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Source: (consider it) Thread: the Politics of Jesus vs humdrum political concerns
mr cheesy
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Given all we've discussed here recently - including elections in our various countries, referenda, crime and punishment, the atonement - I'm left wondering the extent to which Christians should participate in the political process.

It seems to me that there are two extremes, then a majority of us who sit somewhere in the middle.

At one extreme, a few people say that the Kingdom of God was "against the powers" and that participating in the political process is giving legitimacy to something that is deeply broken and ungodly.

At another extreme, some (larger group?) seem to believe that things would be better if a political entity was in power which enacted "our Christian values".

I suspect most of us here are somewhere in the middle. We acknowledge that there is something fundamentally screwed about various aspects of the societies in which we live, we see the dangers of living in a state where a single religion as state-protection and power - and yet we vote, some of us protest etc and so on.

I suppose what I'm asking is how do we decide the extent to which we are to be engaged with politics* (wasn't it Socrates who that "man is by nature a political animal" and that one is by necessity not a full human unless engaged in the polis?) and the extent to which we fight against it, because our allegiance is first to the Kingdom of Heaven.

I apologise in advance for that being a jumble of thoughts, be interested to read what you make of it.

* because, in a sense, engaging with the process suggests that one thinks that it is capable of being reformed or improved. Haven't we gone too far for that? How would we know?

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Alan Cresswell

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I'm somewhere in that middle group, and well towards an "activist" side of that.

As Christians, and as citizens, we should all at least vote. Even better, we should actively engage in the political process - discuss political issues, go on protests and sign petitions, write to our representatives, join parties, campaign for parties, stand for election - to the extent of our abilities and availability.

I strongly believe that our faith should inform our politics. But, also that in a secular society that should never extend to using politics to impose a faith position, nor should our faith hold any form of privilaged position within the political process.

I hold this position because I believe strongly that we are called to witness to Christ and to work for the advance of His Kingdom. I do not believe that the Kingdom can ever be equated with any human political construct. However, political processes can be a (flawed but usable) tool to help bring about Kingdom values in our lands - protection of the poor, healing to the sick etc.

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Don't Brexit if you haven't a scooby how to fix it.

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moonlitdoor
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quote:

originally posted by Alan Cresswell

in a secular society that should never extend to using politics to impose a faith position

quote:

originally posted by Alan Cresswell

political processes can be a (flawed but usable) tool to help bring about Kingdom values in our lands


It seems to me that these two statements are contradictory. Of course there are various non religious reasons for wanting society to help sick or poor people but if you want it to do so because those are 'Kingdom values', then I think you are asking to impose a faith position.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by moonlitdoor:
It seems to me that these two statements are contradictory. Of course there are various non religious reasons for wanting society to help sick or poor people but if you want it to do so because those are 'Kingdom values', then I think you are asking to impose a faith position.

Right, exactly.

It seems to say "oh, this power/structure/authority is pretty screwed up, so I'm going to protest/stand against/join a political party to change it to bring forth the values of the Kingdom."

It doesn't feel like a particularly strong Kingdom if we have use earthly political tools to get the values out there. If the Kingdom really existed, wouldn't those values be seen from the church, not via the ballot box?

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

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They need not be contradictory.

As an example, I believe that Christ calls us to protect the poor. That is actually a position shared by many people of different faiths, and none, for a range of different reasons. I can join with all those people in our common aim of protecting the poor. I don't need to keep on banging on about how it's a Christian duty to do that. It certainly doesn't need a preface to every campaign leaflet and Act of Parliament citing Scripture as to why we should protect the poor - though within Christian settings that could be relevant. Campaigning would need to address the whole of society, convincing the polis to support it for reasons that do not depend upon a religious basis. Doing that I would both help further the Kingdom (because the poor would enjoy greater protection, which is (I beleive) a Kingdom issue) and campaign politically on an a-religious basis (even though my reason to be involved was religiously based).

