Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Sometimes people accuse Ekklesia (and me) of being The Guardian at prayer. Well, I confess to being a long-term Guardianista and more recent CIF-er. But the paper can infuriate as well as inspire me, and you only have to see the comments on my pieces to realise that its interlocutors can despise thinking religion as much as any other kind. Such is the fad of the moment. I also like to think of myself as hard to pigeon-hole. Well, I find it difficult to describe my 'position', anyway! Ekklesia certainly does its best to mess up the simplistic liberal -v- conservative theological game by having some radical arguments to make about God and the world which, we hope, are derived from sources that are surprisingly and creatively traditional - understanding the tradition to be a pool of wisdom and argument, not a fixed entity with a pair of handcuffs attached. Politically, my heart, if it's anywhere, is on the green ex-Eurocommunist democratic left, but my head gets mad with some kinds of leftism, and the dialogue across received labels can be stimulating too. It's vital, in fact, in order to avoid degeneration into dogma and factionalism. Plus, for me, politics is founded in theological convictions, rather than the other way round. (If that sounds a contradiction, then you are thinking of the wrong kind of theology. Mine is about opening the world, not closing it.)

Back in 1992 I wrote an article for the international Christian journal, The Way, published jointly by the Jesuits and Heythrop College in the University of London, where I was working at the time. It was called 'Spirituality left and right'. I tried to give a fair survey, and then ended up saying that I personally found the humanly aspirational, egalitarian and compassionate instincts of the left far more encouraging (and conducive to my Christian outlook) than the often reductionist, privileged and pessimistic view of the right. But, I suggested, in line with Charles Peguy's fear that "every mystique descends into a politique" - adult conviction in a broken world seeking healing requires more, much more, than inherited political ideologies can offer. I believe that even more strongly today, as a floating voter (though admittedly never a Tory one) and a supporter of grassroots, associational, movement-oriented and independent politics.

All of which is a prequel to saying that in addition to contributing occasionally to the broad church that is OpenDemocracy ('discussion forum offering news and opinion articles from established academics and journalists covering current issues'), to the denizens of leftism on Liberal Conspiracy, to the Guardian newspaper's Comment-is-Free, and to the evangelical-based Christian current affairs magazine Third Way (the monthly 'Westminster Watch' - and an interview with Nick Clegg coming soon), I have just agreed to a trial fortnightly column on right-of-centre The Wardman Wire, having admired it for sometime. Not always agreed, but appreciated. I hope it will be a fruitful relationship. The aim is to improve the general discourse about religion and society. Well, a tiny, tiny bit. Hopefully.

1 comment:

Jane said...

REally interesting post Simon
thanks. Will look up the article
Take care