Friday 6 January 2012

On Being Faithfully Present in 2012

[I contributed this week’s ‘Connecting with Culture’ from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity.]

News junkies have been looking back at what made the headlines in 2011: the phone-hacking scandal; the Arab Spring, including the end of Colonel Gaddafi’s 42-year rule in Libya; the earthquake in New Zealand; the triple whammy of earthquake, tsunami, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant coming perilously close to meltdown in Japan; the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton; the killing of Osama Bin Laden by US special forces in Pakistan; the summer riots across the UK; the Eurozone debt crisis; the Occupy protests.

How many of these could have been predicted this time last year begs the question as to what 2012 might have in store, aside from what we can already anticipate – the Queen’s diamond jubilee, Olympics, US presidential elections, not to mention the end of the world on 21 December (according to some interpretations of the Mayan calendar). 2012, like 2011, will provide plenty of opportunity for Christians to ‘connect’ with culture.

Arguably, we’ve had some encouragement recently to do so. To many ears, the 2011 Queen’s Christmas Broadcast sounded avowedly Christian, with references to God sending ‘neither a philosopher nor a general... but a Saviour, with the power to forgive’. Before that was the Prime Minister’s speech, delivered during a celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, asserting that the Bible ‘has helped to shape the values which define our country’, that the values we treasure as a society are ‘Christian values’. Focusing on Christianity, Peter Osborne wrote in The Telegraph on New Year’s Day about ‘the return to religion’, witnessing to ‘a change of public mood’ coming off the back of an era of materialism and selfishness.

In all of this, we can feel confident about bringing a Christian vision into the public sphere. As such, we will recognise that we are likely to find ourselves – in different ways – accepting, critiquing, and seeking to transform various aspects of given cultures from within. Seeking neither to take over the institutions of society nor abdicating responsibility altogether, we can exercise what sociologist James Davison Hunter has called a ‘faithful presence’ in the different places we find ourselves.

Such a stance, ideally, will flow out of the equipping ministry of gathered church communities into the daily lives of scattered disciples in the world – Christians whose lives are marked by the character of Christ – in every sphere, seeking to live all of life for the King of Kings.


Tim Footman, ‘2011 – the year when a lot happened’.

Prime Minister’s King James Bible Speech.

The Queen’s Broadcast 2011.

Peter Osborne, ‘The return to religion’, The Telegraph (1 January 2012).

The Economist, The World in 2012.

Economic and Social Research Council, Britain in 2012.

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