Book Review – Mick Lumsden
On Rock or Sand? Firm Foundations for Britain’s future
Edited by Archbishop John Sentamu
Background, Content and Quality
The origins of this book lie in April 2010 when the Archbishop of York noted the financial depression and considered whether there was a way for the Church to effectively articulate a message of hope. With such a national crisis any response needed to be more than superficial platitudes and so a group of experts was gathered together; their task was to consider not only the policies by which society should be governed, but also the underlying virtues and principles that should be the foundation for a healthy society. A review of what is actually happening in the UK was also incorporated and compared with the Christian principles identified – as Sentamu puts it “a holistic health check to discover whether Britain has firm foundations on which to build for the future” (p.xiv).
Over the next four years the group met and discussed. Individuals then drew together their thinking in a collection of essays covering such areas as: the economy; poverty; education; healthcare; work; ageing; children and young people and the Welfare State. The expert panel included Justin Welby, Lord Adonis and others of similar calibre.
Often a collection of essays can be a mixed bag with regard to quality. I found all the essays were of a high standard. Again and again the contributors picked up on vital issues. For example what consideration is being given to the injustice revealed by the fact that life expectancy for men born in Kensington is 10 years more than for men born in Manchester? Why is our culture so frenetically orientated towards youth? Why is there so little engagement in politics? (voting numbers are low and there is a great lack of accountability, as well as participation).
The book was published in advance of the General Election – a particularly appropriate time for the Church to speak out – to seek to point to a vision of what a “good” society might look like. The General Election made the book particularly relevant but in my opinion an important role for the church is always the prophetic one – pointing toward a more excellent way. Such signposting by the church occurs more often on the individual level. It is refreshing to find a strong prophetic voice speaking to national issues, although of course the values applicable to national issues also need to be worked out in the local and individual theatres.
Some politicians have been very quick to dismiss…
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