Invest your tuppence wisely in the bank!

15 October 2008

Life is never going to be quite the same again for those of us who were brought up on the solemn advice given to Michael Banks “If you invest your tuppence wisely in the bank, safe and sound, soon that tuppence, safely invested in the bank, will compound! And you’ll achieve that sense of conquest, as your affluence expands! In the hands of the directors, who invest as propriety demands!” Whilst Michael Banks was but a character in the film ‘Mary Poppins’, that fictional advice captured a common sentiment, namely that our banks were solid and wise institutions upon which trust and confidence could be built.

In just a matter of weeks we have witnessed the collapse not just of the international banking system, but also of the trust and confidence which that system had built up over generations.  In the real economy that breach of trust is beginning to have a devastating impact on jobs, families and communities. Now trust and confidence have been replaced by guarantees offered by the Government, bringing for us all a very different relationship with our bank.

Trust and confidence are the stuff of relationships – between banks, within businesses, with customers, between friends, in families and for lovers – and they are precious commodities.  The banking system appears to have sacrificed these precious commodities for the sake of maximising their profits.  It is going to take time for all this to unravel, but before the banks can regain our trust, they will need to find a way of repenting of their folly.  In fact they need our forgiveness.  They need us all to offer that precious human attitude which enables us to find the future when our trust has been betrayed and confidence lost.  As Desmond Tutu puts it, there is no future without forgiveness.

But can we forgive institutions such as banks?   Well perhaps this is where something the Christian faith has discovered over the centuries may help – forgiveness is not cheap.  It requires recognition of wrongs done and the harm caused, with a desire for a different future.  To rebuild trust, there would need to be a soul-searching reflection on what is driving the banking sector – excess profit for shareholders or service to the whole economy?  If the banks can’t engage in a process of repentance so as to rebuild our trust and confidence, then we had better all start singing, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious….!

This post was from an article which I submitted to The Cleethorpes Chronicle

Church in meltdown….?

16 June 2008

Ruth Gledhill’s article on the front page of today’s Times, suggesting that the church is in meltdown due to Women Bishops and gay marriage, continues to demonstrate that matters of religion, faith and the church are still of importance in our society. A space on the front page and two full inside pages are not given lightly and although we might wish that it was a more positive story about the gospel, the very fact that we are considered worth reporting is good news.

Can we turn this to our advantage? The questions facing the Church of England are deep and in many ways intractable. They are about how we understand God – how he works, how he reveals himself and whether his changelessness can accommodate changes in our understanding of what it is to be human.

To me the deepest question is whether we can forgive each other for understanding God differently. We are like rival siblings angry with each other for finding different truths in our parents. The family will fall apart unless we can forgive each other for the sin of loving different attributes about God and coming to different conclusions about his revelation in Jesus.

Forgiveness is supposed to be fundamental to our character as Christians – as we wrestle with deep questions within our faith, we will only come through as the family of God’s people if we bring the grace of forgiveness into our debates.

‘Church survives through forgiveness’ would be a great headline and a witness to the world.