Whatever are we coming to?
British institutions have received quite a bit of negative press recently. The institutions we look to uphold democracy and our way of life have been found wanting. Yet, our institutions are surely only a reflection of the nation as a whole, just as public figures who talk of integrity are jinxed in the same way many of us are should we mention the word ‘barbeque’ in the British summer, when what was moments ago bright and sunny will soon be overcast and ruined by a storm.
The political classes were found wanting by MP’s expenses. The press were shown up by phone hacking. The BBC were attacked due to cover-ups and mismanagement. And now, even the Anglican Church is somewhat in disarray over women bishops.
In fact, the trouble set in long before these recent issues. The dawn of New Labour was tarnished by a failed search for WMDs. We know the press write about what we want to read, and the BBC is just one of many organisations that struggles with unpalatable truths.
FaithAction is currently the secretariat of the APPG on Faith & Society, which is chaired by Stephen Timms MP. We have been party to a whole host of meetings where faith-based organisations have given evidence of their work in the UK. It has been fascinating to find out how what these organisations do and what barriers they face because of faith. However, maybe the important question to ask is about how faith makes you who, and how, you are.
After the Enron scandal in the USA, there was a marked increase in businesses looking to employ managers from Christian and Mormon backgrounds, as there was a recognition that corporate integrity had to stem from personal values. I believe that with an active faith, just by being who they are, they can make a significant contribution to organisations and institutions. There needs to be room given to the benefits of faith, without suggesting it holds a monopoly on righteousness.
Institutions have to have values at their very foundations. These values will come not only from those within the institutions, but will also be affected by wider society. Faith promises a service of values, and until we allow faith a proper place in the corporate and public space, we will continue to see a decline in institutions, and of society itself.
Joseph de Maistre, a political philosopher, once said that we get the government we deserve. However, I would add that, as they are made and upheld by us:
We get the institutions we deserve.