Thought for the Day - Rev Joel Edwards
Four days ago an American friend asked me if Britain was still an empire. It led to a brief constitutional discussion over a Chinese meal.
In my view, I pontificated, Britain has the best of all worlds: we now have a Commonwealth, the monarchy and a liberal democracy. The empire which was still intact in my own life time has now morphed into a network of relationships held together by constitutional habits, history and a kind of unspecified morality.
We no longer rule the waves, but we still have ambitions to rule everybody else’ values.
On Thursday our history tested our morality in the High Court.
Four elderly Kenyan’s who sued the British Government claiming that they were tortured during the fight for independence had their claims upheld by the courts. Britain’s legal argument was that Kenya’s independence absolved the Foreign Office of its liability. The court did not agree.
What happened in court wasn’t just about legalities: it was also about morality.
A long time ago a king called David came to power. In the context of ancient kingdoms 3,000 years ago, the last thing you would expect was for a new king to show humanitarian concern for his former enemy. But that’s exactly what David - the king of Israel - did. When he came to the throne he wanted to know if there was anyone still left of the house of Saul to whom he could show kindness.
From a Christian perspective our shared humanity is located not only in our histories which mesh and merge across the centuries but also in the very idea that God himself is the ever-present judge of all. And this Omnipresent morality tends to be far more generous than our legal requirements.
Of course, this takes us from serious arguments about reparation for slavery, to silly jokes about Brits claiming compensation from the Vikings.
Today we know we’re a part of the global village because we too are shaken by the shocking events in Norway. But our relationships are also sealed because of our shared past.
Invariably, when history wakes up to remind us of our past we are confronted with difficult questions.
What is never in question is that timeless moral task of preserving what works best for the wellbeing of our neighbours. And whilst some issues trail back into the mists of time, we should address the past injustices still facing us today.
Available since: Mon 25 Jul 2011
More clips from Today
- Yellowstone supervolcano eruption 'would affect the world' Duration: 02:22 11/12/2013
- VW Kombi: The end of a motoring era Duration: 03:36 10/12/2013
- Nelson Mandela: The journey to South African presidency Duration: 10:05 06/12/2013
- 'Jumbled up' tongue twister is named most difficult Duration: 02:40 05/12/2013
- US lawsuit claims chimpanzees are 'legal persons' Duration: 02:59 04/12/2013