“ 'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free”. The Shaker hymn has always been dear to me; not least because its open-spaced and perfectly poised melody makes such a perfect fit with the spirit of the plain, graceful words.
Untruth is not always communicated in outright lies. There is a type of blinkered misapprehension which presents misleading and inauthentic concepts. None of us are immune to this failing and all of us need to keep it under informed scrutiny. But it often seems to come to the fore in politicians in a manner which does at the very least, raise questions as to their judgement and credibility.
Those who have learned their lines as the government intends might think they have been dealt a good, or at least unavoidable budget yesterday. However, many of us are profoundly sceptical of the twin tropes which Messrs Cameron and Osborne have been repeating endlessly in the hope that they will somehow become the backdrop of our thinking.
Armed conflict, the media and the responsibility of discernment
Eighty years ago, the conflict in Libya would have been glossed over as a “quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing”. In an age of 24 hour news and of media conscious politicians, we are saturated with images, comment and spin. It is essential to be vigilant about the relationship between the authorised version, what its presentation really tells us and – not least – our own responses to it.
Power, its exercise and abuse has filled our screens and newspapers during the last week. The word takes our minds in a particular direction – towards the power that can shut down the internet, buzz protesters with fighter jets, marketise the NHS, sell off our forests, kettle and pepper-spray dissent.
David Cameron's warm words about co-opting churches into plugging the gaps in social provision resulting from his administration's antipathy to the state and the services it provides, have recently taken something of a knock from his own MPs in East Anglia.
Knowing one another in the things that are eternal
Quakers don't really 'do' Christmas. Partly in order to offer a sign of contradiction to the consumerism and commercialism of the season which is in conflict with our Testimony of simplicity; partly because we believe that all of life and all its days and times are sacramental; partly because there is such a wide range of views in the Society of Friends as to the nature of the man Jesus.