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:


As an example, I believe that Christ calls us to protect the poor. That is actually a position shared by many people of different faiths, and none, for a range of different reasons. I can join with all those people in our common aim of protecting the poor. I don't need to keep on banging on about how it's a Christian duty to do that. It certainly doesn't need a preface to every campaign leaflet and Act of Parliament citing Scripture as to why we should protect the poor - though within Christian settings that could be relevant. Campaigning would need to address the whole of society, convincing the polis to support it for reasons that do not depend upon a religious basis. Doing that I would both help further the Kingdom (because the poor would enjoy greater protection, which is (I beleive) a Kingdom issue) and campaign politically on an a-religious basis (even though my reason to be involved was religiously based).

OK, but very few people are going to disagree with a political statement like "we should help the poor". It's quite a different thing when one suggests that morally one is standing against the bedroom tax etc.

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arse

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Dafyd
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I don't see that it makes a difference whether one's values are religious or secular.

Roughly there are two principles in play here: the liberal and the democratic.
The liberal says there are some matters about which society has no right to coerce me. Largely these are matters which have limited effect on other people's lives. In these matters, religious believers and nonbelievers have equally no right to dictate what values other people live by.

The democratic effect is that in matters where actions do affect other people or where some kind of joint decision is necessary you make decisions according to the largest number of people you can persuade. It doesn't matter whether they agree because they have different underlying justifications that point in the same direction, or whether their underlying justifications are religious or secular. The point is that some decision must be made and as long as everyone consents to the outcome and to the process that leads to the outcome then it is permissible.

Imposing religious sexual values on consenting adults is wrong because that's an area that should be decided only by the people most personally concerned.
A majority 'imposing' religious values on economics is fine because a society has to decide how to order its economic system somehow. Economic choices inevitably 'impose' upon everyone in the society. If the majority is religious then the alternative to the majority 'imposing' their values is a minority 'imposing' its values, which doesn't seem an improvement.

[ 22. May 2017, 12:41: Message edited by: Dafyd ]

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mr cheesy
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OK, but there is still the issue that campaigning for change seems to suggest that the thing is capable of change, that it is something other than completely corrupted and ungodly.

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arse

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK, but very few people are going to disagree with a political statement like "we should help the poor". It's quite a different thing when one suggests that morally one is standing against the bedroom tax etc.

I was trying to avoid a very narrow policy issue, such as the bedroom tax. Partly because the narrower the issue then the less consensus there is on the issue (both within the Christian faith and broader society).

But, I still think the same functioning applies. Everyone comes to thinking about a specific issue with a large body of beliefs - which will arise from a combination of specific religious teaching, how they were raised to treat others (and, whether they rebelled against the values their parents tried to teach them), various philosphical ideals, particular thoughts on economic theory etc. Each of us develops a particular (and possibly unique) viewpoint from which we look at an issue like the bedroom tax - to what extent do we value good to society against individual rights, or even if we see the two in conflict, for example. Whether we see taxation as a punishment or a civic duty, and whether we view taxation as an appropriate tool to enact behavioural change in members of society (both in taxing activities considered harmful to society and in reducing tax on activities considered beneficial).

That broad viewpoint will be informed by religious values, along with all the other factors, which in turn will impact how we view specific policies without being able to pin it to a specific religious doctrine.

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mr cheesy
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Right, but if one thinks that the tax system is fundamentally unfair and biased against the poor, the weak, the forgotten and the marginalised - then campaigning about the the bedroom tax might be besides the point. It might be symptomatic of a system that is totally screwed up, and fixing or not fixing it might have negligible effects on those one is trying to help.

I'm not sure if I'm really making myself clear because you appear to be focusing on the narrow issues rather than the difference between working for a political goal and working for the Kingdom.

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arse

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
OK, but there is still the issue that campaigning for change seems to suggest that the thing is capable of change, that it is something other than completely corrupted and ungodly.

