Freedom to flounder

“To food, friends, and freedom.” My traditional toast at dinner is usually readily echoed, whoever happens to be at our table. Yet if I were to substitute Freedom for a more specific word that historically has had much of the same meaning – salvation – then many of our guests might choke on their brussel sprouts.

Over the last century, the West has rightly pursued the ideal of freedom from external constraint, whether legal, social or political. The effect has thankfully given greater liberty (if not yet equality) to individuals, and particularly women, and minorities. Yet, we now face a host of social challenges from having forgotten the second kind of freedom: freedom from internal obstacles; salvation from ourselves and from our fathomless ability to screw things up. The notion of salvation promises freedom from the less beautiful chambers of our hearts; but sounds alien to modern ears because we too easily forget our own human frailties.

In an age where almost everything is permitted, our leaders and commentators have lost the moral courage to articulate how we can be saved from our instinctive choices. Poor diets have created an epidemic of diabetes. Poor financial discipline contributes to debt. Lack of community commitment has led to epic levels of loneliness. How many couples get help to navigate the useful constraints of marriage? How many of us feel confident to justify our own conception of virtue in an age of cultural relativism? Collectively, an excess of freedom has left us floundering.


Faith in Action – Episode 10

James Perry – Faith in Business


Hello. I’m Richard Sargeant, and this is Faith in Action, a podcast about how faith affects the way we live and work today.

What difference does faith make in business? With me to explore faith in business is James Perry, co-founder of the ready meal company COOK, and also the director of B Lab UK, which is a support organisation for B corporations.

James, welcome. What are B corporations? Why do they matter? Continue reading

Faith in Action – Episode 9

Luke Hoare – Faith in the Military


Sargeant: Hello, I’m Richard Sargeant, and this is Faith in Action, a podcast about how faith affects how we live and work today. It’s said that there are no atheists in foxholes, but while everyone wants God on their side in battle, there’s always been an uneasy relationship between earthly force and divine direction. With me to explore the role of faith in the military is Major Luke Hoare of the Army Air Corps, who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Luke, there’s a rich history of connection between faith and the military, from medals with crosses on them, to hymns like “Onward, Christian Soldiers”, to priests accompanying troops into battle from the Old Testament onwards. Is faith still relevant in the military, or is it a relic of the past?

Hoare: I think it’s very relevant, and soldiers certainly feel it to be relevant. I think there’s two angles I would look at this. The first is that, as you correctly identified, every single modern professional army has a relationship with religion. I think that’s because of the immediacy of your job means that you are more likely to experience the extremes of life where you also meet religion: births, deaths, funerals, so on and so forth, and those rituals of that which helps as a coping strategy. But I think there’s probably more to it than that. I was thinking this morning, the first person to recognize Jesus [after he had died] was a centurion at the foot of the cross. He said, “Behold, this is the king of the Jews,” and soldiering and religion have a pretty healthy relationship with each other. There’s nothing irreligious or, indeed, immoral about being a soldier, and the best soldiers I know are the most moral. They have a set of values, and a lot of our values come from a rich Christian tradition.

Sargeant: You mentioned Jesus and the centurion, but the Gospels seem to present an ethic of suffering service and non-retaliation… Continue reading

Faith in Action – Episode 8

Krish Kandiah – Faith in the Family


Richard: Hello, I’m Richard Sargeant and this is Faith in Action, a podcast about how faith affects the way we live and work today. The family is a haven in a heartless world, but do the faithful have a distinct vision of how to create that refuge? With me to discuss this is Krish Kandiah, founder and director of Home for Good. Krish, welcome.

Krish: Thank you. Nice to be here.

Richard: What is Home for Good?

Krish: Home for Good is a movement of people passionate about making sure the most vulnerable in our society get the love and attention that they need. Currently, in the UK, there’s around four thousand children that are waiting for adoption. They’re often not babies. They’re older children, siblings, children with additional needs, children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. And we’re also short of foster carers to the tune of 8,600. We believe that fostering and adoptions are fantastic contribution that you can make to the life of a child. A lot of people tell me they’re interested in justice and they’re passionate about that, so I say, well, here’s a real way that you can kind of make the rubber hit the road. Open up your home. Open up your family and let’s welcome children that need loving parents in their lives. Let’s welcome them into our households.

Richard: That sounds fantastic. I don’t know very much about fostering or adoption – you said that there are a lot of people waiting – is that something that’s gone up in recent years? Continue reading

Faith in Action – Episode 7

Helen Johnson – Faith in Science


Sargeant: Hello, I’m Richard Sargeant, and this is Faith in Action, a podcast about how faith affects the way we live and work today.

Science is intrinsic to the way we understand the mechanics of the modern world, but it’s often been seen in tension with faith, even though some of our greatest scientists have also had a personal faith. With me to explore the role of faith in science is Helen Johnson, a research fellow at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Helen, what do you, what are you researching at the London School?

Johnson: My field is in the mathematical modelling of infectious diseases. So, we’re interested in computer simulations of how infections spread. And that might be affected by how people meet together, the networks which they form, the frequency with which they meet. In some ways, it’s affected by the biological properties of virus and bacteria, so it spans several different fields. And the idea is, by looking at this computationally, we can predict what they’re likely to do in the future, and plan vaccines, screening, intervention programs.

Sargeant: Fantastic. So, what the flu is going to be like next winter? Continue reading