The announcement this week of drastic cuts in government budgets, will doubtless be followed all to quickly by the usual political and media noises about the urgent need for public sector reform. Almost certainly there will then be a backlash from those threatened by this attack, with complaints about greedy bankers, fat cats, and those employing off-shore tax-havens. In the middle of all of this will be those far too many real lives from both the private and public sectors, desperately affected by an economic crisis not (they will consider) of their own making.
We can all be `one-eyed` in our off moments, and political and economic bad news is often more palatable when the distractions of blame are encouraged.
Reality of course, is a very different matter. We`re all mostly grateful for the interventions for example , that happen to keep us in good health. Few of us would think to complain to a GP making a life-saving intervention, that she should focus more on cost-effective budget reform, or to a nurse who has reassuringly managed our everyday needs whilst we were unwell that he should see what it`s like to do a `proper` job. We`re just so overwhelmingly grateful to them. And of course, most of us are also aware that it is the success of our thousands of businesses that enable these activities. We actually admire entrepreneurs and their like, we respect the sheer hard work of those employed in our manufacturing and creative industries, and yes, we even admire good, honest bankers.
The simple fact is, both sectors need and depend upon each other. Added to that, we all know good people who are either currently working, or whom have lost their jobs, or at least are in peril of such, in both sectors. When we take the time to remember this, we inevitably reach more refined and mature conclusions.
So, what does all of this have to do with Unitarian belief? Surely we are tolerant, believe in individual freedoms and the need for respect ? Well of course, but are there also times when we ourselves lose sight of the target, and become side-tracked by the old polarised arguments between dissenting and traditional religions ? Are we sometimes so quick to defend our own lines of reasoning and belief that we too become unwittingly dismissive of other religious pathways and interpretations, particularly those associated with the pains of our historical schism? We have probably all heard stories of ministers in Anglican church`s for example, who have spoken openly about how misguided and unfocussed Unitarian attitudes to the gospels may be, and that there should be `no truck` with such `sinful` dissent. In some regions of the UK therefore, Unitarians are even banned from `Churches Together` type activities.
But so what ? There are eccentrics and excesses in every walk of life. No church, including our own, is exempt from that reality. Such actions should not condemn the majority. By rising to the bait aren`t we ourselves in danger of a continuance of a public versus private sector-type impasse, that serves neither side well ? Just like those sectors, we are also inextricably linked, whether we like it or not, with other religious and spiritual pathways.We all know good and deeply sincere people whose beliefs are different to our own;dare I say they may even be Trinitarian.That doesn`t make `them` wrong any more than it makes us `right`.
I`m all for exploring Unitarian attitudes to theology and to the growing confidence that this can engender, and for the need to focus upon our `particular` identity.This is fundamental and I applaud those who are able to provoke, challenge and lead us in these matters. I also completely understand the need to be aware of and respect our proud traditions; history reveals the appalling treatment of dissenting individuals and their families by the traditional church. We should however be aware of the wasted energy of ongoing scuffles, albeit unintentional ones, that belong firmly to the past. The last thing we want are mixed messages, yesterday`s battles, and barriers to newcomers.If we are to thrive and grow, it will be as a result of our actions both now and in the immediate future, as much, maybe even more so, than of our words. People will be attracted to our beliefs and to our buildings by the strength and usefulness of what we actually do, both for them and for the wider community, as well as what we say. That has certainly been shown to be the case in the Unitarian Church`s that have grown and `succeeded` in the last few years. There is much to celebrate and promote both nationally and locally in what we are already doing, I know. So let`s work on the link between our unfettered spiritual belief and effective physical actions. Let`s make our buildings useful places with unambiguous and inspiring messages that people from all walks of life,ages,and spiritual persuasion will want and need to visit. And let`s ensure we rise above the need for any points-scoring and blame, and keep our eyes firmly on the horizon.