Friday, September 12, 2014

Vote Jesus

I want us to be a Green Party church, not a UKIP church.

(I’ve broken the law of polite conversation: never mention politics or religion. And I mentioned both. D’oh.)

What do I mean, anyway? ‘Green Party church’?

I went to the Green party conference this week. Just one day (the last), for two sessions – Q&A with the leaders and a plenary. It was in preparation for an event in just over a week’s time – Natalie Bennett, the Greens’ leader is speaking at the Northampton Jesus Centre.

I’ve never been to a political party conference, so it was a fascinating experience on that basis alone. And I suspect the Green Party may be more interesting than most. Still small enough to have the feel of a sparky group of activists yet with a real enough political platform to feel like a credible party, it was an interesting blend of people. Fair few eccentrics. Quite a few beards. High proportion of LGBTQ people (the kind you don’t need sophisticated gaydar to spot). A number of disabled people. Mix of social classes. A guy from ‘Occupy’ who looked like Jesus.

Old and young. But especially young. Lots of young people. Young people engaging with passion; young people speaking with conviction; young people putting forward motions, debating with the facts at their fingertips, pursuing their urgent points with eloquence.

21st century Jesus?
Furthermore, I noted lots of what some would call – not me and certainly not them, but some – ‘political correctness’. I’ve mentioned the range of people. Then there was the moment when questions were temporarily only allowed from ‘those who gender-identify as female’. There was the respect shown – along with the sense that there was nothing unusual about it – when a young man with a severe speech impediment brought a motion.

It all had a fresh feel, of a future of possibility, of a world worth fighting for. It was forward-looking, aspirational. There was also a strong sense that everyone had a voice; everyone would be listened to; anything could be brought to the table.

Now for a frank admission: it made me envious. I want the Jesus movement I’m part of to attract sparky young activists like these. Lots of them. I’m desperate for us to be a magnet for those with imagination, passion, drive. And, yep, we could do with a few big brains, too.

We have our eccentrics. We have our beards. I love them. They make us us. I love the young people who have grown up in church circles and owned its vision as theirs.

But oh God, send us an army of youngsters from all over the place, too. And let us honour their new voices, be open to their fresh ideas, not have ‘off the table’ taboos. Let us work out our passions and priorities through dialogue and debate, listening and loving the other.

The Green Party, like any other party, has to define its policy. That was what the plenary sessions were all about – agreeing on and finalising policy. Policy, by definition, doesn’t mean ‘anything goes’. But that policy would be reached through listening and openness working together with leadership and vision.

I like that.

I long for that.

At the GP conference, a speaker said, in passing, ‘UKIP’s main support base is older, less educated people; the Green Party’s main support base is younger, more educated people; so the future is ours!’ It got a laugh, a small cheer, a ripple of applause.

The implication was that UKIP represents the defensive views of a dying breed, hanging on to prejudices largely out of fear of change, whereas the Greens represent the aspirations of the rising generation based on hope and imagination.

I leave the political judgement to you, dear Reader. But as I consider our church and movement – we could go either way. We could cling onto safe old views and fear change. We could dismiss justice as ‘political correctness’, park power firmly with the status quo.

Or we could open our ears and our hearts to a fresh word for a fresh time from a fresh generation.

I’m getting older. I have to face it. I’m older than Jesus now (he’s 33 forever). Young people like him tend to tip tables over, tend to hang out with the wrong people, tend to say what sounds like our worst nightmare and keep saying it.

Bring it on, I say.

Vote for change. Vote Jesus.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Autumn - a poem


Getting out to get some air, get some space, I walk
among the appled rows, through thistles, toadstools, stingers,
and a fruit tree now cut down. Past serried rows of stalks

of some anonymous weed with feathery seed, a cheerful singer
at its own wake, I walk, up, and then down, down and then up
the row, thinking, feverishly, trying to put my finger

on the right way to go, the right thing to do. But
autumn is no time for such transparency. No time
for knowing. Keats was right about the mists. My toe hurts

from a blister (due to walking or athletes foot?) I climb
again, past the sawn-off tree, again, and it seems to be saying
I could’ve been a bird-table but someone forgot me as I’m

walking up and limping down. On the breeze decaying
fruit wafts its pong of musty mulch from apples strewn
and cloistered here between the trees my limping is my praying.

September’s heaved summer aside, sloughed it off too soon:
dusk is near – and always was – those years ago at noon.