Chance for renewal

December 28, 2020

After 2020, a chance for renewal sounds good. A chance to freshen up. Reset our course. Decide once again who we want to be.

We – the nation that is – are being given that chance for renewal. At least that is what the UK’s chief Brexit negotiator, Lord Frost, believes. Saying that the new Brexit trade deal, freeing us from the influence of the EU, is a chance to make a new start.

But renew to what, exactly? As a multicultural, multifaith country, I wonder what renewal looks like. Whether it is even possible. And if it is, what do we renew ourselves too?

Often what gives nations their sense of identity, and thus something to renew too, is their past. This story may be a historical or religious narrative. But how might the UK collectively renew itself when much of what we used to believe about our ‘island people’ is now not the cultural glue that holds us together?

Maybe this renewal is about sovereignty and choice; a new national path we can embark on. Frost alludes to this saying, “All choices are in our hands as a country and it’s now up to us to decide how we use them and how we go forward in the future”. Maybe our renewal is about autonomy. About going it alone, again.

One helpful suggestion as to what this renewal looks like comes from a man who, although religious, had astute political insight. The late Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, who died last November, understood that a nation’s big stories, which give it independence do not have to lead it to isolation.

In his insightful TED Talk in 2017, the spiritual leader gave three ways to move from the politics of “me” to the politics of “all of us, together”. Sacks believed this shift in lifting our eyes beyond the horizons of our own tribes was counterintuitively connected to the renewal or retelling of our nation’s story. “I think collectively we’ve got to get back to telling our story,” Sacks explained, “who we are, where we came from, what ideals we live by”. You, like me, may ask, how so? Surely, telling our own story just makes us more tribal not less? Sacks disagreed, adding, “When you tell the story and your identity is strong, you can welcome the stranger. But when you stop telling the story, your identity gets weak and you feel threatened by the stranger”. I hadn’t thought of it that way before. But Sacks wasn’t finished; he had a criticism for us: “In the West, we’ve stopped telling the story of who we are”. Maybe we have.

As we embark on a new year, still reeling from the contortions Covid has placed on our lives, we would do well to consider rediscovering our story – our identity – the big truths about life and spirituality. Who are we? Where did we come from? What ideals do we live by? And maybe, in rediscovering the answers to these questions, we can gird ourselves for the uncertainties that inevitably lie ahead in 2021. And, more so, welcome the stranger along the way.

Reconnecting with our history, our past, is not wrong. I’ve found it helps not judge our past by the cultural standards of today. There were many good things we have achieved as a nation. So national renewal does not mean condemning our past but committing ourselves to do better today and in the future. Part of that renewal may also be remembering our past values, often underpinned by our society’s religious beliefs, as a firm foundation on which to move forward.

Richard Fowler

Richard is editorial assistant at Because


No singing

November 30, 2020

My YouTube viewing this week has been peppered with Christmas adverts. We have entered the season – and I’m already feeling nauseous! But this year there will be one noticeable absence.

No congregation carol singing. Even the multi-generational, hodgepodge at your door will have to remain there whilst they “Fa, la, la, la, la, la” and social distancing at the same time.

But churches up and down the country will be silent over this usually vocal time of year. Even the famous King’s College, Cambridge, iconic Christmas Eve Carol Service will not have the help of the public’s throaty excesses, as the pews will be empty.

Who would have thought one of Covid’s victims would be congregational singing! But the show must go on, King’s has decided. The service, minus the congregation, will still be broadcast live on BBC Radio 4. However, the usual injection of chorused voices to the opening song, Once in Royal David’s City, will not be heard.

So what will these singers have missed? Well, some of the more intriguing words about the life of Jesus. Words which speak of a phenomenon peculiar to the Christian faith; that the God of heaven’s entry into the world saw him take up residence in a cattle shed! Not the grand entrance one would expect for such a VIP. I wonder whether God was trying to communicate something? Maybe there’s a clue in the words of this poem turned carol:

“Day by day like us He grew,

He was little, weak, and helpless,

Tears and smiles like us He knew,

And He feeleth for our sadness,

And He shareth in our gladness.”

These words capture something very human about our first encounter with this Jesus. But more than that, they describe how God seemed to be eager to share in our life, condition and pain; to experience things just “like us”. It’s curious to consider why. I wonder if it allows God to be more relatable, more attainable, more approachable.

Certainly, 2020 has left many of us worst off materially, and maybe emotionally. But there is something encouraging to consider when it comes to this lowly story in such economy trying times. For me, I see in this story of the birth of Jesus an example of how God has somehow shared in our discomfort and need. And that his life shows us that things can get better even if you start from a stable.

Maybe that’s worth singing about.

Richard Fowler

Richard is editorial assistant at Because

Positive contact

November 13, 2020

“As you have been identified as a contact of someone who has recently tested positive for COVID-19, you are under a legal obligation to self-isolate from now until…”. As soon as the text arrived my mind start rushing through all the things I should have done to prepare for potentially spending the next two weeks at home.

People who have near death experiences often say a similar thing. As their life flashes before them they think of all the things they haven’t done but wanted to do. All the things they should have done but never got around to.

Is this the fate that awaits us all? That at the end of our lives we are to be judged for all our mistakes and all our regrets?

The Christian message is one of hope. It tells us that we have all tested positive for grace and that if we turn to Jesus, he will both redeem our mistakes and turn our regrets into joy.

For hope, turn to Jesus.

Gavin Henderson

A myriad of choices

October 23, 2020

The Scottish government announced today a 5 tier system of covid restriction in Scotland. As we look around the world, there seems to be so many different approaches to dealing with the Coronavirus pandemic and the resultant economic hit. They can’t be all right can they?

This is the same question that has sometimes been asked about the myriad of religions in the world today. Is one religion right and all the others wrong? Is it just a cosmic multiple choice question where you need to guess the answer?

We often face difficult choices in our lives, and sometimes it seems easier not to make a choice than to make the wrong one. Yet the startling claim of Christianity is not that you have to make the right choice out of the plethora of world religions, but that the right choice has revealed himself to us in Jesus Christ.

God, in his love, sent us Jesus to show us the way.

In this time of uncertainty and difficult choices, there is hope and comfort to be found in Jesus.

Gavin Henderson

Because Magazine September / October 2020

September 3, 2020

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