Yes. But not all Christians think that society is completely corrupted and ungodly. There are within all traditions of Christianity strands of thought that see human nature as fallen and corrupt and strands that see human nature as created and therefore essentially good. Some types of Calvinism may tend towards seeing human nature as fallen; Anglicanism (also influenced by Calvinist thought) tends towards seeing it as still largely redeemable.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
Right, but if one thinks that the tax system is fundamentally unfair and biased against the poor, the weak, the forgotten and the marginalised - then campaigning about the the bedroom tax might be besides the point. It might be symptomatic of a system that is totally screwed up, and fixing or not fixing it might have negligible effects on those one is trying to help.

In which case one would be campaigning for a radical revision of the entire taxation system. And, campaigning on the bedroom tax will either be a small part of that larger issue, or even be considered unimportant because whether you want to use taxation to discourage people living in houses with more rooms than strictly necessary will be something to address after the major reform of taxation systems. Again, your attitude to a particular policy will be affected by your views on larger picture issues.

quote:
I'm not sure if I'm really making myself clear because you appear to be focusing on the narrow issues rather than the difference between working for a political goal and working for the Kingdom.
I was deliberately trying to avoid focussing on narrow issues. Which is why I started with the broad-brush "protecting the poor", and even now I don't think I've given my views on the specific example you introduced.

My main point is that political goals will be defined, in part, by faith. And, politics offers a tool (not the only tool, and not a perfect tool) to work for the Kingdom. But, there needs to be a division there, because politics will never bring in the Kingdom.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:

My main point is that political goals will be defined, in part, by faith. And, politics offers a tool (not the only tool, and not a perfect tool) to work for the Kingdom. But, there needs to be a division there, because politics will never bring in the Kingdom.

Isn't that a contradiction? It is a tool to bring in the Kingdom.. only it isn't.

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arse

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no prophet's flag is set so...

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While we cannot create Jerusalam in this fair land, we need to try just a bit. But we must also rigorously suspect any form of religion and moralizing which allows violence in any form, the ascendency of one group or class over another.

And told to me hy a Cree Anglican priest: Christianity in its practice is no guide at all to the protection of Mother Earth, because it has fused itself to iterations on European culture. .

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Alan Cresswell

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:

My main point is that political goals will be defined, in part, by faith. And, politics offers a tool (not the only tool, and not a perfect tool) to work for the Kingdom. But, there needs to be a division there, because politics will never bring in the Kingdom.

Isn't that a contradiction? It is a tool to bring in the Kingdom.. only it isn't.
A hammer is a tool to knock in nails to join bits of wood. It is not the house that those bits of wood become.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by no prophet's flag is set so...:

And told to me hy a Cree Anglican priest: Christianity in its practice is no guide at all to the protection of Mother Earth, because it has fused itself to iterations on European culture. .

Christianity has tied itself to "God's Plan", that everything supposedly works towards. This leads to blinkered thinking when it comes to the practical reality of, well, everything.

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If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

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Leorning Cniht
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quote:
Originally posted by Alan Cresswell:
I was trying to avoid a very narrow policy issue, such as the bedroom tax. Partly because the narrower the issue then the less consensus there is on the issue (both within the Christian faith and broader society).

I'd agree with everything you've written in this thread. It's also true that two people can hold identical faith positions, and yet come to very different political conclusions from them.

As you say here, the narrower the issue, the less consensus there is. We would find it easy to agree on "feed the poor" and "heal the sick" as desirable aims, and would find agreement with many other Christians and many of other or no faith.

But then we ask what government policies best ensure that the poor are fed and the sick healed, and consider that question over the long term (not just what policies will feed the individual poor person standing in front of me, but what policies will feed the poor in a generation's time), and we come to different conclusions, because we import not just our agreed goals, but our different sets of ideas, preconceptions, and prejudices about economics, our differing opinions on the relative importance of different desirable goals that are in tension, and so on.

