We discussed the way many societies, when they feel under threat by something they do not fully understand, make a political shift to a more authoritarian, “right-wing” style of government, choosing leaders who claim to be able to simplify and solve problems for them, so avoiding the hard work of analysis which is needed to find lasting solutions.
In his 2015 Lenten message Pope Francis warned of what he called a “Globalisation of Indifference”: http://www.archivioradiovaticana.va/storico/2015/01/27/pope_warns_of_globalization_of_indifference_in_lenten_messag/en-1120128 This “indifference” perhaps grows out of a sense that the problems are too big for “ordinary” people to handle.
Participation is easier in small face-to-face communities- a North Bedfordshire village of fewer than 300 people achieved a 50 percent response to a questionnaire about the local Plan. Bigger units can feel too remote. Leopold Kohr’s 1957 book “The Breakdown of Nations” said: “the solution of the problems confronting the world as a whole does not seem to lie in the creation of still bigger social units….. [but] in the restoration of a healthy system of small and easily manageable states.” (Full text is here: https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/leopold-kohr-the-breakdown-of-nations.) The UK feels as if it is becoming a Disunited Kingdom. Far worse happened to former Yugoslavia.
Is it possible that working effectively at small-scale democracy (churches, villages etc) can build confidence in our ability to deal with larger units? Is there such a thing as “Christian” Democracy? (ie a Christian contribution to the debate about democracy, not the “Christian Democrat” parties of continental Europe, which were motivated by a reaction against “atheistic” Communism).
Our reading was Jeremiah 31, verses 7 to 14- confidence in the return of exiles from Captivity in Babylon. Jeremiah is regarded as a “gloomy” prophet, but his message is full of hope, encouraging the Exiles to “seek the good of the city” where they are (29, verses 1 to 14), but also buying a field at Anathoth (32:6 to 15) in the certainty of eventual restoration. (But we also noted how the promise is used today to justify a “return” to Israel after European anti-semitism and Holocaust, but ignoring Palestinian rights in a near-repeat of Joshua’s Conquest). Jeremiah’s message of hope should give communities the confidence to face hard realities, rather than “switching off”, turning inward and trying to ignore the world beyond our own experience. But “facing reality” can involve being forced to revise the understanding of your own history- as Germany did when a generation grew up asking questions about the Third Reich, and as British society and schools are now having to revise our understanding of the history of the British Empire- toppling statues is only one symptom of this “correcting” of history.
And this needs to happen also to the “Christian Political Right” in the USA- now focussing on abortion and support for Israel, but having its origins in an attempt to defend “Christian Civilisation” against black Americans, despite the fact that many of them were also Christian.