Friday, 9 June 2017

What is the voice of the youth we need to hear through the General Election?

I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you pesky kids.

tweeted by @mikegalsworthy

My wife Maggie still refers to ‘young people’ when describing some of our friends who are now in their mid-thirties … I’m usually exasperated by her comments, which are never just ignored! I guess it’s a sign of growing older, but have we institutionalised this perspective? In Church and politics.

Everyone appears surprised at the results from this General Election. Many political commentators made massive assumptions when Teresa May called for the recent General Election and most of them have proved to be wrong. I’m hearing echoes of conversations with many church leaders and people belonging to our Baptist Churches. The particular assumptions I’m thinking about are around the ‘young’ … I hear similar huge assumptions made by people in our Baptist Churches.

"The ‘youth’ are getting older!"

I find it very interesting to dig down a little under statements about ‘youth’, because as the average age of the UK increases, it seems the youth are getting older. In Christian youth work circles we’ve long talked about ‘youth’ as up to 25, but that’s including teenagers. Of course, when it comes to voting in a General Election you need to be 18 and by definition an adult, so to talk about ‘youth’ is interesting to say the least.

Across church life, it appears as the ‘youth’ bracket gets wider, so the missing gap grows bigger. An increasing number of church congregations have no people under 40 among them.

"Those younger ‘are not interested these days’!"

Hopefully one result from this election will be to highlight we disregard those with the smallest voices at our peril. Politicians appear to have become accustomed to the idea younger voters were disenfranchised from the system and not voting, but on the day the general election was called, 57,987 people under 25 registered to vote - more than any other age group. The second largest group was people aged between 25 and 34, with a further 51,341 registering. Articles are already appearing, the morning after the long night before, asking 'was it the youth who caused the hung parliament?'

I’ve become tired of hearing a similar chorus within churches. However, wherever churches are directly engaging a younger population there are people becoming Christians. It is simply not true those younger are less likely to become Christians. Neither is it true the younger generations are so influenced by post-modernity they have no convictions, around right and wrong, light and darkness, values and integrity. Jeremy Corbyn’s appeal to the 18-24 age group would appear to have much to do with ideals and conviction and in my experience younger Christians have largely rejected the liberal theology experiments of the twentieth century. They want conviction, truth, integrity and action.

According to the Office for National Statistics we are still getting older in the UK:

In mid 2015 the adjusted estimates from the 2011 census suggest:

11.6 million, or 17.8% of the population are over 65, with 1.5 million, or 2.3% over 85.

The median age of the UK population (the age at which half the population is younger and half the population is older) is 40.0, which is an increase from 38.7 in mid-2005.

The future projections available look like:

UK population
0 to 15 years (%)
16 to 64 years (%)
65 years & over  (%)

Monday, 5 June 2017

'enough is enough' ... I thought Teresa May might quote from Ephesians chapter six!

When Teresa May said ‘enough is enough’ I thought she was going on to quote from Ephesians chapter six!

‘Enough is enough’ said Teresa May on Sunday morning. She didn't quite go on to say ‘for our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’, but she came quite close:

… while the recent attacks are not connected by common networks, they are connected in one important sense. They are bound together by the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division and promotes sectarianism …

We were listening to the Prime Minister’s speech, whilst travelling back from a holiday in Wales, in the aftermath of the terrorist attack in London on Saturday night. I was also thinking about Paul’s concluding words in his letter to Ephesus and ‘enough is enough’ sounded like an appropriate introduction to chapter 6:10-20.

As followers of Jesus we have been equipped with a whole array of means with which to respond to hatred and violence … truth, righteousness, faith, salvation, the word of God, love, mercy, prayer …

Once home, on Sunday we settled down to watch (along with the rest of Britain it seems) One Love Manchester. In so many ways it was akin to large worship gathering. All the exhortations from practically everyone from the centre stage were to love not hate. Everyone was encouraged to recognise God was for them  (Justin Beiber). Fingers in the air pointing heavenwards, hands raised to bless those suffering, etc. I felt all it needed was someone to stand up on stage towards the end and share a paraphrase of Acts 17: 22-28 … you are worshipping ‘love’, but do you now see this God you speak of is love and has given his life so you might live …