What should we be looking for in a new Prime Minister?

18‘And you will call out in that day because of your king who you will have chosen for yourself, and Yahweh will not answer you in that day.’

19Nevertheless, the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel, and they said, ‘No, but we will have a king over us 20so that we also might be like all the nations, and so that our king might rule us and go our before us and fight our battles.’

1 Samuel 8: 18-20 – The Keys of the Kingdom Holy Bible

Photo courtesy of Pexels

Some of you have given me positive feedback about my interview with Danny Doran. If you’ve explored Danny’s site further (‘The Infinite Jigsaw Podcast’), you’ll have come across the ten short interviews that Danny made with ‘Carbon Mike’, who is the founder of the Foundationist movement – see www.futurerad.io

I came across Danny after these interviews had started, and I’ve only recently finished listening to them all.

I was struck by how much ‘Foundationism’ has in common with Christianity, but also the contribution that the Foundationist Manifesto could make towards the selection of a new British Prime Minister. I should add that Foundationism is not a political movement – it’s more a set of values, by which we should all try to live our lives. And I should add that Foundationism is not the same as Christianity, but the principles that Foundationists follow are, I believe, all compatible with Christian beliefs.   

Foundationists believe in ten ‘precepts’. I hope Carbon Mike will not disagree with any of my comments on each of his ‘precepts’ that follow:

  1. See Deeply

My site is called ‘reflectivepreacher’, because theological reflection lies at the heart of who I am and what I believe. You can train yourself to look at the world in this way. Carbon Mike says correctly that without ‘seeing deeply’, we’re blind. Mostly, politicians work on an extremely superficial level. They shy away from deep thinking and also from any kind of real analysis of issues, instead preferring media ‘soundbites’.

As I’m writing this, I’ve just listened to the remaining five candidates for Prime Minister laying out their cases for them to be elected. It was hugely depressing – I didn’t identify a single specific idea from any candidate. Every comment was superficial, shallow and without any real meaning!

2.Listen Closely

If we go blind if we don’t see deeply, then we go deaf if we don’t listen closely. How often have you heard politicians answer a different question to the one they’ve been asked? My own feeling is that they’re mostly deaf to anything other than their own carefully prepared and practised phrases, which are rehearsed and get trotted out so often, that they sound as though they’re unable to say anything else. Some of us remember only too well ‘Strong and Stable’, as the phrase that perhaps our least strong and stable Prime Minister in history, Theresa May, continued to parrot, even after it had become a target for comedians. Politicians (of all parties) are viewed as remote and out of touch with the real world. If they spent just a modicum more time listening closely, rather than parroting their soundbites, might they gain an understanding of what the people think is important?

3. Reason Honestly

Carbon Mike makes a powerful point about those who work in ‘crafts’, by which he means practical, ‘real-world’ trades and skills. These people have no choice but to live in the ‘real’ world – you can’t fix a broken plumbing system or faulty car, unless you’re able to analyse what’s going on, and reason your way honestly to a solution. Often when we hear politicians speak, it seems to me that they deliberately avoid addressing any facts, data, or apply any problem-solving techniques. It’s a very worrying characteristic and again it underlines how remote they are from real people and real problems.

4. Speak Clearly

Politicians, in my experience, are addicted to ‘Word Soup’. Sometimes, it’s possible to read a transcript of what’s been said, and find that it could mean anything….or nothing. I feel that when politicians get used to using ‘Word Soup’, after a while, they become unaware that that’s what they’re doing; it becomes their default setting. There’s then a very short step to being unable to think clearly; the brain also turns to soup. If this wasn’t the case, how on earth could we have reached a point where some people in the public domain are claiming that biological men are capable of giving birth? Something surely must have caused this complete, Humpty Dumpty lunacy?

5. Act Bravely

Carbon Mike cuts to the truth when he says: ‘If you tell yourself lies, you get good at it.’ And also: ‘If you don’t act bravely, you become a slave.’ He believes that it’s impossible to act bravely unless you have a ‘fixed hierarchy’ of values and that this is one area where a faith (or at least a set of values, which implies some kind of belief system) is absolutely essential. There’s been considerable debate in UK politics recently about ‘honesty’. From where I sit, a total lack of honesty is nothing new in politics; rather the opposite. It’s common to see people advocate things that will get them elected, only to abandon them, as soon as they get their hands on the levers of power. I have an uncomfortable feeling that we’re witnessing this at this very moment, with the competition to elect a new Prime Minister. How confident can we be, that we understand what they mean by their ‘Word Soup’?

Bravery in leadership, I also believe, means the bravery to allow yourself to be challenged by those who work for you. I worry that in recent decades, government in the UK has become more ‘Presidential’, and less about debate and consensus. But also, we’ve lost most signs of conviction from politics. It’s become like the old joke: ‘These are my views, and I will not hesitate to stand by them………….but if you don’t like them, I can find some others.’ Is that really what voters want?

