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Publication Date: 15 Jan 2015
Publisher: SPCK Publishing
Page Count: 224
ISBN-13: 9780281071746, 9780281071753

On Rock or Sand?

Firm Foundations For Britain'S Future
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Summary
The aim of this book is nothing less than to assess and reset the terms of the debate about the kind of nation we want to be. It asks: What are the essential values we need for building a just, sustainable and compassionate society in which all can participate? Chapters by expert economic, political, religious and social thinkers, including contributions by Lord Adonis, Sir Philip Mawer, Oliver O'Donovan, Andrew Sentance, Julia Unwin and Archbishop Justin Welby Addresses crucial questions about the moral principles that undergird the way Britain is governed Written for people of any or no religious background who are concerned about the values that influence our political attitudes and decisions Faced with a period of change as great as that of the 1930s, the continued cohesion of our society is at risk as expectations of ever-rising prosperity are challenged and many struggle to make ends meet. It is within this context that the contributors to this book examine some fundamental questions. How can we draw upon the wellsprings of social solidarity today? What would a new social contract - a new understanding about the respective rights and obligations of the individual citizen and the state - look like today? At a time when budgets and other resources are being reduced, what are the principles we should adopt to distribute them? In short, what values can the Christian faith bring to the table to help address the problems we face today? These and other core questions about the kind of society we seek lie at the heart of this book.
About the Author
The Most Revd and Rt Hon Dr John Sentamu has been Archbishop of York since 2005. Prior to that he was appointed Bishop for Stepney in 1996 and Bishop for Birmingham in 2002. His previous publications include John Sentamu's Faith Stories (DLT, 2013)
Press Reviews

The aim of this book is nothing less than to assess and reset the terms of the debate about the kind of nation we want to be.The contributors to this book examine some fundamental questions. How can we draw upon the wellsprings of social solidarity today? What would a new social contract - a new understanding about the respective rights and obligations of the individual citizen and the state - look like today? At a time when budgets and other resources are being reduced, what are the principles we should adopt to distribute them?
In short, what values can the Christian faith bring to the table to help address the problems we face today? These and other core questions about the kind of society we seek lie at the heart of this book.

- John Sentamu

The Prime Minister’s reaction, and the vigorous defence of the Church’s involvement
in political affairs put up by the Archbishop of York as the book’s editor,
might suggest that here is another Faith in the City.

This, however, is not a new Faith in the City. It was not officially commissioned,
nor was it the Church of England’s input into the recent election campaigns, nor a
‘report’ with agreed policy recommendations. It is the distillation in eleven essays of
a series of symposia convened by the Archbishop of York at the time of the previous
General Election and in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008. His purpose at a
time of significant political turbulence was to find a ‘dynamic and accessible
common language’ (p. xiii) in which to chart a hopeful way forward. Dr Sentamu’s
description of the kind of group he wished to assemble is fulfilled in the essays
which are the fruits of their four years of discussion. They are readable and probing,
and the Archbishop himself, whose two pieces bookend the collection, gives
voice to the passionate engagement which prompted him, in the search for ‘firm
foundations for Britain’s future’, to collect the group together. Even if we do not
hear the cut and thrust of the arguments they must have had, the wisdom contained
in the essays leaves us in no doubt that their conversations were times of significant
engagement with each other and with some very important issues.

The Archbishop of Canterbury calls for ‘solidarity’ and for a renewed sense of
the ‘common good’ in the rebuilding of an economy which overcomes the inequalities
manifest in the uneven resources found in different parts of the country, indeed
in the same city. As the means to that solidarity he proposes four building blocks:
the Living Wage, the availability of good housing, excellent education and training
and access to financial services the last being an area where, as is well known, he
believes the Church has a particular contribution to make by supporting credit
unions. It is disappointing that his essay, like the book generally, lacks any real
analysis of the roots of the 2008 crisis, since many of the obstacles to the realization
of the common good, as well as the secularist individualism which he has in his
sights, are amply illustrated by that crisis and the government’s chosen road to
recovery.

The need for work, and worthwhile work at that, was a common theme in the
discussions, and the essay by Andrew Sentance, a one-time member of the
Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England, on the future of the economy,
as well as former government minister Andrew Adonis’s essay on education, the
piece by Julia Unwin of the Rowntree Foundation on the changing face of poverty,
and Oliver O’Donovan’s ‘Reflections on work’ all look to the need for the provision
of properly remunerated work of good quality as basic foundations on which
to build.

There are three very readable and thought-provoking essays on shared responsibility
for health (Kersten England), on responding creatively to ageing (James
Woodward) and on reinvigorating our representative democracy (Ruth Fox). In
different ways they all allude to the common theme of the need for personal
responsibility and the search for solidarity coupled with the Christian value of
the vital importance of each individual. Philip Mawer (no doubt drawing on his
years of experience in making sense of deliberations in the councils of the Church
of England!) very successfully draws the threads of this interesting collection
together.

It is striking that there is nothing on the deeply significant topics of our dysfunctional
criminal justice system or the neuralgic topic of immigration. Less surprising,
but very significant, is the fact that you would not on reading this book gain any
sense of outrage at the food banks and other bitter fruits of this government’s
sustained onslaught on the poorest and most vulnerable in the name of support
for ‘hard-working families’ and ‘the taxpayer’. It is certainly the genius of an
established church to enable this perceptive and wide-ranging conversation on the
issues of the day, and then to speak with a civilized wisdom and humanity. But the
book does also exemplify how difficult such a church finds it to voice real outcry in
the face of injustice, or any really sharp judgement on the appalling financial
imprudence that the 2008 crisis revealed. These are not to be found here; had
they been voiced, the book would no doubt have caused much more offence and
even been thought to be the party political utterance the group was determined to
avoid; but their absence is the absence of the truth about where we are. The well presented
proposals of this group could be a very useful basis for progress, but only
if that truth is faced.

- Peter Selby

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