And because we're humans, we tend to rapidly accept data that supports our personal prejudices, and question and discount data that would tend to oppose them.

But absolutely we should engage with society. We are not called to form little isolated enclaves of the Elect - we are called to bring the light of Christ into the world. It's hard to do that if you're busy stacking bushels on top of yourself.

Perhaps the most disappointing thing about Christians in politics is the way that they seem unable to accept that their fellow Christian on the other side of the aisle might just be acting in good faith. Instead, it seems all too easy for people to reach for the "you can't be a Christian if you support policy X" stick and start flailing around with it.

Looks like "humans suck" wins again.

[ 22. May 2017, 19:02: Message edited by: Leorning Cniht ]

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Martin60
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Here's a fellow Christian.

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Love wins

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Roughly there are two principles in play here: the liberal and the democratic.
The liberal says there are some matters about which society has no right to coerce me. Largely these are matters which have limited effect on other people's lives. In these matters, religious believers and nonbelievers have equally no right to dictate what values other people live by.

The democratic effect is that in matters where actions do affect other people or where some kind of joint decision is necessary you make decisions according to the largest number of people you can persuade...

...some decision must be made...

...Economic choices inevitably 'impose' upon everyone in the society. If the majority is religious then the alternative to the majority 'imposing' their values is a minority 'imposing' its values, which doesn't seem an improvement.

That sounds like a good principle. Where people can decide for themselves with limited effect on others, they should be allowed to do so. Where a joint decision is needed, it should be by consensus or as near consensus as possible. Who could argue with that ?

But it's not obvious to me why social choices should necessarily fall into the first category, and economic choices into the second.

Your saying that what consenting adults do in the bedroom should be their business ? Unless it involves a financial transaction in which case it's for everybody to vote on ?

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
But it's not obvious to me why social choices should necessarily fall into the first category, and economic choices into the second.

I don't think I said that. I'd be wary of the word 'necessarily' in advance of considering particular cases.

Economic choices by the government, which are what I meant - raising tax and what activities for the general good to spend the tax on - clearly fall within the second category.
Any economic transaction that involves a contract that might need to be enforced by third parties is clearly in the second category since the third party has to decide whose interpretation of the contract is reasonable. And thus the society as a whole has the right to decide that some contracts just cannot be reasonable - e.g. selling oneself into slavery. A society can reasonably decide that some prior distributions of wealth and power mean that some contracts between two people are effectively made under duress even if formally consensual.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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beatmenace
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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:

We would find it easy to agree on "feed the poor" and "heal the sick" as desirable aims, and would find agreement with many other Christians and many of other or no faith.

Not necessarily. Dont forget Iain Duncan Smith's regime at the DWP. He makes a big deal of being Catholic you know.

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"I'm the village idiot , aspiring to great things." (The Icicle Works)

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Alan Cresswell

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There is a difference between "many other Christians" and "all other Christians".

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mr cheesy
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Suspend disbelief for a second and imagine you are IDS. How do you determine if the actions you're taking are for - or against - the Kingdom?

If you are a Christian government minister, have you by default accepted the idea of the church-state? That the actions of the government ARE the works of the Kingdom?

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arse

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Snags
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
If you are a Christian government minister, have you by default accepted the idea of the church-state? That the actions of the government ARE the works of the Kingdom?

I don't see that you'd have to. Potentially quite the opposite. It should be perfectly possible to be a Christian in government and believe that government is very much not of the Kingdom, but still be seeking to be Christ-like in how you fulfill your duties, the policies that you advance etc. etc.

It's no different to being a Christian teacher, nurse, social worker, IT contractor etc. etc.

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Baptist Trainfan
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Yes, I'd go along with that - although by being a Minister you are tacitly consenting to the legitimacy of (secular) government per se - as did St. Paul!

