It’s certainly been a field day for choosing and choice over the last couple of weeks. The General Election, and now the choosing of new leaders. Last week, the Christian Church was thinking about the choice of Matthias to replace Judas as one of the Apostles. We need to remember that Jesus chose Judas Iscariot too. And, contrary to some of the early Church’s interpretation, it wasn’t just a matter of fulfilling prophecy. Jesus believed in him – he saw in Judas the image of God and wanted him to follow. Sadly, it became too easy for the early Church, as it can be for Christians today, to pour upon Judas their own guilt and betrayal.
Sadly, we live in a culture of blame. When anything goes wrong we have to find someone or something to blame. “I blame the teachers, I blame their parents, I blame the Prime Minister, I blame the NHS, I blame the EU, I blame the Archbishop of Canterbury! I blame God…” There is no doubt that in the eyes of the world to show mercy is the soft option and is loudly opposed by the “prison’s too good for the likes of them; he deserves all he gets” mentality.
The desire to show mercy to the merciless and love to the loveless, far from being the soft option, is the most costly course of action that humanity can take. For it is God’s way of dealing with these things; from the Cross, that merciless place, comes the cry of mercy. There is the God who blames no one. There is the God who takes all blame upon himself.
The Revd Canon Neil Heavisides, Precentor Gloucester Cathedral
The UK awoke last week to an astonishing election statistic: the UK Independence Party received 3 million votes – the third most popular party in the nation. It is well known for its hardline stance against immigration and its anti-European message, but its domestic policies largely slipped beneath the radar, barely receiving more than a passing remark from commentators.
If the Church has a role in shaping the political debate, it is surely to consider how any party’s policies will impact on the country’s most vulnerable citizens. Welfare restructuring, education reform, social housing policy and NHS ineligibility are critical issues for the marginalised and destitute, and it is precisely in these areas where UKIP has focused its major domestic agenda.
Individual political persuasion is shaped by family background, personal experience and circumstance, but as Christians we all share a common thread; an obligation to consider what our shared humanity means in a world of breath taking inequality. It may not dictate our political opinion but it does demand that we explore fully what it means to live out the Christian testimony that we are members one of another, made for mutual dependence. That obligation extends to banishing prejudice, intolerance and oppression wherever we encounter it, be it in the street, the pew or at the ballot box.
Helen Richardson, Assistant Diocesan Secretary
I have been reflecting recently on choice so was interested to see that Cate wrote on this in last week’s post. This morning I faced a bewildering choice of where to put my cross on the ballot papers (5 candidates for general election, 2 for district council elections and 9 for parish council elections of which I could vote for up to 8!!). Last night I had a long talk with my teenage son, who is about to do his AS levels, about what he should do post A-level. He faces incredible choice – does he go to university and, if so, where and what to study, should he have a year out, should he choose an apprenticeship, or try and get a job? So many choices and we, in this country, generally have huge freedom to make choices, good choices and ones that benefit ourselves and those we love – be it in politics, education, health care or the more frivolous things such as where to shop, where to holiday, which brand to buy.
Next week is Christian Aid week and many of us will get a little red envelope through our door. Another choice. Do we ignore it and consign it to the recycling box with all the other leaflets and junk mail that we get? Do we choose to put a handful of loose change in or could we choose something better, something more, something generous to help those who have very little? Poverty robs people of so much, not least many of the choices we and our families not only face but often take for granted or, worse, grumble about. I cannot begin to imagine what it is like to have to choose which family member eats, which of your children, if any, can go to school or have a life saving vaccination. Or to have no choice other than to simply give in to the situation you find yourself in, however frightening or dangerous.
So lets make a choice this Christian Aid week, to do good, to give generously of our time, money and prayers. To choose the best, not just for ourselves, but for our neighbour, whoever they are.
Rev Rachel Rosborough Rector of Bourton on the Water with Clapton & the Rissingtons
What should I write about – an election in our own nation, or an earthquake in Nepal? I’m conscious that this time next week, we will have voted and news will be full of the winners and the losers. It is a significant time in the life of our nation, with potential for far reaching consequences in the lives of individuals, families and communities. Yet at the same time, I can’t ignore a crisis of the magnitude of Nepal’s earthquake, even though it doesn’t touch my life in quite the same way.
My dilemma represents one which plays itself out in many different ways throughout life. The local or the national? The national or the international? My family’s priorities or those of others? The dilemma is behind decisions about how we vote – are we most concerned about potential effects on our own nearest and dearest or are we thinking also of wider community and vulnerable individuals? It is behind our response to international events – are we prepared to say no to something for ourselves in order to say yes to a charity appeal? It is behind numerous ordinary and everyday decisions about priorities with our time, our money, our attention.
Such decisions are not straightforward, and we each need, with God’s guidance, to come to our own conclusions. However, what is clear from Jesus’ example and teaching is that if we are serious about following his direction, we can no longer rest easy about these decisions and be satisfied with the most comfortable choice.
The Revd Cate Williams, Mission and Evangelism Officer