Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 16th June 2024

Dear Friends, Caroline’s message last week quoted the following: Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time Message from the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (PaCET) for Sunday Meeting 16th June 2024

Dear Friends,

Caroline’s message last week quoted the following:

Remember your responsibilities as a citizen for the conduct of local, national, and international affairs. Do not shrink from the time and effort your involvement may demand.
(Advices and Queries,34)

I’ve likewise been reflecting on this passage, with a general election approaching.  I hope Friends will forgive me for returning to it so soon.

There’s an element of realism here that I particularly like.  We are encouraged to approach the various political parties as citizens, not as consumers.  This is a responsibility, and in some ways a burden.

I have been thinking specifically about two favourite stories that illustrate both the limitations and the profound significance of democratic politics.

The first is from the French Presidential election in 2002.  In the final round of voting, there were two candidates:  Jacques Chirac, who was facing allegations of corruption; and Jean-Marie Le Pen, the candidate of the far right.  A popular slogan among those who saw Chirac as the lesser evil, was “Vote for the crook not for the fascist”.  Supposedly, some of those who voted for Chirac went to the polls wearing a clothes peg over their nose.

Sometimes all the available options at a democratic election may look deeply unattractive (I leave it to you to judge how far this is the case in our 2024 General Election).  What do we do then?  Do we try and discern the best (or least worst) option?  Or do we say, I cannot in conscience give any of these my support?  These are some of the most difficult questions to which electoral politics can give rise.  But even in these situations, at least there is a choice:  vote for the lesser evil, or else choose principled abstention.

A more cheerful story relates to David Lloyd George. He was Prime Minister during and after the First World War.  Before that, as Chancellor for the Exchequer, he played a part in the introduction of the first old age pensions. For many of the first recipients, this was life-changing.  One old lady was singing the praises of Lloyd George to a friend:  eventually, driven to exasperation, the friend said sarcastically, “I suppose you believe Lloyd George has built you a railway to heaven!”  “Of course not”, came the reply.  “I have a Saviour who has done that.  But Lloyd George has made the waiting room much more comfortable”.

What I take from this story is twofold.  Even when democratic politics is at its very best, there are issues of ultimate meaning and purpose that it can’t touch.  But at the same time, the right political leaders at the right time can have a profound and life-changing impact.

Realism about politics is important.  But realism shouldn’t lead us to apathy or cynicism.

Tim

on behalf of the Pastoral Care and Eldership Team (David Hitchin, Chris Lawson, Tim Pitt-Payne, Caroline Pybus, Theresa Samms and Nancy Wall)