Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, by Justin Welby, March 2018. Bloomsbury, ISBN: 9781472946072. RRP £16.99 (hardback)
This book is unusual both in its author and in its subject matter. Justin Welby is the present Archbishop of Canterbury, a non-theologian and formerly an oil industry executive. The “reimagining” in the title is important, for it means not fiction but an inclusive, concrete, colourful projection of what Great Britain could become. It is a Christian book, not only in the sense that Welby’s personal history is Christian. It is to Christian principles that we must turn to fashion a hopeful future. Hope is important to Welby and this interesting book reimagines a future Britain grounded in hope, based on its history and its potential.
For Welby, life is grounded in God’s Love in Jesus Christ. A Christian society’s economics and lifestyle are grounded in Love. To identify with God in Jesus is to be united in Love. It is important to notice Welby’s dependence on the Christian Bible, not least in Saints John and Paul, but also in other writers and the whole preaching of Jesus.
Welby discusses the results of recent elections with a significant trend towards Labour in under 40s, and a tendency towards Brexit rather than “remain” in older voters. Discussing these in the light of faith, the book covers housing, family, education, immigration and integration, the environment (including climate), economics, and foreign policy. Recognising the importance of ecumenical and interfaith co-operation, Welby argues for greater moral virtue, hope, and inclusion, but especially a narrative of hope.
“Bigger than politicians and broader than religion – a timely and inspiring read that requires response” says Paula Vennells of the Post Office, quoted on the back cover. So which of the topics in particular require a response? First there is the importance of community, both sacred and secular. Welby mentions “caring” in this context. The book also describes “the common good” and the precious gift of “solidarity” with which we help and love one another permanently. He includes the importance of subsidiarity, courage, and aspiration as necessary for the common good. Welby also discusses the competition which we take for granted and prescribes reconciliation and resilience as worthy responses, endorsing sustainability as necessary for a healthy future. He also discusses at length the adulation of economic “growth”, and how economics can be a solution to, rather than a cause of the injustice in our society.
In conclusion, I recommend this book for anyone interested in how our community lives and the various ways we can help to make life more decent and valuable for millions of people. He includes the world Faiths among those who contribute. We can “reimagine” Britain with many of the solutions that Archbishop Welby proposes.