3 Words of a New Politics

We had a conversation as part of the Love Politics Initiative recently hosted in Silverdale, in which we looked at just how broken language is. So, even in writing this post, I will fall short of what I hope to communicate and recognise that what I write may be misunderstood, misconstrued or misinterpreted.

 

I left the weekend with three words resonating for me: recognition, rearticulation, reconnection. For me, these three words express what it means for us to recover the public space as a place of real discourse for politics/theology/philosophy/psychology/sociology all of which I believe belong in public and to the masses, not just the few.

 
Recognition

 
Cognition is all about knowing things. Sometimes we can be so sure that we know something or know somebody, but then something happens that utterly changes our perspective or our previous ‘knowing’. We ‘re-cognise’ a person or a situation. We see it differently. Take the famous example of St Paul on the road to Damascus. He encounters something he previously thought he knew about and had boxed in his mind, so much so that he had given his time and energy to try to destroy it. But then he had an encounter with Jesus which was unexpected and utterly shifted what he thought he knew. Suddenly he was blind and realised how blind his ‘cognition’ had been. When his eyes were reopened, he recognised the world and humanity in an altogether different light.

 

So often I have made up my mind about people or made judgements about them, often based on rumour, hear say or other people’s opinions, but when I actually encounter that person, I recognise they are very different to what I had thought I knew. I wonder how much of the brokeness we find in any given area of social or racial division is based on assumption and ‘knowing’……perhaps when we learn to recognise people different to ourselves, when we know them differently because our eyes see differently, we can find new ways of being together.

 
I have written previously about the great work going on in Leeds with a shift from talking about multiculturalism to an understanding of interculturalism. It resists the desire for homogenisation and shifts the conversation to one of mutual respect, with a celebration of a “give and receive” way of being together. There is great work in Lancaster though the “East meets West” initiative. Work continues in Ireland in co-educating children across the old Catholic/Protestant divide. Cafes in Israel and Palestine actively encourage Muslims, Jews and Christians to eat together. We are also seeing beautiful stories emerge as various households across Europe welcome refugees into their homes. We must break down what we think we know, so that we can learn to see differently, to re-cognise each other. This breaks down fear, which is always the dividing wall and allows love to drive that fear away.

 
Rearticulation

 
My friend, Mike Love, who is one of the best thinkers I know, recently wrote an essay on public space. He wrote powerfully about how nearly all our public space, once the domain of the male (it has nearly always excluded the female), is now almost entirely privatised and controlled. He riffed on the need for us to articulate our public spaces. To articulate can have three different meanings. It is used to describe speech that is coherent and eloquent. It has a medical meaning to describe how joints fit together and a third similar meaning in the world of architecture.

 
Our public conversations are currently not very articulate. Too many voices go unheard or forgotten, not given space to articulate. We have become dislocated. Our physical bodies often never meet with others and so the corporate body has become dysfunctional. The Leeds Poverty Truth Commission has done and continues to do phenomenal work in this area.

 
Our physical spaces, even the design of our cities and certainly some of the social cleansing we are seeing in some of our big cities is causing further separation. Where are the city planners who might know how to design space that rejoins and heals us? We need to be rearticulated so that we can recognise one another and rearticulate that it is only love that will help us find the future of peace together.

 

Reconnection

 
When we learn to recognise the world and all that live in it differently, and are rearticulated through the rediscovery of our shared public space and our language becomes one of healing and reconciliation in place of division and suspicion then we can become reconnected. There is a verse in the bible that I love. St Paul, who has learnt to see the whole world in a completely different way says that Jesus came to reconcile all things to himself through the cross, (not start an exclusive movement). He pulled the whole of the creation back into the flow of love that comes from God. But he also made a way for us all to be reconciled and reconnected. It is in essentially kenotic love (Thomas Jay Oord – ‘The Uncontrolling Love of God”) that we can all find hope for the future. To put that another way, when we understand that God is first love and everything else flows from this love, we find a way for ourselves to be reformed and reorientated in the world. It is in the very act of taking up our own crosses, of not demanding our own ways, of being misunderstood and dehumanised by the ‘system’ that allows us also to be reconciled and reconnected to all things.

