Heavenly strategic planning

God called together his partners and senior advisers for the annual heavenly strategic planning session.

“Right, this year I want us to step back and going forward do some big thinking. I want us to push the envelope, get some four dimensional blue sky thinking going on. Let’s pre-prepare for a holistic incentive driven marketing plan. We need a product evangelist and some 360 degree thinking before getting this into the product pipeline.”

Some of the angels were a bit staggered by the change in tempo. Usually the annual meetings were a formality, meeting to agree that they would continue with the plan as they had for the past 400 years.

“I’m serious,” God went on, “it’s time to move things along. I’ve been watching and waiting, and the time has come for something a bit different. I’ve got a few ideas I want to bounce off you, but let’s have an idea shower to get the juices flowing.”

Michael was never one to keep quiet when given the opportunity to have a say. “We’ve got this new Roman dimension to play with. It’s been sixty years since our people lost their independence, but the Romans seem quite happy to delegate power, maybe we can work with that?”

“Maybe we just need to be a bit more proactive,” piped up Eremiel, “we’ve got one of ours on the throne, why don’t we just send some missives to Herod so he can get with the programme?”

It was Raphael who sounded the note of caution. “I know we work with all sorts of people, I can still remember that strategy session when we came up with the donkey ploy – we really got Balaam with that one. But, Herod? Really, I think we’d have to pull off something pretty spectacular to get him in line. Why don’t we try something new, find a new leader, get someone who will stand up for the people, maybe even take the throne from Herod?”

“Yes, we could really give people the freedom they want, maybe we should have backed Judas Massabaeus. This time we can go down and give them a helping hand – I’ve been sharpening my flaming sword just this morning.” It was Eremiel who remembered back to the last time the Jewish people had their freedom.

“No, that’s not how we’re going to do it. It is time for an intervention. Not just nudges and hints, the time has past for gentle shifts in emphasis. Now is the time that God comes to earth.” It was the Holy Spirit that spoke into the growing confusion of ideas and schemes.

“That’s more like it, we’re going to wield so holy might!” Eremiel was already halfway to the door to get his sword.

“It’s just me that’s going. It is time.” Jesus started towards the door and ushered Eremiel back towards his seat.

“And it’s not going to be with flaming swords. Not this time. It would be easy to win by might but it would be meaningless. We come as the lowest of the low. We come in a form unrecognised by the high and the mighty. We live to serve the world we created.” God closed down the conversation in that way people sometimes do. For now the final word had been spoken.

Light, darkness and the ballot box

Today is polling day. I voted at a few minutes after 7 and I wasn’t the first: a couple of people trudged through the room in the local Methodist church ahead of me. Outside in the rain stood a Lib Dem teller with her clipboard, she didn’t ask for my poll card number as I lifted my hood as a shield to the elements. I hadn’t been canvassed by the Lib Dems so I’m not sure what good my information would have done on the telling tallies.

I voted because I think voting matters. I voted because I care about who runs my city as I care who runs the country. I voted because as a Christian I believe that we should take responsibility for the world around us and that means making difficult choices about what needs to be done. Last night I wrote in haste about the place of Christian political parties. If you read that it will not surprise you that as my pencil lingered for a moment above the paper awaiting my crosses it was not drawn towards the Christian People’s Alliance.

But my vote was not an automatic one. For I had not been impressed with any of the campaigns in London. Added to this, the dynamic of a supplementary vote system was new to me, voting for one of the top two candidates with your first vote renders your second pointless, so I was tempted to give my first choice to a candidates that wouldn’t normally attract my support. Peter Ould has written this morning that social conservatives should withhold their vote from the Conservative Party to send a message that they won’t be taken for granted.

What I picked up from his post was that we’re too easily taken for a ride. We hear the politicians fawning over every target group, offering special targeted messages and focus group tested policies. We hear the Bible verses quoted and the laudable things said about how integral Christians are to society. And then we are surprised when the politicians turn the other way once in office.

If our political engagement is only about extracting a promise from candidates and political parties at election time then we are asking to be used and abused. It is almost as though we want politicians to promise us the earth. If politicians only make promises as a factor in electoral calculations they will be willing to ditch them if the algebra changes.

So the answer is to vote for the party that mostly closely reflects your values, and then see how you can get involved to influence those values and the policies that arise from them. My fear for politics is that too often the value that overrules the others is the desire to get elected and whim and whimsy too often come to the fore. But like all areas of life where problems exist, they will not be solved by staying on the sidelines and becoming experts at what’s wrong.

I think for some people who usually vote Conservative, now might be a good time to send a signal that you won’t be taken for granted. But don’t just do that through the ballot box, don’t abstain because that is abdicating responsibility, and don’t vote for a party you like even less because that’s just spiteful.

If politics is a place too shrouded in darkness then we have to be the ones who will bring the light.