New Year seems to be the time for predictions, many of which are obvious.
It doesn’t takes an expert to predict that there will be a continuing series of European crises, on both a financial and a social level. Those elites in control of the EU have evidenced no ability to manage the economic situation and the people of Europe will become increasingly restless as undemocratically imposed austerity bites deeper.
The situation in Greece tells it all. Lucas Papademo, the unelected Prime Minister imposed by Brussels was governor of the Bank of Greece between 1994 and 2002 and was thus in charge of cooking the books when Greece dissembled in order to join the euro in 2001. His reward was to be made Vice Chairman of the European Central Bank in 2002 and imposed as Prime Minister in 2011. When austerity bites even harder do we imagine the Greeks, and Italians who are in a like position, will meekly acquiesce?
When the very people who caused the mess are undemocratically imposed in order to find a way out it is hardly surprising that in a Russia ruled by the corrupt Putin commentators can gleefully point to the undemocratic nature of parts of Western Europe.
To be saved the European Union needs a chap who wears his underpants outside his trousers and changes in a telephone booth. Europe however, has a bad record when turning to political superman, in the meantime all we have are failed bureaucrats. The Euro will survive, the elites have too much wrapped up in it to allow it fail, but it will be badly damaged goods, but not as badly damaged as European democracy.
This summer will again see record levels of attainment in school exams at the same time as English children slip lower in international league tables in maths, physics and chemistry. Politicians of both main parties (Lib Dems don’t count) are too afraid of the negative publicity of saying that many of the qualifications awarded to our children are effectively worthless and that our educational ideology needs drastic overhaul.
These predictions are too obvious. The only predictions which are worth considering are those which go against the general expectations.
My prediction for 2012 is that despite the increasing trend in recent years here in the UK we will see a gradual shift away from the cultural assault on Christianity and its values and an increasing emphasis on morality amongst public figures. This may be me operating in full Pollyanna mode, but there are straws in the wind.
Recent failures amongst politicians with the expenses scandal and financial authorities with the banking collapse are seen not just as illegal or mistaken but as moral failures. Politicians, who are quick to sense the public mood, are beginning to realise the public are looking for direction.
Thus we have David Cameron, a part-time Anglican, recently speaking of Britain being a Christian nation and Christianity being the core of British values. Labour leader Ed Milliband, who has been trying to rescue Labour from the Blairite modernising tendency and been reviled in the media for it, has recently hired Tim Livesey, former adviser to Rowan Williams, as chief of staff. As Harold Wilson said half a century ago “The Labour Party is a moral crusade or it is nothing.”
Political leaders are beginning to grasp that religion and morality are now set to play an increasing and ultimately dominant role in mainstream political debate.
Austerity focusses the mind on basics rather than on embellishments. People will be more concerned on that which gives solidity and reliable structure to life than that which gives ease and amusement. Ultimate values will be seen as more important than the blind acceptance of moral relativism.
The English riots made many stop and think about the direction our society is taking. Despite the media subsequently spinning the rioters as victims of a heartless society many amongst the public increasingly questioned the nature of a progressive society which could bring about this situation.
A gradual change in social attitudes will only be positive if the church can grasp the opportunity. Normally at this point when looking at Britain’s various denominations I would throw up my hands in despair, but even here there are positive indicators.
The recent submission from the Church of Scotland to the consultation on homosexual marriage by the Scottish government was much more in line with biblical principles than expected. I admit that I was pleasantly surprised by the stance taken. The positions of power in mainstream denominations are still in the grip of collaborators with the progressive establishment but there are signs of a fight back.
Just as the Roman Catholic church has been revitalised by the influx from Poland the evangelical movement could, if we reach out, be strengthened by Christians from abroad. Even if we don’t reach out to them the growing influence of Caribbean based churches and the influx of Christians from Africa and Asia will have a strengthening effect on evangelicalism in the UK.
The biggest problem we face is not a fundamentalist secularism intent on creating a progressive utopia. Our great problem is the fractured nature of evangelicalism. The Roman Catholic church plays the media well, despite the appalling scandals it has faced recently the media still turns to them for comment on social issues. They have a coherent message and consistent stance.
My hope for the year ahead is that we begin to learn to cooperate with each other, that we begin to speak with a coherent and reasonable voice and that we stop trying to triumph over each other.
Despite the decades of decline in numbers and influence, despite the hostility of the media, despite a meandering and assimilated leadership, despite a tradition of silent acquiescence in the pews, despite all these there are signs of hope.
2012 will not be an easy year but my prediction is that it will see evidence of an increasing Christian influence in UK society.