When I close my book at night and turn off the lights, in the minutes before I fall asleep, I often listen to a podcast on my tablet. The other week I came across a new podcast – Jon Richardson and the Futurenauts – which is worth a listen. Before I eventually fell asleep, there was talk about the issues facing society due to the pandemic measures, lockdown, and the unknown economic impact that will follow. One of the threads of discussion was about the fact that more than 85% of people are unhappy in their jobs, and when asked why, the expert talked about the fact that most people do not feel that they are contributing anything to benefit wider society through the jobs that they do, going on to say that the social contract is broken, there’s no sense of anything bigger than ourselves, something beyond ourselves that we are a part of.
This seems to me to be an accurate assessment of the western world at least. For centuries, the meta narrative, the big story underpinning society, was the Christian story. In this story, everybody has a part to play, everyone is valued, everyone is known and loved by the Creator God…..for God so loved the world that he sent his Son…..
With the increase of secularisation, this narrative has largely disappeared from the national psyche, and the void has been filled with individualism, where the rights of the individual are paramount and each individual has the right to live as they want, without regard for the greater good. Truth has become relative, society has fragmented, selfishness is almost encouraged.
The Christian narrative is the opposite of this……the big story of the creator God who came to be with humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, who taught us that there is nothing more important than loving God and loving our neighbour, where love means wanting the best for our neighbour, wanting other people to thrive, to know abundant life, before wanting anything for ourselves. The Christian narrative sees the value in community, the value in each individual, the value in being with each other in relationships of respect and mutual recognition.
Society turned away from this narrative perhaps because the church lost its way and focused too much on the ‘things of the world’, the trappings of influence and power. The church forgot that it is to be in the world but not of the world, and as a consequence became too consumed with introspection and fear of irrelevance to be able to meet the challenges of the changing times.
But due to the pandemic, to the lock-down measures, there has been an enforced time of pause for thought….for reflection….a chance to assess where we might go from here, how we might re-imagine society functioning going forward. And I would suggest that we could do a lot worse than rediscovering the Christian story as a basis for a just and loving society. No, not we could do a lot worse – we couldn’t do any better!