 
A couple of blogs ago I wrote that I believe we need a revolution of love. I believe that repentance IS the revolution we need. And what is repentance? Isn’t it recognition, rearticulation and reconnection? All of these require a dismantling of selfishness, pride, greed, and everything that stops us walking in the way of love; everything that prevents us building the wellbeing of those around us, the world we live in and indeed ourselves! I have personally found through my own encounter with Jesus a continual journey of reorientation in the way of love. Where do we think that we see clearly, but are actually motivated by hate or fear? Who or what do we need to re-cognise? What can we co-create that will enable re-articulation and re-connection/re-conciliation in our neighbourhoods, towns, cities and nations?

Where is the Love?

Here is a song I have written. It asks some questions about why on earth we are living in some of the ways we are – many people are calling for a new politics – a politics based on love and kindness – this song is part of my contribution to this hope:

Another world, a better world, a more beautiful, caring, compassionate, equitable is possible.

Will You Love Me? (A Song of the Refugee)

I was recently at a gathering of people in the city of Lancaster talking among other things about what the city might be like if it was ‘healthy’. I had the privilege of listening to a singer/songwriter called David Benjamin Blower. He writes protest songs. He was singing one song about refugees/asylum seekers and in his opening spiel, he talked about how it can be easy to love form a distance, to feel moved and motivated to “do something”. But when people come to live in our neighbourhoods or in our homes, the challenge to us is to love at an entirely different level.

The response of governments to the refugee (we cannot and must not call those desolated by war “migrants”) crisis has been slow and lacking in humanity. David Cameron will announce today how many refugees we will now (under political pressure) welcome into the UK. We must not allow these people to put into some kind of awful detention centre or in any way be made to feel unwelcome.

My wife and I (along with countless other families across the UK) would welcome a family into our home. We’ve had destitute asylum seekers live with us before through the amazing Boaz Trust in Manchester and it has been an utterly humbling and richly rewarding experience. Even if it isn’t this time, and is full of inconvenience and pain, love compels us to embrace the “other”.

I’m not the world’s best singer/songwriter, but I’ve found over the last few months that I have written many protest songs…..I will be posting them on this blog (with HUGE thanks to my friend Andrew Towers at purple videos for filming them) over the coming weeks. This first one is written, putting myself (as far as I am able through imagination) in the place of a refugee and singing to the powers – to David Cameron, to Theresa May, to George Osborne, to the other leaders of Europe and indeed the USA…..Have a listen…..It’s called “Will You Love Me?”

Future Peace

If we are going to reimagine a future of peace, we have to ask ourselves some deep and absolutely uncomfortable questions. We must question some truths that we have come to believe and uphold about the nation state and the role of the armed forces. The three videos below are seriously worth watching.

Kenarchy – New Hope for the Political Left

Michael Sheen wrote a brilliant article in the New Statesman this last week (https://t.co/64vmmjC0if), asking some serious questions of the Labour Party. Here is my personal view about where new hope can be found for the political left (not that labour necessarily represent that anymore…..)

Questioning Our Foundations

I am increasingly aware how much we believe, simply because we are told it. We are educated in schools of thought, rather than taught how to learn and how to wrestle with ideas. I am so grateful for some brilliant teachers in my life who have consistently challenged me to think outside the box. If we are scared of questions we will never find the future we hope for.

I believe if we are to reimagine the future we have to be able to faithfully question some  of the streams of thought that we have taken on hook, line and sinker into our corporate soul. To me it is clear that much of western thought has been shaped/is under girded by a Judeo-Christian theology of God and scripture that does not align itself with the way of love and peace that I see in Jesus. How is this so?

In this 15 minute video blog I unpack (in no great depth) some ideas from a fantastic book I read (and kind of wish I had been clever enough to articulate and write!) by a chap called Derek Flood. The book is called ‘Disarming Scripture’ (well worth a read – whatever your faith perspective).

In future video blogs, I hope to unpick some more about the currencies of empire and how they are still foundational in our western thought, but utterly opposed to a reimagined future of love and peace……

Talking Health and Wellbeing with the Rising Generation

I had the privilege of facilitating a conversation in our local high school with a bunch of students of differing ages and backgrounds. The head teacher at Carnforth High is an amazing person and her vision and holistic view of education is inspirational – it was a real privilege to spend some time at Carnforth High. The two main questions: “What does it mean to be healthy? And what would this school/town be like if it was healthy?”

We then had a further discussion about how we might make those dreams a reality and they also helped me understand more about what they perceive some of the barriers to be (nearly all systemic). It was really stimulating to be part of it and gives me lots of things to report back to our Health and Wellbeing Board. Here are some of my thoughts/reflections immediately following it (I was quite excited…..)!