As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34-35)
Despite the efforts of its powerful advocates, the current model of liberal democracy is in trouble. The ‘anti-politics’ trends sweeping across the West show a deep loss of trust in the capability of government to deliver prosperity and security for all. Divisions long in the making are now in sharp relief: not only between rich and poor, but also between metropolitans and traditional communities, old and young, progressives and social conservatives.
The culture of individualism has taken hold to such an extent that it is now unravelling the ties that bind us together. Its insistence on individual rights and on measuring people's worth in financial terms pits us against each other and produces a disregard for mutual responsibility. Power has been over-centralised and too many communities have been left behind.
As more and more people face the prospect of disappointed dreams, some are drawn to authoritarian promises emerging from a range of ideological positions. But imposed, utopian solutions often overlook the way people actually live, and so have a tendency to dehumanise. Such top-down approaches also carry, as TS Eliot said, the dangerous temptation to ‘dream of systems so perfect that no one will need to be good.’
This is our business because Jesus’s command is that we should love one another: our society needs to be reacquainted with what it really means to be a human person.
A Common Good approach offers a way to reconnect people who are estranged, to rehumanise, and to get love back into the system. It necessarily involves people from different backgrounds meeting and participating together in common purpose. This is messier, more imperfect, and more beautifully human than any utopian ideal could be.
The churches and their people are playing a vitally important role in the vanguard of a counter cultural movement to reassert human dignity and the relational nature of human beings. Learning from each other and understanding what's going on will release more energy and creativity.