6. Deny the Self

This is a very Christian precept, and Carbon Mike links this value with focusing on others, even if it’s at the expense of yourself.

I worry that politicians, who’ve been isolated from ‘ordinary people’ for most of my life, have if anything become more so, as the years have passed.

The reason this ‘precept’ hit the spot for me is because we live in a world where ‘celebrity’ has become paramount; we seem now to have ‘career politicians’ at a level that we didn’t, when I first started voting fifty years ago. Politicians still talk about ‘public service’, but often they show very clearly in their actions that they’re only really interested in themselves. And even if this isn’t true of some, who may genuinely have a desire to serve others, they’re more remote than ever from understanding what those ‘others’ actually think and experience in their daily lives, and therefore want from their politicians.

7. Defend the Individual

Carbon Mike says that the temptation to categorise or ‘pigeon-hole’ others can become ‘poison’ very quickly. I agree; I’ve seen it happen too often. I’ve written previously about Jesus’ parable of ‘The Wheat and the Tares’ (see https://reflectivepreacher.org/2019/05/14/how-should-we-treat-immoral-people/).

I strongly believe that if you categorise people as ‘evil’ and ‘wicked’, you deny that we’re all a mixture of good and bad; in fact, many of us struggle with this for most of our lives, which is why we have to pray and ask for forgiveness.

It’s not difficult to agree with this ‘precept’. In one of his best comments, Carbon Mike explains that every individual human is sacred and: ‘Every man-made atrocity started with people abstracting away other people’s humanity, en masse.’

He also says that we need to insist that the State does as little as possible, as the State is so huge that as sacred individuals we’re not visible to it. He warns that ‘Letting the State have its head is one of the worst possible things that we can do.’

Surely, we’ve learned this lesson, if nothing else, during lockdown?

8. Respect Tradition

This precept also rang a huge bell with me. I often think that we behave as a society, and our politicians behave, as if we know more than anything and everyone who’s gone before us. It’s as if we’re much cleverer than our ancestors and we can safely reject everything that they stood for, and learned the hard way. Carbon Mike says: ‘Tradition is a solution for a problem we’ve forgotten’. Currently, one of my greatest political concerns is we’ve simply rejected all the lessons that enabled us to defeat rampant inflation, after one of the worst periods in our economic history, almost 50 years ago. We think we know better. What arrogance, and how tragic it’s going to be, when we realise we’ve thrown away our learning and experience.

9. Face the Present

This also touches something that I’ve always believed; that we need sometimes to get into a ‘mental helicopter’ to look down on our lives and take stock of what’s actually happening in our world. A good recent political analogy would be that no-one, other than a few sceptics, challenged what was going on, when the COVID panic started. Had we done so, we’d have realised that we were stacking up huge economic, social and health problems, trying to control a virus that…….Well, please explain to me how you’re going to control an organism that measures 60 nanometres in size! Our politicians seemed to be addicted to mathematical models that were completely incapable of reflecting what was happening in the real world. Carbon Mike’s premise that we should ‘Not insult people with happy talk’ is a lesson that almost all politicians should learn.

He also, tellingly, says that ‘The root of many of our current problems comes from a desire to get something for nothing.’ I fear that our politicians, in the last couple of years, have actively encouraged us to believe that we can have wealth without hard work. It may take a long time and a great deal of pain, to shake this off.

10. Cultivate the Future

When talking about his tenth and last precept, Carbon Mike states that: ‘Christianity is all over this stuff.’ It most certainly is, Mike! He says that a belief in the future improves the present. He’s right; there’s research to support the view that Christians enjoy better mental health than the general population; faith breeds hope. There are some of those in Christianity who talk exclusively about the afterlife. I’m not one of them; instead, I cling to ‘Thy Kingdom come on earth, as it is in heaven.’ After all, if it’s only the afterlife that you’re interested in, and you at the same time believe that the ‘end days’ are coming, then why would you bother trying to improve the world and bring God’s values to earth? We must, in my opinion, ‘cultivate the future’ of our world; it’s the obligation we owe to God for our life on this planet.

Summary

When Danny Doran interviewed me (the link still can be found here): https://reflectivepreacher.org/2022/02/24/my-interview-on-the-infinite-jigsaw-podcast/

I said to him that I felt that Christianity lacked an ability to sum up what it was about. At the same time, I was fairly critical of ‘organised religion’, which I believe has let down countless people. So, it’s perhaps because of that, that I feel comfortable with the ten precepts of ‘Foundationism’. It seems to me that Foundationism, albeit maybe not consciously, has its roots in Jesus’ teaching.

And if those who aspire to lead us as Prime Minister bought into these values, and we could assess their performance on how well they adhered to them, don’t you think that things would get much better?

After all, what do you think might be the values by which politics is currently governed?

Precisely.      

Heavenly Father, breathe your values into our politicians, who so badly need them. Amen

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