A cultural shift for the Common Good
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30 June 2014
There is plenty of evidence that the bonds of mutual respect in society have been deeply damaged: we are disturbed by this fracturing and inequality and our natural instincts tell us a profound change is needed. There are signs of movement, but it won’t happen quickly, and we will need to commit ourselves to a generational cultural shift. It’s too important to leave to politicians and it will require the participation of ordinary citizens at every level of society doing what they can according to their ability, for the Common Good.
We say that through our combined networks and shared commitment to human dignity and community, people in the different Christian denominations working together are well-placed to be agents of change for the Common Good. We need to reacquaint ourselves with the social traditions of the churches, and engage not only in social action alongside vulnerable communities, but also in supporting negotiation between estranged interests to develop structural solutions that enable all to flourish. Collaboration with fellow faith traditions and secular allies will be vital.
People of faith and goodwill may be prepared personally to do the patient work of reconciliation - between left and right, rich and poor, secular and faith, business and unions, educated and uneducated, men and women, local and national, old and young. We need to reach out beyond our comfort zones. We at T4CG invest a lot of time intentionally meeting people who are not already our friends; we believe this kind of relational approach will lay the stepping stones to the change that is coming. Active relationship building brings forward new energy that will lead to cultural change.
The language of the Common Good sees human beings as having a worth greater than their rights. So we are moving from a paradigm focusing on rights, where individuals are in opposition to one another, to one driven by virtue, vocation, conscience and relationships, which stresses our interdependence and our corporate nature. There is a fundamental strain of liberalism that can easily sound superior and risks alienating good people, the majority, who want to help. So rather than antagonise each other, we must negotiate, and this will only be possible if we have genuine respect for human beings with whom we disagree. It will challenge us all, and requires the application of 'Love your enemies' and 'Love one another' in practice.
News about our work
Last year people across the churches told us they felt powerless about how to counter the negative narrative that characterises our polarised politics and they asked us for help with a ‘language of hope’ and a ‘vocabulary of the Common Good’. We are responding by developing a new conversation model: a Common Good Conversation to help ordinary people of estranged positions generate a language of hope together. We are excited that MB Reckitt Trust has generously awarded us funding for a pilot and we hope this will lead to a series of Common Good Conversation events. The pilot will take place in October and we are starting with the very human topic of 'Home' (housing, property and homelessness). Sponsored by CCLA, the ethical investment management firm, and in partnership with Housing Justice, the pilot will involve a group of invited experts who will help us produce a model that can be replicated across their networks. Watch this space!
Since our last newsletter our first cross-party discussion on the Common Good took place in Parliament. Twenty MPs and Peers from across party lines came together for a two hour discussion under Chatham House rules. We were told it was an unusually reflective gathering; guests were very appreciative of the opportunity to meet in an unhurried neutral setting to talk about the Common Good. Feedback was enthusiastic: 'very stimulating', thought-provoking', 'a superb event – fascinating discussion' and we have been asked to follow up. It took place thanks to the generosity of Christians in Parliament, and in partnership with them, we are planning further opportunities for Parliamentarians to come together across party divides and learn how Catholic social thought can be a helpful tool to discern policy for the Common Good.
For your interest this month:
- The Church of England has placed a major debate on the Common Good at the heart of its General Synod in York on 12 July. Click here to read the official briefing paper, which is very good.
- For what is effectively T4CG's latest position statement, click here. Jenny Sinclair spoke on behalf of T4CG at the University of Kent Conference on Post-Liberal Politics and Ideas along with other speakers including David Goodhart, Phillip Blond and John Milbank in a small and significant gathering looking at the cultural and political shifts we want to see. Videos and transcriptions of the sessions will be posted soon here.
- People may think they know what the churches are doing at grassroots level but the reality is more impressive than you might imagine. We recommend a video by Church Urban Fund about their Joint Ventures work in the most deprived communities and a short animation about their approach here.
- We are delighted and honoured to include papers by the leading Common Good thinker, the Jesuit Dr Patrick Riordan SJ in our Opinion Pieces. We are showcasing his paper ‘Europe's Common Good’ and providing a link to his ‘A Blessed Rage for the Common Good’.
- A secular initiative called ‘Call to Action for the Common Good’ has emerged from a group led by Locality, CSV, Civil Exchange and NAVCA that brings together significant groups across civil society. We are pleased to be involved in their developing thinking. Their report is asking for comments.
- The Living Wage is beginning to gain real traction. If you know an employer we recommend you discuss with them ‘Work That Pays’, the final report of the Living Wage Commission, launched last week by Archbishop John Sentamu, downloadable here.
- The Annual Justice and Peace Conference, ‘Called to Life in All its Fullness’ is at Swanwick on 18-20 July. This is the major annual Catholic gathering designed to empower lay people concerned for justice. Workshops on Living Wage etc; programme for children and young people. Places still available.
- Finally we recommend Anglican Social Theology - to be launched on 14 July. With chapters by Anna Rowlands, Jonathan Chaplin, Malcolm Brown, Alan Suggate and John Hughes it bridges several traditions and promises to be an important step forward in renewing the social tradition of the Church.
We hope you find our Resources section useful and our Opinion Pieces and case studies interesting. If you want to know more about what inspires us, read about the Sheppard Worlock partnership in our Background pages.
In spite of how busy we’re getting we are still working pro bono until we can find the time to raise funds for an operations manager. We are looking for volunteers - someone willing to take minutes at our meetings, someone talented at grant applications and someone able to help us organise the links and resources on our Further Reading pages. Do get in touch if you can help.
We hope you find this helpful and that your own work is going well. We are always pleased to hear from you so don't hesitate to get in touch - after all, we're working Together for the Common Good.
Every best wish,
Together for the Common Good