Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Suspense


Parliament is to be suspended.

Some are calling this deeply undemocratic. Others are responding that it is simply routine.

Both views are wrong. Both responses are inadequate.

It is not deeply undemocratic, in that it is part of the regular rhythms of our democratic parliament. (If this is a coup, then, like many before it, it is using democratic process against democracy.)

And yet, the circumstances are so very far from routine, by anyone’s measure (whether you believe that parliament is doing its job or refusing to do its job), that to call this action ‘routine’ is disingenuous.

What we are witnessing is, I suspect, the prolonged and protracted death of parliamentary democracy in this country as we have known it. Which is not exactly the same thing as the death of parliamentary democracy (something we might or might not see). Other models of parliamentary democracy are available. But we have taken oppositional politics to its logical conclusion, which is to devour itself.

Given both tensions in the Union and the extent of repair needed to the Palace of Westminster, what we might see, on the far side of all this, is an English Parliament based in, say, Birmingham. The future is a new country. I have no particular dog in this fight.

Samuel Seabury, first Anglican Bishop of the American Colonies, gets short shrift in the brilliant musical Hamilton, for opposing moves for American independence. But to paraphrase the words Lin-Manuel Miranda puts in his mouth, in our own current context everyone, on all sides, “are playing a dangerous game...”

We are in profound need of places of hospitality towards the stranger, where we can sit down together and eat with those of utterly different perspectives; not in order to persuade the other that they are wrong and we are right, but to see through their eyes and to have compassion for their hurts and dreams.

Our churches ought to be such a space.


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