could the leaders debates provide a way forward for churches?


What have you been up to on the last 2 Thursday evenings? Will you be in tonight with a packet of crisps and a glass of your favourite tipple (unlikely to be Irn-Bru after yesterday’s ruling) watching three guys slug it out over the deficit? I have a confession to make- I didn’t see either of the previous debates. My excuse was being at live events but I did catch up on the endless feedback loop analysing every word and gesture. Prior to this election, spin alley was more likely to be a description of a dodgy wicket in Calcutta than a bunch of party hacks telling the world that their guy had come out on top. One of the intriguing things is that (until yesterday) the debates have become the focal points of all election coverage, so much so that we are so keen to validate our opinions on them that now twice as many of us declare we’ve seen them than was actually the case. So the BBC host the final one tonight- microphones will be on- Cameron, Clegg and Brown be warned.

I reckon they’ve been a great development because people have got talking about politics again. Yes, you may say there has been a little too much personality and not enough policy but lets be realistic about what politics actually is: it’s all about people and relationships. Therefore, communication is right there at the top of a politicians tool box- if you can’t get your ideas across then you’re not a politician- you’re a researcher who should be working for a politician. Great ideas might change society but great ideas can’t change society unless society understands what they are.

I wonder for us whether there are opportunities for the church to capture something of this conversation-generating dynamic when considering difficult issues in church life? For example, thinking through a Christian approach to the environment could we have a church meeting with a climate change sceptic and a climate change proponent each arguing their case from a Christian perspective and then facing questions from the floor? It might just generate some discussions that never seem to take place in the life of the church.  Or if they do, we only get one perspective.

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2 thoughts on “could the leaders debates provide a way forward for churches?

  1. I think the idea is really worth considering, and agree that we need to move on from the main form of communication being a dated model of one person standing up and spouting his (or occassionally her) version of the truth and then leaving the congregation to applaud or mutter or go away challenged. In some senses when Alpha happens in small groups with a live speaker rather than the videos this also offers a good model for exploring big issues. Clearly the PM debates were very sanitised with no room for responses from the audience which is not ideal. The challenge then is perhaps acknowledging that the truth or at least strong opinions on some matters do not lie only in the minds of ‘the leaders’, that subjects chosen need to capture the attention of the audience (we cannot rely on election hype to get us interested in the issues chosen) and perhaps we need some good facilitative chairs in our midst (Dimbelby et al are not leaders, and our leaders may not be good debate chairs). Finally one wonders if some of the difficult issues such as human sexuality, role of women could be included in the list of issues we discuss in this way?

  2. definitely got people talking – I remain unsure who to vote for (time is running out… agh!) but i’ve had far more conversations with people about politics this time round than last time..

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