Inspirational leader or subversive radical?

Published: March 21, 2014

Rosie WoodallThe death of Tony Benn last weekend has provoked a mixed response – some will mourn him as an inspirational and passionate speaker, others as a ‘national treasure’, and some will denounce his politics. At the opposite end of the political spectrum, the same divided reaction followed the death of Margaret Thatcher last year.

Whatever you thought of them, it is true that in some way they changed this country. I’m afraid I am too young to remember much of their active years, which has caused me to reflect on who it is that will be remembered by the next generation, who it is that has profound influences on their lives and futures. It seems unlikely that any of our current tranche of politicians will inspire them in the same way. In a world which values false celebrity over true character, self-aggrandisement over self-sacrifice, and wealth over worth, the task seems particularly challenging.

You only had to read to the second paragraph of Tony Benn’s Times obituary to find the description “subversive radical”. Christians follow one of those too – though I am not comparing Tony Benn to Jesus, nor trying to align their political views! But we need those in our own generation who will speak up for the poor and oppressed, who will challenge the status quo, and who will provide a voice for the voiceless. Maybe it’s not elsewhere we should be looking for these passionate people, but to ourselves.

Revd Rosie Woodall, Priest-in-Charge of Bisley, Chalford, France Lynch and Oakridge

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