Rt Rev John Chalmers, moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, talks about the General Election, the responsibilities held by our MPs and reflects on Mary Slessor and television personality Stephen Fry.
Three months to go before polling day and the political parties are determined to show how far apart they are from one another, rather than describe what they might do together to serve society better.
Somehow, this short-term focus has to be replaced with long-term vision. Politics and campaigning should not just be about vote-grabbing, but about inspiring and encouraging people to look beyond the immediate horizon.
I despair when I hear politicians describe five-year planning as “long-term”.
I see policies in every major department of government made the subject of short-term political expediency, when what is actually needed to address the most broken bits of our social infrastructure is the bringing together of the best minds and the goodwill of people across all agencies, sectors and political parties.
My plea to those seeking office is to work cross-party on some of the big issues that should not be subject to short-term political cycles, but which need strategic, long-term and sustained investment in generational and cultural change.
I want to ask those who are courting our votes to treat the electorate with real respect and dignity.
We are tired of spin, of pundits interpreting “facts” so as to present their own version of the truth. We can see through all of that.
I’m tired of politicians attacking each other’s ideas for the sake of scoring cheap points and I’m tired of the fact that the issues of the day which really matter to people – jobs, the NHS, welfare, climate change – are used as the basis to critique opponents’ views, rather than to work out what could be achieved together for the common good.
The adversarial and ultra-competitive nature of our party politics has reached a stage at which there is now no room for weakness or vulnerability.
But how can this be? For to be vulnerable, afraid and even wrong from time to time are characteristics of our humanity. By allowing a culture of invincibility to infect political life, we do three things.
First, we prevent ourselves from trusting politicians, as we find their arguments and promises incredulous.
Second, we stop good people from seeking political office because of the hypocrisy which is involved and because they become “fair game” in the political boxing ring.
Third, we do not allow our politicians to be human any more: instead, they are airbrushed, on-message, and unable to acknowledge or respect the good ideas of people from different parties.
There is so much which still needs healing: from the wounds of the referendum campaign to the chasm of inequality.
We need to cherish our vulnerability and allow every voice from across Scotland’s political spectrum – and beyond – to indicate determination to work together, and to acknowledge the dedication and integrity of their opponents.
During last year’s referendum campaign, the Church argued that the debate was too important to be left to the usual suspects in politics and the media.
Now is the time for diverse voices to speak up and be heard, and for us to have the political world we deserve – one which shames arrogance and hubris and celebrates humility and public service.
I see that the British Military have realised they cannot win battles by might alone.
Now a new British army elite unit will use social media in the battle to win hearts and minds.
Perhaps the British Army should take a leaf out of the book of that great Scottish woman, Mary Slessor.
She adorns our Clydesdale Bank £10 note for good reason.
When more than 120 year ago she went to Calabar (now in modern Nigeria), the tribal people believed twins were the work of evil spirits and they abandoned them and the mother to die in the bush.
However, by the time she died a hundred years ago she had brought this terrible practice to an end.
She won over hearts and minds by living with the people and loving them unconditionally.
Two weeks ago I preached in the Church she founded in Duke Town; 100 sets of twins were present.
Mary Slessor, born in Aberdeen, raised in Dundee had no children of her own, but she has a legacy in Nigeria of twins who live because she cared.
For a moment, when Stephen Fry delivered his rant against God, he had me worried but when I heard his description of God I was relieved; because he doesn’t believe in the same God that I don’t believe in.
We also have this in common – we rage against injustice, we rail against innocents suffering and we cannot comprehend the triumph of evil over good.
But the God I believe in gives me the yardstick by which to measure the distance that women and men still have to travel and the God I believe in gives me the will to keep on working to establish communities of justice, forgiveness and peace.
We Christians call that the Kingdom of God and we continue to pursue it.
Fry’s God is a lampoon of the intelligent designers and the seven day Creationists.
The God that I believe in is not some distant puppet master orchestrating the suffering of humanity, but is the God who suffers alongside humanity.
The God I know is the friend of the poor and the God I know describes the peacemakers as God’s children.