It is all too easy for the state to become an idol, yet duty to humanity can sometimes outweigh obedience to the authorities, says Savi Hensman. The conscience case of atheist Michael Lyons is one that should cause Christians, among others, to think.
In November 2010, the Church of England moved a step further to accepting an Anglican Covenant which could be used to discipline member churches – though those it was meant to placate firmly rejected it. Savi Hensman suggests that in its present form the Covenant is set to cause more problems than it solves.
Many of the government’s cuts will intensify divisions in society, excluding some people from opportunities that others enjoy and making it less likely that people from different backgrounds will mix, says Savi Hensman. A different way forward is needed.
It is grimly ironic, says Savi Hensman, that on Armistice Day UK news headlines included the announcement of a new benefits system which punishes the ‘workshy’ and a report showing inadequate care for many elderly NHS patients undergoing surgery.
Contrary to the impression given by the Anglican Covenant, faithfulness to Christ crucified means being willing, if necessary, to refuse to conform, and instead to take a stand alongside One who was “numbered with the transgressors”, says Savi Hensman. Communion is misconstrued when it is translated as imposed institutional conformity.
The benefit system is notoriously complicated, leaving both claimants and officials struggling, says Savi Hensman. Errors are far higher in value than estimated fraud. This in turn is far less than the estimated £16 billion of unclaimed benefit every year. Yet the UK government is seeking to further punish the poor.
Treating any politician as a near-deity, and giving him or her absolute power, is a dangerous course, says Savi Hensman. In concentrating power in his own hands, President Mahinda Rajapaksa resembles the ruthless Tamil Tiger leader Velupillai Prabhakaran.
On the occasion of Pope Benedict's visit to Britain, Christians could benefit by revisiting Lord Acton’s legacy, and seeking in our own time to grapple with difficult questions, informed by love of God and neighbour, says Savi Hensman.
Anglicans worldwide are in a tangle over structure and belief, says Savi Hensman. However, for those ready and willing to engage with others, not simply debating specific issues but exploring underlying beliefs about God and love of neighbour, and the spiritual journeys that underpin faith, there may be opportunities to learn and grow.
The Home Office idea of withdrawing benefits from claimants with illegal drug or alcohol problems who do not turn up for treatment might seem at first glance reasonable, says Savi Hensman. But despite its popular appeal, in the end the result will be disastrous.