Monday, March 24, 2008


Occasionally, Ekklesia faces the charge of being The Guardian at prayer - perhaps from those who have not quite noticed the disdain directed at some of our associates on Comment-is-Free, or who have not registered our constant attempts to re-frame the standard 'liberal -v- conservative' standoff. Anyway, Jonathan Bartley and I have rather different political backgrounds, and I've made a conscious decision to do bits of commentary in the centre (OpenDemocracy) and on the centre-right (Wardman Wire). But when the splendid Sunny Hundal of Pickled Politics started up LiberalConspiracy, launched last year at the offices of Demos, I couldn't resist. My first piece, a long time coming because of other commitments is Manipulating politics through religion. I also entered the following caveat on my contributor's profile: "Simon has a particular interest in inclusive models of secular life, and in uncovering subversive and pluralistic strands within religious thought. He values liberality but isn’t sure about liberalism as an ideology." And, of course, for me the theological underpinning and shape of what I'm doing and thinking is central and determinative, though never anything but fallible (because it is mediated by me).

The question of how one develops and conveys theologically grounded convictions in an environment in which they are not readily understood and may often be contested remains a crucial one, of course. My basic outlook is that rationality, the ability to 'make sense' in a variety of ways, is tradition specific - but that traditions of reasoning, both religious and non-religious, overlap and coincide in persons and communities, as well as clashing and missing each other. This mean that there is communicability (an assumption of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation, too), but more through heuristic and phenomenological means rather than systematic ones. There is no guarantee of translatability, nor a meta-language that we can all deploy or access. There are only attempts to live and codify the truth together; narratives that shape, explain, critique and create those attempts; and the Holy Spirit operative ("disturbing the comfortable; comforting the disturbed') within and beyond the community that recognises itself caught up in the ongoing process of Christian discernment. That is, the Gospel narrative / dynamic, understood from the 'underside' of history, where the Christ to whom it points is located. This paragraph, I suppose you could say, amounts to my hermeneutic, understood as a revisable working hypothesis.

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