The Vicar writes... 

June 8th, a general election is called. I wonder how many saw that one coming?  Now just in case any of you were wondering, I am not a member of any political party and I certainly do not preach party politics from the pulpit.   If the truth be known I am often torn when it comes to voting, being able to see the both positives and the negatives of the policies presented by all parties and sometimes finding myself voting for a good constituency MP when I might not particularly like some of the policies their party is producing.  In short, politics for me is not at all simple, rather it is a VERY complicated subject.

I am sure that there will be some reading this who are “fed up to the back teeth” with politics and were hoping following the “Brexit” referendum it would all go away for a few years.   I can honestly say I have a certain amount of sympathy with that view, not so much because I am suffering from “political fatigue” but mainly because I found the whole process of the referendum to be extremely painful and a toxic debate which was bitter and divisive becoming personal and full of recrimination.  Stereotyping, smearing, attributing all kinds of negative motives were practices common to both sides of the Brexit debate and did nothing to inform the debate.  On the contrary these were ingredients of the “witches brew” that created more heat than light.   

One of the effects I witnessed in the Brexit “debate” was actually a lack of genuine listening and understanding.  Two tribes seemed to emerge very quickly and it appeared to me that a lot of time was spent not genuinely in discussion or even in debate, but rather in exchanging slogans rather like opposing artillery of two armed camps bombarding each other over no man’s land.  It was Stephen R Covey who said “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”  I think this was very true of the whole Brexit process and seems to be a common pattern in politics today. Perhaps there is sage advice from the scriptures when James, (probably the brother of Jesus wrote) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…(James 1:19).
Yet another toxic effect was the “tribalisation” of the political landscape.  The tensions caused by the unhealthy negative aspects of the “debate” sometimes meant that friendships and associations of those who had opposing views broke down and fractured.  Such was the pain that many ended up only associating with those of a similar opinion.  If we do not associate with those of other views, we consign ourselves to a social echo chamber where we only hear back the very things we project.

Political debate is healthy and valuable.   Most of us, even those suffering a political overload would probably would miss it if we found ourselves losing our democracy, like the people of some nations seem to be experiencing.   Yes debate and even disagreement can be good, but I sincerely hope that the atmosphere of the General election will be better than that of the referendum and that people, who do inevitably disagree, may learn to disagree well.    No one is persuaded by being insulted and accused of all kinds of heinous attitudes and sadly friendships were broken through the slinging of some very smelly “mud”.   I have friends who I might disagree with, Christian brothers and sisters who may hold very different views to me and I want to remain friends with them all, some to the left of me and some to the right.   I hope you may too…

John Hudghton