Last year in the run up to the leadership vote on the Labour Party (UK) Corbyn gave a talk in Liverpool. We have just recently come across it, and the part that interested me was his closing statement about what to call ‘a society where everyone matters, where everyone cares for everyone else.’ He went on to say ‘you can call it anything you like. I prefer to call it socialism, you can call it humanism, humanitarianism. You can call it what you want but a society based on the idea that you respect everybody and care for everybody is actually a happier, more prosperous, more successful, more peaceful society’.
Why did he not add ‘you can call it Christianity’? Was it because he simply chose a few possible names from a long list? Was it because it does not represent a Christian viewpoint? There might be many responses we of faith might give, but I think one of the sources for the Labour Party (John Wesley and Methodism) would probably want to shout loudly that the Jesus-following vision is right there behind what he describes.
Here is the video and the part where I quote and reflect is from 15:30 onwards – the last short segment.
Scripture has a lot to say about money, the limitations on wealth creation and the like. I am wondering if the loss of ‘family values’ is the result of the seed of the anarchic 60s, or whether there is another source all-together.
In 1976 there was an intervention by the IMF in the economic management in the UK. There began a shift from a previously Keynesian economic concensus to something that has been pursued since then (and not just under Margaret Thatcher) to the cutting loose of the market. There was an abandonment of full-employment as a goal, privatisation was pursued and the free market was deified. (I use that term because I believe it is justifiable biblically. When we have phrases such as the ‘invisible hand of the market’ and a belief that it will self-regulate we are ascribing to a set of beliefs akin to those who were subject to the ‘elemental principals of the universe’ that Paul critiques.)
From 1979 – 1997 we have:
- the proportion of women aged 18-49 who were married fell from 74% to 69%
- the proportion co-habiting increased from 11% to 22%
- births outside marriage more than doubled
- one parent families increased from 12% to 22%
- by 1991 there was a divorce in Britain for every 2 marriages
- the number of households in the UK where there was no-one active in work moved from 6.5% to 19.1%
- the levels of incarceration also greatly increased.
Is there a connection? Well maybe if we prioritise individual choice over any common good it tends to make relationships also provisional. If choice is the highest value what is the difference between initiating a divorce and trading in a used car? The logic of serving this god is that all relationships also become consumer goods.
The breakup of family – the result of the bad seed of the 60s or the economic freedom advocated and practiced from the 70s onwards? I don’t think we can shout ‘family values’ loudly and bow at the feet of individualism and unfettered pursuit of (a false) prosperity.
Of course we might have beliefs about how a corporate economy should be run, who should be taxed and at what levels. Those of my persuasion will of course have our bias. It is something deeper though I am pushing for. The bankruptcy of the West is becoming ever more visible. I think there is now a slower but deeper revealing of what lies behind the façades. Wesley’s gospel had a strong socal dimension to it. Such a shame if the vision of the future can only have the adjectives socialist, humanist or humanitarian attached to it. The great Human has lived among us. We have been endued by his Spirit. (OK another plug for #3 on my ecclesiology ‘thinking out loud’….)