In The Guardian last week, there was an article lampooning Theresa May’s visit to Bridgend. In it, we read that ‘Supreme Leader Kim Jong-May’ received a ‘rapturous’ welcome. Perhaps this tells us something about Bridgend. Or is it that British public life now merits such headlines, in order to grab our attention, sated, as we are, with personality politics?
I am not a fan of Theresa May, or of her party, but I am not comfortable with her name being so closely associated with that of a baby-faced psychopath intent on global destruction. If a respected newspaper does this, it somehow implicates all of its readers so, as a regular reader of the Guardian, I am made uncomfortable by the idea that I am guilty by association if I find the suggestion at all funny.
But perhaps we are all guilty by association, when it comes to the politics of the day and how they are reported in the newspapers we read. After all, we are a free society, ideally made up of properly informed individuals empowered to make choices through the legitimate means of the ballot box.We may not be able to effect much change as individuals, but we are still part of a free society.We belong to one another. It therefore behoves newspapers like the Guardian to weigh up its intent in regard to the kind of democracy most of us aspire to, when it comes to how it lampoons the current Prime Minister, at least while she is still in a position to determine the nation’s future and plays some part, again, by association, in that of the rest of the world. Headlines and trivial articles such as the one I am referring to are neither fair nor funny.
Setting aside personal reservations about the present government which is, after all, largely responsible for the mess we are currently in (it was they who called a referendum to sort out their internal squabbles over Europe and arguably to get themselves re-elected under David Cameron), the worrying thing about that headline is that it closely associates us with a society which is far from free and is likely to remain so for some time. Its leader wields absolute power and is directly responsible for human suffering on a vast scale, as are other despotic tyrants. We are also warned by reliable medical sources that the leader of the free world, who holds similar power, is equally unstable when it comes to his state of mind. All of this presents us with a frightening scenario.
What we are looking at is the potential for chaos, in the fullest sense of the word. Chaos happens when societies fall apart because there is not enough of a sense of collective responsibility for their historic future, or when individuals in the context of community, family and relationships no longer feel accountable for the stability which those cohesive agents ought to maintain. As with the mathematical chaos theory itself, it is the smaller elements which bring about the most significant change, for better or for worse. But herein also lies hope.
The Christian idea of prayer is grounded in a sense of responsibility for the greater good of the other, beginning with the least and the smallest. This is what is meant by the words ‘Thy Kingdom come’ which were taught to his followers by Christ himself. To pray, in the fullest sense of the word, is not about cultivating a sense of denial about the realities we face, hoping that somehow things will work out for the best. Rather, it is about embracing reality in the present moment or, better put, ‘facing into’ it. Christian prayer is not simply about asking that things will or won’t happen. It is about taking the reality of either of these scenarios into the deepest and darkest place of our own psyche and allowing it to be seen by God. Words may come but they are by no means essential. What is essential is the truth, sincerity or integrity of what it is we are bringing, beginning with ourselves.
Bringing ourselves to God will involve coming to terms with both private and collective fear and with the helplessness we all feel in the face of what is going on in world politics today. The Guardian, perhaps inadvertently, made light of these fears in the article I have referred to, but they are no laughing matter.
In the immediate present, we are given to ‘face into’ the chaos of the prevailing climate of election fever, both at home and abroad. At the same time, we ‘face into’ the uncertainty which is both the cause and the result of break-up and fragmentation, on the one hand, and of the false sense of strength and power which comes with isolationism in international relations, and obscurantism in religion, on the other. Pockets of resistance, like Christians in the Middle East, or moderate Muslims, or indigenous inhabitants of lands which could profitably be exploited for valuable timber, oil or shale gas, have a hard time of it. We ‘face into’ their darkness as well, doing so in the knowledge that to the God we worship in Jesus ‘darkness is not dark. The night is as bright as the day’. (Ps. 139:12)