Epiphany, the great Universalist feast of the church, is as good a point as any to to re-consider the defining cultural issue of our day: the relationship between national and international identity.
Late January finds us racing through the season of Epiphany, the great “universalist” feast of the church.
For those unfamiliar with it, Epiphany is the point in the liturgical calendar at which the Western Church celebrates the coming of the magi to the baby Jesus. Those unacquainted with the ins and outs of the story will know the moment immortalised as it is in the carol, We Three Kings Of Orient Are.
At Epiphany, learned astrologers “from the east” enter the Christmas story, breaking into what has up until now been a parochial and particular narrative, taking place in backwater Bethlehem of Roman Judea. The magi have come to represent the brightest and best minds of their day. These great scholars of the Gentile world make the long trek before offering the fruits of their learning at the feet of the King of Israel. At Epiphany, the universal and the particular collide.
Epiphany is therefore an appropriate juncture at which to re-consider the local and international scope of the Christian faith.
My previous job involved a long commute. I didn’t always have the energy to read books or the newspaper. Inevitably, podcasts became a way to explore fresh ideas. Here are 3 of my favourite podcasts from 2019. Consider it a list of recommended sources for all things Christianity and/or politics in the year ahead.(You can read my list of the ten best podcast episodes of 2019 here).
Reciprocal gift-giving, for all of its potential pitfalls, can build stronger relationships.
In his 2018 Ecumenical Christmas Letter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, appropriately chose to address a practice that is virtually ubiquitous at Christmas time—gift-giving. Describing the celebration of Christmas, Welby writes that “a gift given with the expectation of something in return is not a gift”. In other words, the divine gift of Christ is non-reciprocal, or offered without the intention of the receiver giving something back. While Welby’s statement about non-reciprocal gift-giving might well describe the divine gift to humans, it is worth pausing to ask—does non-reciprocity set the tone for human gift-giving?
The 2019 General Election has come and gone and my oh my was it a seismic one!
In the months leading up to the vote, most polls were steadily forecasting a Conservative Majority. But then a day or so before the vote, YouGov published its MPR poll showing that while a Conservative majority was likely, a hung parliament was within the margin of error.
The exit poll swiftly put paid to that. As the clock struck 10, an 80 seat majority was forecasted with Conservatives taking 364 seats.
Then the results came in, thick and fast, with traditional Labour seats one by one turning blue. It was staggering to watch. Labour heartlands in the north east England yielded Conservative seats, many for the first time in 50, 60 even 70 years…and some for the first time ever. An emotional Ian Levy, the new Conservative MP for the former mining community of Blythe Valley, scarcely seemed to believe that he had won as he delivered his victory speech.
By dawn the results were there for all to see: Conservatives with 365 seats, Labour with 203.
The scale of the victory is breath-taking. The largest Conservative majority since Margaret Thatcher in 1987. The worst Labour performance in terms of haul of seats since the Second World War (oustripping Michael Foot’s 209 seats in 1983). Lewis Baston has rightly referred to it as a landslide.
But what are we to make of all this?
Here are my four big take-aways from the 2019 UK General Election.
In this 30 page treatise, Graham Tomlin (Bishop of Kensington) somehow manages to breathe fresh life into how I think about Brexit. He does so not by focussing on the Brexit debate itself as a set of complex political or economic issues. Rather, he looks at how we might begin to heal and move forward as a nation post-Brexit. For my money, three things make his short book worth reading.
Here’s a select sample of books I’m reading at the moment.
James KA Smith, On the Road with Saint Augustine: A Real-World Spirituality for Restless Hearts (Brazos, 2019)
Tom Holland, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind (Little, Brown, 2019)
Douglas Murray, The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity (Bloomsbury, 2019)
Graham Tomlin, Looking Beyond Brexit: Bringing the Country Back Together (SPCK, 2019)
Roger Scruton, Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously about the Planet (Atlantic, 2012)
Roger Scruton, Conservatism: An Introduction to the Great Tradition (All Points, 2018)
No. 6 (Scruton’s Conservatism) appears because Conservatism is the first Western political philosophy I will be reviewing in my Western Political Philosophy 101 series.
On that note, I’m currently looking for recommendations for the other political philosophies I will be reviewing (Socialism, Liberalism, Libertarianism, Post-Liberalism). If you have any recommendations, please leave them below in a comment. Thank you.
Welcome to the Saeculum, a new blog that offers a refreshingly realistic take on Christianity and politics. I intend this post as a kind of orientation to the blog and an explanation of why I have decided to start it.