House of Bishops, “Who is my neighbour?” is surely exactly the kind of thing Bishops should be doing – offering new moral vision for this nation as it prepares for the General Election.
The real surprise is that certain politicians and newspapers still think it is acceptable to say that the Church should not meddle in politics. Christianity is profoundly political; it is about changing the world and creating a more just society. Christianity seeks nothing less than offering a foretaste of the kingdom of heaven on earth. And because this places the emphasis on the community not the individual, highlights the needs of others before our own needs, and affirms the importance of justice and equality some shout left-wing bias, but the Church’s concern is not party allegiance but Kingdom values.
Equally we need to end the present national hobby of kicking politicians. As in any profession, (Church included) there are some who let the side down. But the overwhelming majority of politicians are seeking to do their best for their constituents and to make the country a better place to live. This is no easy task and of course they (and us) can always do better, but the constant rubbishing of politicians ultimately damages our democracy. And looking around the world and you realise we could do a lot worse. Of course we should always be looking for ways to improve the democratic process, but for all its failings, it is not the disaster that some seem to want to suggest.
Our Bishops are right to challenge the Russell Brand don’t vote mentality. This election we need to overcome disengagement and foster new ways to encourage re-enagement. The solution lies not in walking away but rolling up sleeves and getting stuck in. We will not all agree and serious debate is needed and the majority (compromise?) voice will prevail; that is democracy.
The Bishops are to be congratulated on engaging with the debate about the future of our country. If you don’t agree with their vision then offer an alternative vision. But don’t knock our Bishops for having the courage to speak out and learn to value our politicians; they may not be perfect but at least they are trying to make a difference.