This Christmas – let’s talk about love

21st December, 2012 10:13 am

I want to talk about love. Not romantic love (though that’s great too) but communal love.

Before you drop your knitting, I’m not talking about orgies either. Or swinging or any of the other sexual activities your filthy mind can conjure up!

I was brought up to be religious. I grew up in the Church of England and I even went so far as to serve as an acolyte (the teenager in the cassock who follows the vicar around with a candle) for a few years. My enormous crush on the vicar’s son notwithstanding (I guess there is a bit of romantic love after all), I did it because of the way church made me feel.

My favourite times in church were either singing hymns or the offering of the Peace. This is when the congregation would circulate, shaking hands and exchanging the words “Peace be with you”. Young and old, black and white, men and women we all came together and offered each other our peace. It’s quite a moving experience.

Now as an adult I am no longer a Christian. I have a slightly complex relationship with the concept of God that most comfortably falls under the term agnostic, but I no longer have any faith in the church.

But I do miss it sometimes. I miss that space where people came together to celebrate their love and to bring each other a message of peace and goodwill. Despite the terrible things done in the name of religion, that is most practising participants’ experience of their faith; that communal love.

This week I went to the excellent Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People. Billed as a celebration of rationalism, it combines short talks from scientists with musical performances and comedy. It’s a wonderful, fun night out and it feels very communal. It felt a bit like Church.

That communal feeling can happen in all sorts of areas of secular life. While fewer of us than ever before attend church services or describe ourselves as religious, the Olympics and the Jubilee proved that the desire for communal experiences persists as strongly as ever. If Nine Lessons… felt like Church, Super Saturday felt like the Rapture (without the icky burning unbelievers of course).

The social need that Church fulfilled for me and for many others hasn’t gone away. But we don’t all find it in the same place. Some of us find it in politics, but frankly far too few of us. Politics isn’t celebratory anymore and is rarely communal. This has to change.

Now before anyone gets me wrong, the last thing I want to do is bring more religion in to politics. I don’t believe we should have as much as we do now. I am concerned at the Bishops sitting in the House of Lords and at the amount of state education is provided through church schools. And I’m not talking about faith. Good politics is about ideas not dogmas. It relies on evidence and reason.

It’s not the religious doctrines that I want to see brought into politics, but the religious experience – the sense that we are a community. I want that bond that church goers and mosque goer, synagogue attendees and people who worship at temples feel about their fellow humans. I just don’t want to have to subscribe to a faith I no longer feel to achieve it.

I don’t think I’m alone in believing that Labour could be a place for this kind of communion. The best politicians are preachers – look at Obama. But the best feelings in politics are about being with like minded people who wish you peace. We need to find ways of opening ourselves up to that spirit – to become again a place where people come together, not just a place where people come to fight.

I spend a lot of my time disagreeing vehemently with other Labour Party members about policy, campaigning and strategy. I do so because I want the Labour Party to be successful and to be the vehicle to improve the country. I will – I’m sure – continue to do so in 2013.

But for now, for this season and to end period in which our faith in humanity has been sorely tested, I want to remember the communal love we share for our fellow women and men: the reason we do it all.

Peace be with you.

Latest

  • News Balls pledges Business rate cut for 1.5 million small businesses in first budget

    Balls pledges Business rate cut for 1.5 million small businesses in first budget

    Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls will say today that Labour’s first Budget will cut business rates for 1.5 million small business properties – and then freeze them the following year – as part of the party’s “Better Plan for Small Businesses”. Labour claims that will save the average business around £400, and will be funded by scrapping another cut in corporation tax for large firms. Unveiling the pledge tomorrow, Balls will say: “Every large business started off as a small business and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Europe Steering TTIP in the right direction: Labour’s plan in the European Parliament put into action

    Steering TTIP in the right direction: Labour’s plan in the European Parliament put into action

    While EU Trade Chiefs acknowledged that negotiations for the massive EU-US trade deal would take longer than anticipated, Labour Members of the European Parliament have put their plan into motion to ensure that no deal will be concluded unless public concerns are properly addressed. TTIP, as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership is know, would be the largest ever bilateral trade deal. It could affect not only traditional international trade instruments, such as tariffs and quotas, but also domestic rules […]

    Read more →
  • News Weekly Survey: London Mayor, campaigning and debates

    Weekly Survey: London Mayor, campaigning and debates

    After last week’s “Battle For Number 10″ on Channel 4 and Sky (which we covered with a liveblog and post-interview analysis), this coming Thursday sees a proper debate between the leaders of seven political parties. Last week’s was close, with polls showing Cameron coming out.on top but Miliband confounding expectations. Other than the Labour leader, which one of the remaining six on stage do you think will come out best from this week’s debate? It’s often claimed that Labour’s strong […]

    Read more →
  • News Hunt says Labour would get rid of Ofsted’s “avalanche of bureaucracy” in favour of peer review system

    Hunt says Labour would get rid of Ofsted’s “avalanche of bureaucracy” in favour of peer review system

    Tristram Hunt, Shadow Education Secretary, has said that Labour would replace Osted’s“avalanche of bureaucracy” with a peer review system. Hunt made this announcement at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference where he praised Ofsted but also recognised the limitations of an education system reliant on the kind of inspection system that currently exists: “There can be no doubt in my mind that Ofsted has been an extraordinarily progressive force for improving this country’s educational outcomes and spreading equal […]

    Read more →
  • News Polling Labour take 14 point lead in London

    Labour take 14 point lead in London

    On Friday we reported that in the latest Guardian/ICM poll, Labour had surged to a 10 point lead in London. Now a poll done by ComRes for ITV News has put Labour even further ahead in London, on 46% to the Tories’ 32%. This 14 point lead is the product of a 6 point swing from the Conservatives to Labour since 2010. It could mean that Labour will win some key marginal seats off the Tories, such as Ealing Central […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit