3 minutes reading time (516 words)

Heroes

 

Aside from heroism that is generally recognised (of the kind currently being shown by the key workers who are protecting and serving the rest of us), we all have our personal heroes. Thinking about two of mine, I realise that what I value in them is a quality associated with prophets: the clarity of vision, and the courage, to stand for what is right and good.

I've just finished reading a biography* of a man who has a strong claim to rank alongside Churchill as the greatest Prime Minister of modern times - Clement Attlee. Despite being the polar opposite of Churchill in temperament and gifts - self-effacing, understated, consistent - Attlee worked well with him as Deputy PM in the wartime government, and then headed the Labour Government of 1945-51, which brought into being the foundations of our welfare state, most notably the National Health Service. Often, though not always, supported by the Conservative Opposition in these great reforms, Attlee's administration changed the landscape of our society forever. His vision was of a country in which everyone accepted their responsibilities as citizens, and in which every citizen received the care and support they needed. Duties and rights, in other words; arguably, the present crisis has revealed how much more attractive and healthy such a vision can be, in practice, than the me-first stampede of greed and materialism into which we so easily fall in times of apparent stability. And - without claiming too much for Attlee, who abandoned Christian faith in his youth - is it fanciful to see something of God's Kingdom and its all-embracing compassion in the idea of a welfare state in which nobody is neglected?

And second, Jane Goodall. Google "Jane Goodall Channel 4 News" to find a 5-minute interview with the 86 year-old primatologist and activist, renowned for her pioneering work with chimpanzees, in which she calls out, in clear and simple terms, the destructive human activities which are endangering other species, threatening further pandemics, and causing potentially terminal damage to the world we share with all these remarkable creatures. The delusion she skewers is that we are able to do as we wish with the natural world because we are somehow above it, and thus able to exploit it mercilessly without incurring damage to our own life and health. On the contrary, we are part of the natural world, and our health is inextricably linked with the health of the planet as whole. As Jane Goodall says, we have disrespected the earth. Humility is needed, to start afresh. This, too, is the work of the Kingdom. "Dominion" over the earth and its creatures, as given to humans by God in Genesis 1, must mean, can only mean, taking responsibility for the world we have been given, in a spirit of reverence for all that is. Can we learn this lesson and make it "the new normal"?

I wonder who your heroes are. Do they, like these two, remind you of what really matters, what is worth fighting for, standing up for, living by?

*"Citizen Clem" by John Bew

Calm and quiet
Just showing up
 

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Tuesday, 07 July 2020

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