We are called by God to act together, says Bishop Welby

Excerpts from Bishop Welby’s presidential address:

A KEY lesson from Covid has been unequivocally that the illusion of individualism and atomization is just that: it is an illusion. A mistake. The very nature of a virus is that it is contagious or infectious – it needs lots of people to spread and thrive. It took this physical manifestation of connection for many of us to realize how connected we are in all sorts of other ways.

Whether it was staying home, buying supplies in bulk, getting vaccinated, or wearing a face mask, the message was clear: our actions affect others. We can’t do what we want without it having an impact elsewhere. . .

However, in the debate on vaccination in particular, we notice that individuals and groups talk extensively about their own rights, needs and desires as if they were still entirely autonomous.

Among the greatest challenges we face as communities, as a nation and as a world are the challenges of the tension between individualism and community. Global intergenerational equity, technological change, climate change, vaccine nationalism. These are all interrelated issues with one common characteristic: those who have, earn more, and those who don’t, bear the consequences. The strong do what they want and the weak suffer what they must. . .

As we face the pandemic, as we examine the threat of climate change, we face issues that affect all of us across the world, no matter where we live or who we are. We are called to look at the world as one rather than through the prism of narrow nationalism, factionalism, politics, economic union or self-selected group.

We are faced with the call to see each person with whom we share this world no longer as a stranger, a stranger, a stranger, but as a neighbor. . .

For many wealthier countries, the philosophical, moral and above all spiritual loss of even a theoretical foundation of what it means to be a society leaves us without the means to navigate the enormous changes of the near future. . .

The result is that in our national life there are two areas in which we are lacking when we become self-reliant and individualistic. The first is responsibility. The second is the truth. . .

A society that forgets God, that loses the sense that it needs God. . . who no longer desires God. . . such a society loses the profound call to see the fullness of the individual human person and the call to love, through the liberation of that person in relationship with others.

And without the Church, without this community of faith, as salt and light of this society, this society goes astray. Without God it cannot maintain a determining objective than power.

Jacques Maritain, the Roman Catholic philosopher, wrote [in Christianity and Democracy] in the depths of the darkness of 1942: “Deprived of a determining objective, political communion will carry its demands to infinity, will absorb and regiment the people, will swallow up in itself the religious energies of the human being. Because it is not defined by a job to be done, it can only be defined by its opposition to other human groups. It will therefore have an essential need of an enemy against which it will build itself; it is by recognizing and hating its enemies that the body politic will find its own common conscience.

Doesn’t that speak to us as much today as it did in 1942?

And so, in politics, our concern to speak the truth and to act for the truth is not about political groupings – or in the Church – but about where we find the foundations of trust in government, trust in leadership, and above all the trust in each other that allows us to function as a good society that seeks the common good.

It is through this community that seeks the common good and this sense of the common good that we gain the ability to recognize that in serving Christ we are not a church of loss and gain, factions in a struggle nil sum, but abundance and grace. It is by showing such a way of life that society can learn this lesson when it sees us living it.

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