Why do we know so little about the fundamental beliefs of those in public life?
Is it not relevant to know their worldview?
Confession of faith
In the past people codified their beliefs in confessions of faith. This had advantages but also disadvantages. It allowed those without any particular system of belief to take potshots at what they did not like in other people’s belief systems without the opportunity to show any inconsistency in the critic’s belief system.
This may explain why we know so little about what makes people tick. However, it would be relevant to policing and national security. It would be better than ID cards and better than finding out after the event that such and such a person harboured violent and even terrorist tendencies.
In the political arena there are manifestos, but these are aspirational promises to the voters, sometimes costed, but they do not explain the fundamental beliefs of politicians. They simply show the common political ground around which these politicians gather. Thus ardent Brexiteers could be ardent Roman Catholics like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Edward Leigh and Sir Bill Cash as well as ardent Protestants or ardent secularists, gathered around a common goal. However, which is more fundamental to these politicians – their religion or their politics? Is it not worth knowing?
Declaration of interests
It used to be that people wanted to know whether those in public life were Freemasons or not. Presumably I do not need to explain why such questions are of interest to people. It is enough to point out that the concept of a declaration of interests was introduced for those in public life, but surely it is of interest to know the main philosophical driving force in one’s life? Wikipedia entries give details of people’s personal lives and especially any scandals associated with them, but they may not mention their religion nor fundamental philosophical beliefs – “what makes them tick”.
One answer may be that it plays to the prejudices of people, but this is not a sufficient answer. It may rather contradict their prejudices, which would be a good thing. Is this not the approach adopted by homosexuals ‘coming out’ – by ‘coming out’ they are challenging prejudices. This simply follows the lead of Christians who for millennia have ‘confessed that Jesus Christ is Lord’ Php 2:11. Christians have boldly confessed their faith orally and in writing. It is time for those in public life to declare plainly where they stand so that the public may know for whom they are voting.
People vote according to different priorities. For some it is the Party, for others it is the person that one elects. Margaret Ferrier is an example where people did not know the fundamental principles upon which she operated until she fell foul of the law.
She has demonstrated her principles by self-excusing her conduct and remaining in office against the advice of many. If she had taken this advice, people might have interpreted it a tragic and costly price to pay for a stupid and risky mistake. The law might even have been ready to show leniency on its principles of 4 E’s of policing – 1. engage with the public; 2. explain the law; 3. encourage compliance but, by continuing to challenge the law, she has triggered 4. enforcement and she has been arrested and charged with reckless and culpable conduct. This is rather similar to the older adage – “three strikes and you are out”.
If proper attention was paid to people’s worldview it would not be difficult to demonstrate the positive contribution to society that the godly make. They do not trouble the criminal justice system. They contribute to society with their talents and do not fiddle their taxes. They rear useful children. Their carbon footprint is likely to be low but there is no acknowledgement of this in their tax code. Rather, they are likely to be easy targets for the latest government theft scheme. Some will misinterpret this paragraph as suggesting that only the godly fall into this category. It does not, and Christians in public life should demonstrate by their speech and behaviour the utility of good, accurate, truthful and godly speech.
Where do you stand? Do you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord? If not, you should make enquiries. It is called prayer. Has your belief system or worldview been put to the test and scrutiny that Christianity has survived over the past 2000 years?
Come and welcome to Jesus Christ.
13 Mar 2021: it is time for public figures to have a Register of Ideas plainly putting forward a Declaration not only of Interests but of Ideas. After all, are they ashamed of their cherished beliefs? Do they not want to attract other people to them? Who could have known that Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford would give consideration to Green Party peer Jenny Jones’ crazy idea to have a 6 p.m. curfew on men going out in the dark? What is their Confession of Faith?
15 Mar 2021: the Scottish church at the centre of the accusation that it has disobeyed the law by holding Prayer meetings during the coronavirus lockdown have their confession of faith online, as do most churches. Why do most public bodies and people in public life not do the same? Have they something to hide?
12 Mar 2022: we now have secular “compelled speech” – confessing the correct secular line. Where have we heard this before? The secular imitation of Christianity in thought, speech and behaviour.