Summary of discussion at First Thursday April 2nd, 2015
It was reported that Michael Gove had written an article in the Spectator that Christianity is despised and ridiculed in today’s society: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/9487882/in-defence-of-christianity/ Certainly the pettiness of the arguments being rehearsed before the Election reveals a lack of political vision on the part of most major political parties, and a strong tendency to scorn any party that puts forward a strong vision as indulging in “foolish and impracticable idealism”.
This lack of vision or sense of ethical and moral values in current political debate is probably why many young people (and others) find themselves attracted by various forms of extremism and fanatical ideologies. It is said that you can always survive as a “moral being” if you know where you are coming from. Which is perhaps why groups such as ISIS take good care to destroy a community’s history.
If there is a lack of moral and ethical vision in our politics and our life then cruelty becomes normal- possibly as the aftermath of World War 2? Does this explain the rash of bullying on eg Facebook (with not only students but also parents bullying teachers through social media).
Any society needs to give priority to community education and the development of good philosophy. Schools are placing increasing stress on teaching “values”- though the pressure in older age groups to gain “qualifications” (because of the competition for jobs) can push this to a lower priority in the curriculum. And this education needs to continue into adulthood, not just be thought of as something “for children”. Education based on faith has an important contribution to make in this- though it cannot have an “exclusive” role in a multi-faith and multi-cultural society. Religious education has to start from somewhere, which is where the “history” of faith is important (as something which is experienced, not merely taught).
In earlier generations Christianity was seen as being the only basis for this kind of education in “values”. Society has gone through as time when this “exclusive” place of religion has been questioned. The literal historical “truth” of many Bible stories has been challenged (“It ain’t necessarily so” as the song put it)- but stories can still embody the values of a community. An argument about their historical accuracy is often beside the point.
If there are no longer any absolutes which are generally accepted by society, that does not mean there is nothing we can say. In fact there is a greater need for debate and discussion (despite the warning “never discuss religion or politics”- instead we need to learn how to discuss these without coming to blows).