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Sunday, 27 December 2009
We need a shared story to underpin our national life

My vicar has just preached on the difference between wisdom and intelligence. This is Christmas wisdom from The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali in the Sunday Telegraph. Read it all.
By any reckoning, Britons have had an uncomfortable and anxious year. . . And attacks on the traditional family continued, with claims by ministers and "experts" that no one form of the family was to be preferred to any other.
It has been tough for everyone, but Christians in particular have found themselves under pressure. Nurses have been told not to pray with their patients; registrars ordered to conduct civil partnership ceremonies in spite of conscientious objections; evangelists forbidden to spread the word in "Muslim" areas; and permission for Good Friday processions refused on the grounds that they are a "minority" interest and do not warrant police time. (but not where I live thankfully)
The broader problem is that there has been the loss of a common narrative, a story which underpins our national life. In the past, this was provided by the Judaeo-Christian tradition, derived from the Bible. This narrative has been at the root of those values which we regard as particularly British, whether to do with the dignity of the human person, with fundamental freedoms of belief, speech and assembly, or with equality – which is not about "sameness", but a recognition of the image of God in others.
This tradition has also provided us with the virtues for which we have looked in vain in our economic and political leaders. The best of British business and politics has been characterised by a sense – largely derived from the Bible's teachings – of responsibility, of trust, justice, fairness and truth-telling. In recent years, these virtues have been jettisoned, so that we can be more "competitive" in a cut-throat world, or engage in a more adversarial form of politics. We, and the generations to follow, will have to live with the consequences of this dissolution of a moral and spiritual framework for our common life.
But while the task of reconstruction must begin immediately, it cannot be just about tinkering with the expenses system at Westminster, or the regulation of the City. It has to be about moral and spiritual education in our schools and universities. Future leaders must be taught that the public have the right to expect selflessness rather than greed, service rather than arrogance, and even sacrifice for the greater good of the organisation, or the nation.
Finally, there is Afghanistan, where 2010 is bound to bring further loss of life and limb.
The two British soldiers killed this month while protecting Afghan children and others from suicide bombers sacrificed themselves not for kith and kin, or for the nation, but for complete strangers – just as Jesus died not only for his friends, but for his enemies as well, so that all might be free to live as God's children. Our aim in this war should be not only to protect Britain from terrorism, but to ensure that the Afghan people are kept free from tyranny.
Like 2009, 2010 will undoubtedly have its own challenges. We will be better able to face them if we can recover the narrative that made this nation, and gave its people and institutions their character. We need not only to identify our values, and to live by them, but also to acknowledge the basis for them. Above all, in this election year, we need leaders who possess those fundamental virtues, and show themselves to be worthy, once again, of public trust.

Posted on 12/27/2009 5:49 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
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