Many progressive Christians found themselves experiencing profoundly mixed feelings both about Pope Benedict’s visit and about the protests against it, says Simon Barrow. This is perhaps because neither imperial religion nor rejectionist forms of secularism are adequate to the task of remaking public life and public faith.
Party conferences, at least for the 'big three', have become an elaborate ritual for the faithful, says Simon Barrow. But their well-spun manoeuvres have little to do with the 'new politics', let alone the harsh word of the Comprehensive Spending Review.
The received wisdom perpetuated by the government is that deep and immediate public spending cuts are necessary and beneficial, says Simon Barrow. But there are strong economic arguments that point towards investment in long-term sustainability rather than hitting the most vulnerable to reduce the deficit.
Neither fundamentalism nor functionalism offer a way forward for the churches today in terms of their public witness and political engagement, says Simon Barrow. The different stances taken by church bodies in the 2010 general election suggest important lessons for the future.
The government has retained support despite promises of swingeing cuts, the Lib Dems have gained little credit for their coalescing, and Labour has been on the up despite being leaderless and rudderless. Simon Barrow looks at the unreal politics of the parliamentary recess.
Investing in tradition-based pluralism rather than feeding monopoly needs to be the future of both religion and media, says Simon Barrow. And not just in the interactions between the two overlapping realms.
The origins of Christianity are in a dynamic and free movement around Jesus, but much of its history is bound up with institutional religion, says Simon Barrow. The challenge is to continue to respond to the transformative impulse of the Gospel, even in the midst of organisation and complexity.
What kind of 'narrative' is the new post-election, post-budget coalition government trying to create, asks Simon Barrow, and what is its ratio of substance to spin, of new politics to old-fashioned collusion? Moreover, how will Labour and extra-parliamentary activists who question the underlying Westminster consensus respond?
The status quo based on monopolistic politics and dominating religion is being challenged as never before, says Simon Barrow. This creates fresh and energising opportunities for cooperation across received 'religious' and 'secular' divides for a new era, and requires a new Christian vision too.
The 2010 General Election campaign has been more volatile and interesting than anyone could have predicted, and the outcome now sits on a knife-edge, says Simon Barrow. But whichever way it goes, there is an opportunity for genuine, ground-up, civic based change. We must not ignore or miss it.