Monday, 2 January 2012

Confidently Spiritual - a Bigger Big Society

Arctic tern over waves - N Ireland

Listening to Today again this morning I was struck by the undercurrent coming through the interviews around the change we expect to see in the coming year.  What will be different in 2012? was the question posed, what are the trends?  It was no surprise to hear a whole range of people talk about new values, re-adjustment of our ideas about what is important etc.  Nothing new there...

One interview was very interesting. It was with 2 academics who want the Prime Minister to redefine what he means by The Big Society.  Professor Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, and Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the RSA, argue that the concept needs deepening and extending.  This is not just a call for more voluntary work but a drive to create citizens that are fit for purpose.

Anthony Seldon wants  the Big Society concept to have more "more substance" and with a more "thoughtful" government and more "responsible" and "responsive" citizenry.  Matthew Taylor says The Big Society "needs big citizens", with people being "more autonomous" and "responsible".

What does all that mean?  For me it is hinting at a deeper aspect to people than present society would allow us to believe is important.   Big, selfless, giving, responsible, substantial people are generated by looking out and up.  They are people who don't see themselves as the centre of everything.  Its not all about you!  That could be the strap line for The Big Society in its new form.

The new BS people are not simply concerned with pay packets and career prospects but with generating a thriving community that seeks justice, peace and integrity.  It is all sounding familiar.

It is not essential to have a religious faith to be a new BS person - by no means - but to those who have a faith it gives a framework to operate from within, a sense of bigness that takes us way beyond the day to day and allows us to see the familiar in a huge, new context. Happiness is not generated by wealth but by living in a faith consistent way that is based on doing the right thing.

For me the new BS is based on 4 relationships which I discuss in my public talks a lot.  To be the fully human, big people for a big society there are only 4 relationships we have to get right and in balance.  Our relationship with God, with ourselves, with each other and with the earth.

The Catholic Church is urging people to be "confidently Catholic" this coming year.  By that I think it means that we shouldn't be embarrassed or shy about showing the world that faith is important - and people will only perceive that it means something if we demonstrate that the Christian values of giving, service, truthfulness, community spirit and peacemaking are at the heart of our actions.  Of course these are not only Catholic - these are values that are enshrined by all the religions of the world - and for those who simply call themselves "spiritual."  To live for God is to be a big citizen.

Perhaps society should be more "confidently spiritual" in 2012, be outward about something greater than ourselves.  I am convinced society will be happier, more fulfilled and more content if we do.

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