Some thoughts for the night before (and the night after) a General Election

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I’m not going to tell you how to vote: you are intelligent and have already weighed carefully what to do. I might not agree with your decision, but I respect it. This blog is not about that.

These are some random observations about this campaign ; my biases are evident. I’ve always voted Labour in a national election. If I lived in a seat where I had a chance of unseating a Conservative, I’d vote tactically for any other party to do so. Part of the reason is that I am a Methodist minister: we tend to see things through a Left/Liberal lens (see for example the above prayer. I find it hard to see how any Christian with a working knowledge of The Magnificat* could do otherwise), another reason is one of my children’s’ godparents is standing for Labour. There are many, many other reasons which are of no consequence here; I just wanted to be honest about my biases.

Here goes (I’m guilty of some of these points):-

1: Please can we retire emotive phrases like ‘the will of the people’ , ‘Britain has decided’ or ‘the people have spoken’? The most any governing party has ever got of the popular votes since 1948 is 48%. Most governing parties gain between 37% to 45%: that is not even  a majority of the 65-75% who vote. As soon as you recognise that, it would be a good idea to be less strident & have a little more humility.

2: ‘We won and you lost’. Is the kind of phrase that I’d expect to hear on the lips of a 9 year old boy, boasting in the playground and not a grown adult. It over simplifies, ramps up the emotions and…have we learned nothing about the divisiveness of this phrase on social media post 2015? Also: see number 1.

3: Too many of us share things on social media that are not true– but we desperately want them to be so due to the way we see the world. In this election this reached almost epidemic proportions. Check your sources: it is a shame there is not a search engine- we could call it ‘google’ or something- to do this. By the way: did you know that Tesco are giving out £50 vouchers: please share…

4: Hyperbole: beloved of leading politicians and used unwittingly by us. For example: if this is a ‘once in a generation election’, given recent elections I must be around 226 years old. Please stop: my head is hurting.

5: Most aspiring politicians believe in what they are standing for and have the kind of integrity that you or I have. They are not all corrupt, ‘muppets’ or standing against ‘the will of the people’ (see number 1 again); labelling them as such damages us.

6: If you have any kind of intelligence and expect me to listen to you on social media, please drop the ‘pejorative adjective’. As soon as you talk about ‘the racist Johnson’, ‘the anti Semitic Corbyn’ or go on to say ‘all Tories are c**ts’, ‘Rees Mogg is a b**tard* I stop listening to you and wonder who gives you the right to talk about another human like that. Express annoyance and anger, but like you are talking about another human being and not like you have disappeared down the rabbit hole of your own echo chamber.

7: If you feel aggrieved about the result don’t label people who voted differently to you as ‘stupid’, ‘idiots’, ‘ignorant’ . Likewise, don’t blame ‘old people’ if there is a heavy Conservative majority; the clue is in the 2nd part of that: ‘people’- you and I will be old one day. I’d hate to be considered less of a person just because of the way I voted.

8: Stop playing ‘racism olympics’. On surveys (which is only one measure), all parties have members that have racist opinions. Although Labour’s measure tends to be lower than other parties and has arguably declined in the past few years, that is not cause to play ‘whatboutery’ (yet, in the antisemitism furore, it was a constant source of joy to me that people on the right with little previous record in anti racism suddenly became very interested in and zealous about Labour and antisemitism…). No party can be complacent until racism is eradicated: I hope that the EHRC investigation into Labour will underline this and I look for similar investigations into other parties.

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That’s about enough and double the length of my usual posts. I’ve not mentioned my doubts about the BBC, wondered ‘what a time to be alive’ that in a world with Hamas, the AfD, an increase in Far Right terrorism, Isis etc that Jeremy Corbyn is still apparently the number 1 danger to Jews, speculated about the level of lying that came out of BoJo and the Conservative campaign, the fatuous and disingenuous nature of ‘Get Brexit Done’ and… that’s enough, apart from one specifically Christian one:-

9: How distant I have become from many evangelical analyses of ‘a Christian guide on how to vote’. I’ve read quite a bit on ‘right to life’ (which is important), personal morality (ditto: although Boris seems to get a free pass) etc, but very little on the vast increase in foodbank usage, the blaspehemy of Austerity (I do not use that word lightly- but when you seem to ignore the image of God in the real human cost and the deliberate choice to cut from those with little, ‘blasphemy’ seems appropriate) etc as ways in which your vote might be guided. I’ve practically stopped reading you: particularly when you seem to be ‘genitally obsessed’ with the way that you read culture.

The end.

 

(* See Luke chapter 2- google it. It is also referred to as ‘Mary’s song’)

The ecstatic ending.

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I’ve noticed it before and in my past I practiced it; the ‘ecstatic ending’.

I think we sometimes do it in conversation when what we are hearing is too hard to process and we just don’t know what to say;’Never mind, eh: things’ll get better’. Sometimes there is a time to cheer people up, to direct them to some hope, but more often  there is a time to listen, to be silent and to hold.

More particularly in church, shit has happened, the words of scripture have been words of lament & there seems to be no ‘gospel’, yet you end a service, a conversation, anything vaguely Christian with an ‘ecstatic ending’. For example; ‘we know that it says here ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’, but let’s just think of all the good stuff that God does’. Or even: ‘We’ve heard some sad news about Mary this morning, but people: God is faithful!’

I remember once reading a book about the writer being in a church, listening to the worship and the leader said something like ‘we are going to have some silence’ and through the party wall separating the church from the neighbouring house came the sounds of the occupant beating up his wife. The worship leader looked uncertain and.. then ordered the band leader to strike up, but louder.

When this happens:-

Sometimes it feels like a jarring major chord at the end of a song with loads of minor chords: it destroys the overall effect of feeling so connected, that your pain and that of others has been listened to, felt and understood even when there are no answers.

Sometimes it feels like the leader of worship has no real trust in the Divine, and has to impose a happy ending so that it is all ok.

Sometimes (or often!) life is imperfect, there is pain, loss and no sense of a resolution. While we need hope and a crack of light in a dark sky, it is isn’t healthy to be closed down in an ecstatic ending.

Sometimes it is not ok, it will never be ok; but acknowledgment of that is all that is needed.. and that is ok.