REMEMBER WHEN Tony Blair was first elected Prime Minister? As he entered Downing Street the strains of D:Ream’s Things can only get better wafted through the air in celebration.
Think of the promises that our political leaders so often make – Brexit will make us better off, staying in the EU will lead us to paradise… independence will cure all Scotland’s ills. During the 2014 referendum I loved seeing the level of political engagement throughout the country – the one sad aspect was the knowledge that lots of people who had had their hopes built up were going to end up being bitterly disappointed. Broken promises and politics go together like Scotland’s football team and glorious defeat.
During the last General Election campaign I watched a number of the debates but after a while I had to give up. I found them too depressing and frustrating – Yes, there were some good ‘performances’ but that is just what they were, ‘performances’. I found the whole debate to be shallow, superficial and lacking any real vision, backbone or reality. There was nothing substantial that would change the heart of a nation. I heard the sound of politicians talking, arguing and trying to persuade us with their sound bites, self-deification, plastic images and unreal promises. Sometimes I think that what is missing from these important debates is a sense of the bigger picture. What is the ideology, the ethos, the vision on which our society is based?
Perhaps Easter time is as good a time as any to reflect upon the Christian story and whether it can offer an overarching vision and worldview for our society? It used to. Scotland was once known for its political, education, legal and welfare systems based upon Christianity. We were the ‘land of the people of the Book’. And from that came enormous good. Today, however, there are many who believe that Christianity has had its day, and has little use, other than to offer a spiritual veneer for our new morality. Progressive Scotland has outgrown Easter – unless it’s the commercialised, chocolate egg, Easter bunny secular version of the ‘holy day’.
From wandering the streets, listening to conversations on the buses, reading the newspapers and comments on Facebook and Twitter it is clear that many on our shores reject and even mock Christian teaching. I often feel the clamour of those who hate God. I see the hatred in their eyes, hear the anger in the voices and read the contempt in their words. I observe how the poison of materialism, secular humanism and enlightenment rationalism have sapped the spirit of the Scottish people.
I experience the lies, joys, pains, heartaches, confusions, stresses and sins of people all around. I see the broken promises, the ridiculous vainglory, the escapist delusions, the false religions, the distraught parents, the abused child, the dysfunctional families, and the destruction of sexual confusion.
In spite of this, and against all the odds, the Church has a responsibility to tell the politicians and the people; hear the word of the Lord. Christianity is not to be used as some kind of tool for social control, or some addendum for their greater glory. It is much more radical than that.
This Easter in Scotland, I stand as a broken person, in the midst of a broken people. And God asks me as a minister, and all his church, to tell everyone about Jesus. The church’s task is mission impossible.
But, God can, and does, open the hearts and minds of even the staunchest non-believer. As our politicians tell people about the ‘new beginning’ they can bring, perhaps this Easter, as we remember the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we should seek the new beginning that the risen Christ brings? The churches’ message is not a political one (although it often affects politics) – it is one of renewal, reformation and restoration. The Risen Christ tells us “Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest”.
That is one Easter promise that will never be broken. We could all do with rest!
David Robertson, Minister, St Peter’s Free Church, Dundee