If you are a Government Minister and a Christian, you could argue that you're trying to bring the Kingdom of God into the affairs of State.

[ 23. May 2017, 12:42: Message edited by: Baptist Trainfan ]

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Enoch
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
... If you are a Christian government minister, have you by default accepted the idea of the church-state? That the actions of the government ARE the works of the Kingdom?

Why should you have done? That would be incredibly bad theology.

If believing that had to be a precondition of engaging with the political process, then wouldn't most of us have to conclude that we agreed with the exclusive brethren, anabaptists and others who say that politics belongs wholly and only to the world of sin, and must be eschewed?

Isn't public life something that some people are called to and most of us are not, just as others are called to be doctors, teachers, bin-men or whatever? And likewise, something that plenty of other people do just because they do it? Or it fits their ambitions? Or that's what people in their family tend to do? And furthermore, isn't public life a calling that has its own particular challenges and temptations that some give way more readily to than others?

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Russ
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:

Isn't public life something that some people are called to and most of us are not, just as others are called to be doctors, teachers, bin-men or whatever?

Is there a difference between politics and public life?

I'm guessing there are villages where a public-spirited individual will stand for the local council for the sake of ensuring a playground for the kids and conserving the local heritage, without much politics involved.

Either in the "office politics" sense of the word or in the Left v Right sense.

And having made that distinction, I'd venture to suggest that offices with less office politics are better places to work. And polities are better places to live when there's less ideological attachment to Left and Right.

So no, bringing politics into anything isn't something that followers of Jesus should be aiming to do.

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:
Is there a difference between politics and public life?

Not really. You can't have public life without making decisions. You can't make decisions in public life over any kind of important matter without differences of opinion or conflicts of interest. Pretending that differences of opinion and conflicts of interest don't exist makes it difficult to resolve them honestly or justly.

[ 25. May 2017, 21:20: Message edited by: Dafyd ]

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Leorning Cniht
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# 17564

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quote:
Originally posted by Russ:

I'm guessing there are villages where a public-spirited individual will stand for the local council for the sake of ensuring a playground for the kids and conserving the local heritage, without much politics involved.

That's still politics. It's not party politics, but it's still politics.

Mr. Public-Spirited is advocating for a certain set of policies to govern the administration of his village, and clearly thinks that all right-thinking people should support him.

And perhaps everyone in the village more or less agrees with him, thinks that P-S is a decent chap for taking on a job that they don't really want, and are happy to let him get on with it.

Or perhaps there's someone who would like to point out that the village kids are Alice and Bob, who are starting at the senior school in the nearby town this September, and Chloe and Daniel who are ten-year-old twins and are in boarding school, and so perhaps a village playground isn't going to see very much in the way of use, except for a few weeks in the summer when Mr P-S is visited by his young grandchildren.

[ 25. May 2017, 22:55: Message edited by: Leorning Cniht ]

Posts: 4827 | From: USA | Registered: Feb 2013  |  IP: Logged
Russ
Old salt
# 120

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quote:
Originally posted by Leorning Cniht:
so perhaps a village playground isn't going to see very much in the way of use, except for a few weeks in the summer when Mr P-S is visited by his young grandchildren.

I think you're saying that, whilst Mr PS is well-meaning and sincere and thinking of others, and the playground would be a real benefit to his grandchildren, that maybe there's a better way to spend public money, for the common good, than providing the particular other people he's thinking of with benefits at other people's expense.

Which seems a reasonable argument...

Maybe it's the perception of politics as a process by which groups or classes of people try to get stuff they want and get other people to pay for it that makes it seem like a dirty business that good people should steer clear of.

Presumably you'd have no objection if Mr P-S sought to fund a playground by voluntary contributions from his neighbours, holding coffee mornings, etc ?

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Wish everyone well; the enemy is not people, the enemy is wrong ideas

Posts: 3017 | From: rural Ireland | Registered: May 2001  |  IP: Logged


 
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