On Rock or Sand?: Firm Foundations For Britain'S Future (Paperback)The Rt Revd Dr John Sentamu (editor)
- In stock
Publisher: SPCK Publishing
Number of pages: 224
Weight: 272 g
Dimensions: 198 x 129 x 15 mm
The Prime Minister's reaction, and the vigorous defence of the Church's involvement in political affairs put up by the Archbishop of York as the book's editor, might suggest that here is another Faith in the City. This, however, is not a new Faith in the City. It was not officially commissioned, nor was it the Church of England's input into the recent election campaigns, nor a 'report' with agreed policy recommendations. It is the distillation in eleven essays of a series of symposia convened by the Archbishop of York at the time of the previous General Election and in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. His purpose at a time of significant political turbulence was to find a 'dynamic and accessible common language' (p. xiii) in which to chart a hopeful way forward. Dr Sentamu's description of the kind of group he wished to assemble is fulfilled in the essays which are the fruits of their four years of discussion. They are readable and probing, and the Archbishop himself, whose two pieces bookend the collection, gives voice to the passionate engagement which prompted him, in the search for 'firm foundations for Britain's future', to collect the group together. Even if we do not hear the cut and thrust of the arguments they must have had, the wisdom contained in the essays leaves us in no doubt that their conversations were times of significant engagement with each other and with some very important issues. The Archbishop of Canterbury calls for 'solidarity' and for a renewed sense of the 'common good' in the rebuilding of an economy which overcomes the inequalities manifest in the uneven resources found in different parts of the country, indeed in the same city. As the means to that solidarity he proposes four building blocks: the Living Wage, the availability of good housing, excellent education and training and access to financial services the last being an area where, as is well known, he believes the Church has a particular contribution to make by supporting credit unions. It is disappointing that his essay, like the book generally, lacks any real analysis of the roots of the 2008 crisis, since many of the obstacles to the realization of the common good, as well as the secularist individualism which he has in his sights, are amply illustrated by that crisis and the government's chosen road to recovery. The need for work, and worthwhile work at that, was a common theme in the discussions, and the essay by Andrew Sentance, a one-time member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, on the future of the economy, as well as former government minister Andrew Adonis's essay on education, the piece by Julia Unwin of the Rowntree Foundation on the changing face of poverty, and Oliver O'Donovan's 'Reflections on work' all look to the need for the provision of properly remunerated work of good quality as basic foundations on which to build. There are three very readable and thought-provoking essays on shared responsibility for health (Kersten England), on responding creatively to ageing (James Woodward) and on reinvigorating our representative democracy (Ruth Fox). In different ways they all allude to the common theme of the need for personal responsibility and the search for solidarity coupled with the Christian value of the vital importance of each individual. Philip Mawer (no doubt drawing on his years of experience in making sense of deliberations in the councils of the Church of England!) very successfully draws the threads of this interesting collection together. It is striking that there is nothing on the deeply significant topics of our dysfunctional criminal justice system or the neuralgic topic of immigration. Less surprising, but very significant, is the fact that you would not on reading this book gain any sense of outrage at the food banks and other bitter fruits of this government's sustained onslaught on the poorest and most vulnerable in the name of support for 'hard-working families' and 'the taxpayer'. It is certainly the genius of an established church to enable this perceptive and wide-ranging conversation on the issues of the day, and then to speak with a civilized wisdom and humanity. But the book does also exemplify how difficult such a church finds it to voice real outcry in the face of injustice, or any really sharp judgement on the appalling financial imprudence that the 2008 crisis revealed. These are not to be found here; had they been voiced, the book would no doubt have caused much more offence and even been thought to be the party political utterance the group was determined to avoid; but their absence is the absence of the truth about where we are. The well presented proposals of this group could be a very useful basis for progress, but only if that truth is faced. -- Peter Selby * Theology journal *
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