I have recently read the book with the same title as this blog, the book was written by Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is an important and thought-provoking book, I would even say a brave book, well worth a read.
The premise of the book is that due to several factors, not least the vote to leave the European Union, the UK is at an important point in our history similar to where we found ourselves after WW2. We need to “reimagine Britain”, and the Christian faith needs to play an important role.
He recognises the task is even more complicated than it was in 1945, this is because
The differences between now and 1945 are both external and internal. Internally, society has become a great deal more complicated.
Today’s society is faster, more complicated, more independent and more confused.
Religious observance is far weaker, yet where it occurs, far more committed.
His concern is that,
Reimagining will inevitably happen. It may occur thoughtlessly through the mere passage of time, in which case it is likely to be bad. Values in this case would be dictated by the powerful and rich, and imposed through self-interest.
He identifies the divisions within our society,
The over-65s are the Baby Boomers. They have good pensions, they have had relatively good jobs. Their debts and materialism were the foundations of the 2008 crash, which led to vast unemployment for those then aged 18 to 25. They have not constrained their consumption of the resources of the earth. Voting as they did in 2016, they committed the upcoming generation to a new adventure outside the EU, which the majority of young voters had been against.
He talks about the adverse impact of faith leaving the public sphere,
The privatization of Christian faith and the consequent diminution of a national meta-narrative of virtue and vice, leading in some ways to the divorce of ends and means of policy, has led to an absolute lack of foundations to deal with numerous faiths, different cultures, globalized economies, and above all, to a world in which all values from around the planet confront us more rapidly and effectively than ever before. Public faith was and probably still is sometimes more surface than reality, at least in countries where its expression is a necessary part of holding power. Nevertheless, when faith is increasingly privatized, it leaves a vacuum which relativism in belief or a great plurality of incommensurable beliefs is unable to fill.
However, he is wise in how we change this,
The Church must never seek to compel but should always, in any political system, witness to the truth it believes that it knows and experiences.
We need to present an alternative to the hope offered by terrorism and he believes this is Christian hope, he does not just state it but explains why
We need a narrative that speaks to the world of hope and not mere optimism, let alone simple self-interest, that enables us to play a powerful, hopeful and confident role, resisting the turn inwards that will leave us alone, despairing and vulnerable.
Reconciliation is the process by which diversity is accepted and even welcomed, without sliding towards oppression by the dominant power……….Reconciliation is the core of Christianity.
He then seeks to apply Christian principles to the building blocks of society – family; education; health; housing and economics before going on to tackle major issues we are facing, foreign policy; immigration; climate change; abortion; the relationship between different faith groups.
He is always practical, not just theoretical and he is always Biblical, seeking to show how the Bible is relevant to issues facing Britain today and how it should play its part in reimaging Britain, giving hope to the future of our nation.
E.g. He demonstrates how the book of Ruth and the parable of the Good Samaritan has things to say about our foreign policy and attitude to immigration. He uses the example of Rehoboam (son and successor to Solomon) as a lesson to politicians. He also applies the parable of talents and the prophecies of Jeremiah to the contemporary situation.
Encouragingly the book has received good reviews.
Although some take the opportunity to have a dig, e.g. Rod Liddle in the Sunday Times.
Welby is not the sort of man to grasp a nettle firmly. He is perhaps the sort of man who will poke at it tentatively with his finger, a sure way of getting stung.
And Liddle’s conclusion,
But the only moral imperative I take from this is that the government should spend more money — well, sure, sure. But so easy to say. And, sadly, much of the rest is a painful equivocation.
Speaking in the public realm is not without cost! The importance of this book, in my opinion, is not in the details of what it advocates in the different areas dealt with, but in the principle that the Bible and Christians have a crucial role to play and that our voice needs to be heard. For us to be heard, we must speak out. Well done to Justin Welby for speaking out. I am challenged to identify ways that I need to speak out, may I challenge you to do the same.
Written by Tony Thompson