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Earlier this month shortly after his installation, the new Moderator of the Presbyterian Church was criticized for using the term “the other side” when referring to Sinn Fein in his first interview on Good Morning Ulster. I don’t want to add to the criticism, as I have never appeared on that programme without a script in front of me. But the phrase “the other side” cuts deep into the nature of politics in this province. and perhaps the fundamental form of politics that we have in modern western democracy. Continue reading
The workings of Government are very closely interwoven with the gospel story. Tax collectors and soldiers, courts and politics are all there. Did you ever think what the Christmas story would have been like if Caesar Augustus had not decided to hold a census? No journey to Bethlehem and no stable, for a start. In the wider Bible, censuses are regarded with some suspicion, as a symptom of people placing their trust in human strength rather than in God, and in more modern times, they are often regarded as intrusive prying by the state. They are, nonetheless, incredibly valuable tools for understanding society and hence for making sure that government plans bear some resemblance to the real world. Continue reading
For many years, I taught in the American Studies Program on Capitol Hill, an interdisciplinary semester of study focused on nurturing in undergraduates the vision and virtues required to take up vocations in the public square. Formed by a deeply wrought understanding of Christian responsibility, the curriculum centred upon an exploration of the themes of truth, justice, shalom, and hope, set amidst concrete, contemporary policy debates ranging from welfare reform to Middle East politics. Continue reading
I write this on the centenary of the House of Commons speech by Winston Churchill, then Home Secretary, in which he famously said “ ...The mood and temper of the public in regard to the treatment of crime and criminals is one of the most unfailing tests of the civilization of any country”. Continue reading
For many years Bill Clinton's dictum ‘it’s the economy stupid’ was superseded in local politics by ‘it’s the constitution stupid’. The constitutional question in large part determined which party a voter chose. Thankfully that issue seems to have been settled, at least for the time being, and the economy is now assuming centre stage. While Labour and Conservative argue over whether British society is broken there is general agreement that the economy is broken. Signs are that it may be precariously balanced on the verge of recovery but we are warned there will be hard times ahead. Continue reading