The Good Society
On first reading Rev Lucy Winkett’s speech I had no concept of the ‘Good Society’. However, after reading and some research I began to understand that the ‘Good Society’ serves as a foil to David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Winkett describes the Good Society as a community inherent in Christian values long forgotten and no longer respected in this modern age. She builds upon Glasman’s doctrine of transformation to one of transfiguration, a dynamic change influenced by us being made in the image of a dynamic God, to stir a half-changed world and make a difference in the world we live in rather than reaching out for a future hope.
Winkett’s starting point is that for Christians there is more than a ‘Good Society’, it is in fact a response to something else, to the relationship between God and humanity. It is Winkett’s hope that the ‘Good Society’ will mirror the relationships found in the Holy Trinity and God’s relationship with people.
She stresses that real life is not a future hope, something to wait for, but is here now in the present in “the people that God has given us to love”. Winkett references a Russian philosopher, Nikolai Berdyaev, who believed that justification was not a key tenet of Christianity, by justifying ourselves and getting rid of sin, but it is transfiguration that is paramount. At the heart of Christianity is change, a change that is possible now, a dynamic change that reflects a dynamic God. This idea derives from the Trinity that “there is a difference at the heart of God. God is not just the three persons of the Trinity- Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer… God is a dynamic”.
Much as in Glasman’s theories, relationships are central to Winkett’s doctrine:
“the key way in which we will relate to one another is by accepting and rejoicing in the differences between us and by being thoroughly relational – I am well if, you are well, and if you are not well, I am not well”
Winkett’s statement alludes to Romans 12:15 where we are encouraged to “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice (NIV)”. Following Biblical doctrine, Winkett asserts that if we as Christians believe we are made in the image of God then we are also called to live in response to that image. We must practise relationships of equality and mutual dependence.
Winkett goes on to say that in His ministry Jesus taught constantly about basilea- the Kingdom of God, that we may be waiting for it and though it is coming, it is closer at hand than we believe .In Jesus’ ministry “there is this sense of reaching for the future and bringing it into the present” which can be achieved now in the ‘Good Society’ through our relationships with one another.
Winkett believes that “one of the most appalling things about the Christian church is that we’re becoming boring. The Church has lost confidence in its liturgy”. She emphasises that prayer, a communal face-to-face prayer is highly important in building the relationships that will create the ‘Good Society’. She states that “the Christian Church is one of those places… where people will continue to gather, continue to engage with one another and continue to pray together”.
Winkett notes that a key figure throughout the scripture is wisdom and in this modern information age wisdom is becoming less important. The more we know the less wise we become. Winkett wants to make a plea for the cultivation of wisdom in the ‘Good Society’.
Winkett describes the ‘Good Society’ as being “wherever people gather and debate and meet and play together and pray together”. She describes it as an “umbilical link between beauty and justice” which though a difficult concept to understand I believe to mean that through creativity, justice will ultimately prevail. In gathering together and visualising a common goal, a fairer society can be formed that meets the needs of all citizens. Winkett believes that it is in these moments that wisdom is cultivated.
Winkett goes on to describe the challenges that face the building of the ‘Good Society’. Previously Christian theology taught that human beings were “the stewards of Creation – i.e. set over it – and the whole of Creation was simply there as a set of commodities for people to use and use up.” However modern scholars now believe that “the crown of Creation is not the creation of human beings on the sixth day as has been assumed” but is in fact the Sabbath day rest. Hebrews 4:9-11 reminds us that “there remains therefore a rest for the people of God…let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest… (NKJ)”. Winkett believes that the Sabbath rest is “a beautiful place and it’s a high ideal for the ‘Good Society’”.
Winkett notes that the “‘Good Society’ is one that is not afraid of the word sacrifice, service, hope, music, art and equality… to bring it about requires a great deal of energy, courage and imagination… and wisdom”. These qualities are within us and are needed in the creation of the ‘Good Society’. Our creativity must be pooled together as we build up a society based on our Christian heritage. Whilst David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’ focuses on taking power from government and putting it into people’s hands; Winkett’s ‘Good Society’ places emphasis on forging relationships where God’s people can rely on one another to build a shared vision.
Winkett concludes that we currently live in a ‘half-changed world’, a term coined by 1960’s feminist Peggy Orenstein. This half-changed world requires of us “to be urgent in our appreciation that real life is now with the people God has given us to love”. The very heart of Christian doctrine is transfiguration. In contemplating and debating how to bring changes to society we must begin a change by relating to those around us now, the people God has given us, that in being creative together, working together, praying together and gathering together we can create the ‘Good Society’ a society replete with Christian values that promises rest for all.
(Author: Stephanie Owusu)
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