We had a great evening at the chaplaincy on Friday Night – as the Faith and Politics series of evenings came to a climax. With 4 guests, 2 current MP’s, a former MP and a prominent Catholic Journalist. What was very striking was how positive the energy was, and it is important to remember how much we can achieve when we are looking outwards rather than inwards. It is an unhealthy community that splits into factions and rows and gossips about ‘internal matters’ whether dogma or politics. A dynamic attractive community is one that puts its faith into action, helping and engaging with civil society. First up on Friday was Ivan Lewis MP, who talked about his Jewish identity and upbringing, and his passionate defence of faith schools. Currently the Shadow Secretary for International Development, we had moved his talk forward as he left us to go straight to the airport to fly to Burma and meet Aung San Suu Kyi.
Talking about Faith and Politics from a liberal Jewish perspective it was interesting to hear him talk about the need for integration not assimilation – with an implicit critique to ‘assertive secularism’. He argued that a good faith school gives you a strong identity which allows integration. Compare this to Dawkin’s absurd claim that faith schools are a form of child abuse. It resonated with me when Mr Lewis said that the lack of a sense of identity was a big problem with young people. Interestingly this is something I have been pondering recently – especially a phenomenon I see more and more as the Digital Age allows people to experiment with multiple identities. Although there is a sort-of freedom in this, ultimately the lack of a deep-rooted identity, especially the experimenting with conflicting identities which on line anonymity allows, often leads to bullying and abuse – and also a vulnerability to being buffeted by the shrill winds of consumerism and ‘lifestyle agendas’.
The other MP – Paul Goggins, in contrast shared about how his identity had been shaped at Manchester University - particularly through experiences are working with disabled children through L’arche. This ethos of service was rooted in his faith – and I am delighted he mentioned this as we were invited at yesterdays evenings mass to get involved with the Manchester L’arche community that is opening. My next post will be about the other two guests on a memorable night!