My name is Simeon Burke and I live and work in the UK. Welcome to my blog. Thank you for reading. Allow me to introduce myself and this website.
Who am I?
I was born in Wales, raised in Northern Ireland, Fiji and Chicago (USA). The experiences of home, nationality, belonging, identity and rootedness are important ones to me and ones that I will explore in this blog. Where do I belong? That’s a question that will rear its head quite a few times in these pages. For my part, I feel a deep affinity to each part of the British Isles. I am “pan-British”, having lived in Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and, more recently, England.
I recently completed my doctorate at the University of Edinburgh in early Christianity. My thesis told the story of how and why two early Christians—Tertullian and Origen—went about reading Jesus’s words in context. Before that, I studied history and New Testament at the University of St Andrews and Christ’s College, University of Cambridge.
My second love is politics and culture, particularly where this intersects with faith. I first became interested in the relationship between politics and religion at an early age. Having grown up in Northern Ireland, Fiji and the US—all countries in which politics and religion have interacted in rather explosive ways—I was acutely aware of the potential perils of mentioning God and Caesar in the same breath. I simultaneously became interested in exploring more impactful, constructive and effective ways of engaging in these conversations. These early, formative experiences ignited my interest and continue to drive my quest to write and think about the place of faith in the public square. I put these passions into action as a voluntary case worker at Scottish parliament (2016) and then as Research Assistant at Theos think tank (March-Sept 2019).
I now work in research development and, on occasion, teach New Testament for the Cambridge Theological Federation.
Folks will often feel it is foolish to lay one’s cards on the table, but there’s nothing I find more interesting than talking about what makes people tick.
I try and write first and foremost with an eye to the Christian tradition. My own part of the woods is Protestant, broadly speaking. I have worshipped in Methodist, Church of Ireland and Baptist churches, was baptised in the Church of Scotland (well, the North Sea, technically) and currently worship in the Church of England, where my wife is a curate.
I’d broadly describe myself as Reformed Anglican and find this a rich home from which to engage and learn from the many other parts of the church catholic. I particularly appreciate two aspects of the Reformed traditions: first, their openness to other intellectual and spiritual traditions, which is a source of challenge and delight. This openness certainly encourages humility. That the Reformers imperfectly sought to engage the traditions before them resonates with my own sense of the crucial importance of the universal church across space and time. That Calvin was a student of the Fathers and Mothers of the Church chimes with my own interest in the world of the early Christians and the lives and thought of those who shaped the faith. And second, I appreciate the Reformed traditions’ focus on formation and pedagogy. On this second point, I find great comfort and encouragement in the confessions, canons and catechisms, which themselves draw on scripture and the creeds. I particularly enjoy the liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer. I really buy into James KA Smith’s insight that we are liturgical creatures and that carefully developed and crafted liturgy shapes our habits, words and postures as disciples of Christ.
In the spirit of openness to other traditions, I also seek to learn from a variety of cultural and political traditions, though I probably sit somewhere in the nexus between small-c conservatism, political liberalism and post-liberalism. Post-liberalism, which moves left on economy, right on culture and looks to the local and particular in governance, seems to offer a good analysis of the Western plight—rampant autonomy and individualism—and, especially when it draws on religious traditions, offers a compelling way out of our current malaise. But I still find myself questioning certain of its assumptions as well, which is probably as it should be.
My hope is that I will continue to re-evaluate my cultural and political assumptions on the basis of my engagement with church traditions and, above all, the scriptures. I keep coming back to the view that if politics and faith are about our core convictions and loves and lived experience with self, God and humanity…then it’s hard to separate politics and faith. The two are, or should be, in constant conversation.
I hope that these pages inspire hope as well as challenge. To paraphrase the words of one person I spoke to recently, our Christian faith and faith traditions have within them more than enough of the tools, habits and resources for dealing with the cultural, social and political issues, opportunities and challenges of today.
Why am I writing?
This blog is an attempt to record, develop and test my thoughts which mainly cluster around the two big things that animate my life: (1) Christianity and the church (2) politics and culture.
As an historian by training, my skills and interests lie in the ways that past thinkers have discussed and continue to talk about religion, politics and the good life. More specifically, I am passionate about the role history might play in raising fresh questions about our current political moment and enlivening and resourcing contemporary debates surrounding the place of religion in society.
I’m not on the internet much these days. However, here are my social media pages:
Twitter: I tweet (very occasionally these days) at @simeonrburke
All views expressed are my own. I welcome engagement from all. I only ask that you show me the same courtesy which I have shown you by naming yourself.