A Voice Crying

'A voice crying in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord', and so John the Baptist burst onto the scene, proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God. The Church takes up that same cry in celebrating the Advent season, as we prepare to celebrate Jesus' birthday, CHRISTMAS. In Advent the Church also looks forward to a second coming, for Christians believe that the same Jesus who came and dwelt among us, will one day come again in glory and establish God's kingdom, once and for all– it will be a day of judgement but also a day when we will see a great outpouring of God's mercy and love; we don't know when that moment will be but it is the mission of the church to remind everyone that we are all called to live our lives in readiness for that day when there will be no second chances!
I was firmly reminded of the Church's task to be a 'voice crying in the wilderness,' in discussion with a young priest at a recent clergy conference I attended—aided by a glass of wine we got onto some of those questions I am always asking in 'Reaching Out', like 'where are our children and grand children going to live?', and 'why do so many working people in our communities have to claim benefits to pay the rent and feed their families'? Obviously I'm not the only one who feels the church has to ask these questions of the society in which we live; as I summed up at our plenary session, the Church must still be a prophetic 'voice crying in the wilderness', even if it so often means being counter–cultural and proclaiming a message that society, especially the political and economic elite, the so called movers and shakers, do not want to hear! If nothing else the recent UK referendum revealed just how many people feel their voice has not been heard, their feelings ignored, not just 'the squeezed middle' but those who are feeling even more squashed by a system that has ruled their lives for too long -they want change!
Returning home on the day of the USA's Presidential election, I was, like so many of us, surprised by the result, and yet as with Brexit, those who felt they had no voice have made their voice heard by backing someone they think speaks for them, how true that is time will tell! Commenting on events in the USA, Irvine Welsh, of 'Trainspotting' fame, said 'what we have seen is the fall of neo-liberalism and the rise of populism, which in turn can lead to fascism'; a lot of 'isms' which I must confess I had to 'google' to get it right!
Neo-liberalism derives from the 1960's philosopher, Hayek and his theory that 'competition is the defining characteristic in human relations in which the Market will discover a natural hierarchy of winners and losers', a theory that of course works against human equality and an equal distribution of wealth and eventually leads to a sense of disempowerment on the part of many, who are prevented from exercising any choice over the direction that politics and society might take! Populism is a kind of opposite, in that it defines an ideology whereby citizens who are ignored or mistreated by a political or economic elite, unite and work to overthrow anything that tramples on their rights and the values they hold dear. Unfortunately once populism gains a hold, whether in the USA, Britain or anywhere else, democracy can give way to a politics based on 'who shouts loudest' and where, in the public space, rabble rousers look about for scapegoats as the cause of all people's woes; we all know where that led in the 1940's!
So it is in the present climate that the Church and all Christians must be the 'voice that cries in the wilderness', a Church that goes on proclaiming an eternal and universal kingdom that is still to come and yet one which we must do all we can to make present now; a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. It's difficult when people, in their frustration, turn to a virulent anti— politics, where fact and argument are replaced by slogans and symbols, but it will not make things better if we turn from the rule of law or stand behind any politician or leader who does not share the belief that we share a common humanity which respects the fundamental human rights of all people and always seeks to promote the common good!

your friend and priest

Fr. Keith