I’m not that surprised that David Cameron is still Prime Minister. Most of the media empires were openly and sometimes hysterically supporting him. The wealthy supporters of the Conservative party raised more money which as we can see was spent well. Labour got out of the starting blocks too late. And Scotland played a pivotal role in this election.
I was however surprised (as most) at the scale of the victory. It made me feel quite insecure. I suppose I see myself as someone who is fairly liberal and progressive. And for the first time in a few decades a prime minister had with a message of Cutts the Butcher actually increased his support. Am I in a country that is looking backward? Are liberals dying out?
Looking at vote share gives us some insight. UKIP and Conservatives together got 49.5% of the vote. So it can be fair to say the country is evenly split between conservative and progressive parties. So that’s reassuring. I’m not some small minority in being not very conservative.
But as an artist and theologian it has made me reflect. Reading Ben Quash’s ‘Abiding’, he says that we are all essentially conservative. Now this is not just a political term. We like keeping our rhythms, our traditions and values that are important to us. This is what a conservative essentially means. Someone who wants to conserve what’s important to her. Obviously exactly what is conserved is where the whole argument lies but I think this is true.
Personally for me I’ve always wanted to move on to the next thing and in that sense I’m not conservative. However this has led to problems for me. I’ve never really stuck to anything and held on to anything and I’m realising late that I really need to. So I fully accept the importance of conservatism in a broad way and also politically.
As an artist and theologian this has implications. I love IMAGINING that I’m somehow aware of the cutting edge of both these disciplines. (I’m probably middle of the road). I know for sure what I know and have experienced isn’t what a majority of the population has experienced. This explains the disconnect I feel in church since most people are naturally conservative and a church is especially dedicated to conserving a particular tradition, a particular way of being.
So what I feel are especially resonant practices in art and theology have no meaning whatsoever to the people I’m with. So I have to pedal back to a practice which I feel is old, tired and wheezy. This is what happens to so many theological students and art students. The best and most radical work we feel we do is during our studies UNLESS we are in someway lucky to be part of the researching community of these disciplines and make a career out of it.
On one level I can say, ‘they don’t know what’s good for them,’ but I feel people could REALLY DO with experiencing art and theology more deeply. The only way I can do this is to love people. Otherwise I won’t have the energy or patience to go back to ‘basics’ – (‘Yes, I do think God exists’, ‘No I don’t think a painting that looks like a photograph is good art’) – and allow myself to guide and be guided in that convoluted journey of growth into becoming more human.
After all Jesus met people where they were at. But he didn’t leave it there. He made the call to follow him. And some did. They were conservative, uninformed folk. And the world changed because that happened.