How much is faith a glue for our 21st-century society?
Updated: Feb 5
Daniel Singleton has been the National Executive Director of FaithAction since 2007. In the latest newsletter he writes:
Over the past few months, I have found myself considering the knotty issues of integration, citizenship and cohesion. The whole of life being in lockdown acts as a pressure cooker for the issues already in society. Tensions have been bubbling up between communities – social classes, blue and white collar, young and old, and even within families and households (with a worrying but predictable increase in domestic abuse). After some initial distraction, the Covid crisis has not so much changed the issues in society, but in many cases further emphasised them.
Social class, ethnicity, location and all the usual equality markers have been exacerbated by this crisis. The most obvious indicator is that those who have the worst health outcomes in normal times have, again, had the worst outcomes in the Covid-19 crisis.
Of course, it has not all been bad news. In many cases there has been an encouraging growth of community. Many of us have got to know our neighbours better, learnt to appreciate public parks and appreciate the NHS and our faith communities more. (When it comes to faith both the Keeping the Faith report on local authorities by the APPG on Faith and Society and the Danny Kruger MP review of the Voluntary and faith sector – speak positively of the part faith has played in this crisis.)
It has not been universally bad; neither has it been universally good. Broadly speaking, issues and assets that existed before the crisis are still there now. We notice them more during the crisis as any pressure puts a strain on weak points.
As I have been looking at different theories of integration, assimilation, multiculturalism and inter-cultural dialogue, I have been struck by the way each has strengths and weaknesses. And at our conference in November 2020, Building Back Better, we looked at faith and the future – i.e. What is to be the role of faith in wider society as we look to the future?
As I consider these two things, I find myself wondering – ‘Can faith be the thing that brings us together?’ Can faith bridge the chasm between individual rights and group rights? Faith communities have provided a goodwill infrastructure – a true social fabric in this crisis – for the short-term alleviation of the immediate problems of the lockdown. However, is there a greater role possible for faith communities to create a more integrated and harmonious society after the issues of Brexit, quick successive elections, Black Lives Matter protests, loneliness and the unequal experience of Covid-19?
No answers this time – just questions. What do you think?
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