I felt like cheering as I watched the televised debate between Nick Clegg and Nigel Farage over membership of the European Union. Yes, the arguments were well put. But actually, it was the principle of the thing. It was great to see two people locked in a feisty dual, going head to head over passionately-held beliefs.
So often, political debate seems to get bogged down in accusations about incompetence rather than the rights and wrongs of an issue. Or the differences in opinion are so subtle and technical that it’s hard to stay engaged. Or it just feels too difficult, full stop. In a recent conversation, someone told me that she’d stopped thinking about how her lifestyle might impact on the environment, because it was just too complicated.
And it’s not just politics or the environment. Passionately-held beliefs can make us feel uncomfortable, partly because we don’t want to “inflict” our views on other people. Everyone has the right to their own opinion.
But there is a risk here: that we lose sight of first principles, and stop being able to express and hold on to our passionately-held beliefs. A recent survey found that people in the UK are now less likely to believe in God than to believe that it’s unlucky to walk under a ladder … or that picking up a penny will bring them good luck. And working with a church group recently, on how we can share our faith with other people, one woman told me: “If I start talking about God, people will think I’m a nutter.”
So I’d like to put the case for more arguments! Let’s talk with passion about the things we believe in. And feel comfortable about debating those issues with people who don’t agree.
The Revd Poppy Hughes, Parish Priest, the Benefice of Tetbury, Beverston, Long Newnton and Shipton Moyne