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Humble, meek

21 December 2018

POWER is an attractive thing, particularly when associated with public office. The practical aspect of exercising authority is usually tedious, so the drug of power has to be strong to keep hold of its addicts. Addicts are generally to be pitied, but public servants who pursue high office for reasons of self-aggrandisement, or those who cling on to it beyond the point of ridicule, can cause immense damage to the body politic and the country at large. Judgement hangs over the UK’s politicians at present, but also over those who hold or aspire to power in the Church, as indicated by a letter in this paper last week.

The image of God as a powerless infant is both the most attractive — according to church-attendance figures — and the most vital aspect of Christianity. Dr Hammond writes in this issue of the experience of powerlessness in a domestic setting. It is at least as important in the political world. Christians often take too literal a view of the Gospel stories, seeing Christ’s infancy as a short stage on his way to triumphant and everlasting kingship. But no characteristic of God is temporary. Not only is Christ’s helpless recalled afresh in this season each year: God has taken the whole of our human nature upon himself, and this aspect needs to be worked into the Church’s worldview. Throughout his earthly life, Christ dwelt with the poor and disenfranchised, an approach he might easily have learnt at his mother’s knee, and resisted temptations to exercise worldly power. Unless the Church takes hold of this radically alternative view of how to order the world, it has nothing new to contribute to society at large, and has no help to offer political leaders who seek to hold on to power and, inevitably, find themselves adrift.

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