NEWSLETTER for 3 July from Team Rector PETER REISS

This weekend the United States will celebrate Independence Day – and the United Kingdom remembers and acknowledges that the USA gained independence from Great Britain through a long drawn-out war. The USA rejected monarchy in favour of a democratically elected and democratically accountable President, but that foundation is being drastically undermined by Donald Trump and his followers; its outcome will shape the world for the next 200 years probably.

Our own democracy has been built on values of integrity, most recently articulated in the Seven Principles of Public Life and found on the government website – The Seven Principles of Public Life – GOV.UK ( . These too are in danger of being undermined by the current Prime Minister, written out of the Ministerial Code, and with two Ethics Advisers resigning.

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely” – this saying by Lord Acton has almost become trite, but it remains worryingly true. The foundations of both the American and the British systems assumed a level of honour and morality from those who seek top office, and assumed that were there a rogue operative the surrounding groups would hold that person first in check and then to account. But both systems, American and British, have been shown to be underminable, and what may be more worrying, the wider population seems either oblivious or helpless, or undecided in how to respond. Is it time for us to march and demonstrate in support of democratic principles? The trouble is that many who are in favour of these have never demonstrated before, but have trusted in their leadership!

Politics is not simple, and political challenges are always complex and multi-faceted. Politics nearly always involves making a deal – but how much more important then that the deal-makers can be trusted to do so in the best interests of not just themselves and their friends, but of all, especially those whose voices are weakest. The greedy and amoral are often less scrupulous, more determined, and more devious than we might hope they would be. “Be on your guard” is a phrase that comes several times in the Scriptures and with good reason.

The Bible is a remarkably political book – In the Old Testament we find kings and leaders, sometimes with prophets holding them to account; we find challenges from more powerful countries around, and decisions about whether to make a treaty or not, with all the compromises that could involve.  In the New Testament, Pilate and Herod and the religious leaders are key players in the ministry of Jesus and often the subject or object of his teaching and challenge. For Paul, and for John, writing Revelation, how to live in the real world is their context. Since Constantine the church in Europe has had times of power and influence both officially and because committed Christians like Wilberforce or Shaftesbury have campaigned for social changes, whether around slavery or working conditions etc. Christian women were at the forefront of the Suffragette movement and at the start of the Trade Union movement, and more recently the Jubilee 2000 campaign. Those were campaigning for a change but maybe now we need to campaign for upholding older values and against those who would ignore them.

We may need to look again at how we speak up for the values that we know protect and shape good government. To quote  what is attributed to Edmund Burke – “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.“ Good men and women may need to do something rather more – we may not have noticed quite how undermined are our foundations. Once undermined the whole thing could topple.