Thursday, 23 July 2009

No puritans allowed!

Having watched a wee bit of "Question Time" tonight, I had a sudden revelation as to why George Galloway called his party "Respect": you might respect his political integrity, but you couldn't really like him much. There was just too much of the sanctimonious righteousness about his contributions for my taste. The principled purist or Puritan does little for me in religion or politics. I prefer a little human flexibility, the odd acknowledged flaw to temper the histrionics of the righteous.

Which made me think: using those criteria, what (or rather who) would be my ideal dinner party from religion and politics for a fascinating evening? 4 from each field. Here goes:
God botherers: Harry Williams CR, Lionel Blue, John Henry Newman, Teresa of Avila.
Hacks: Tony Benn, Bill Clinton, Peter Mandelson, Betty Boothroyd.

A mildly eclectic mix but here's why for me: Williams and Blue's autobiographies have moved and touched me for years. Laughed and cried at both of them. Newman was a quite rigid and inflexible mind to look at but he moved from evangelicalism, to Tractarian to RC and learned and grew as he went. Teresa: a late flowering saint with a sense of humour! Tony Benn has zeal but a redeeming with and integrity, Clinton is flawed but pragmatic and brilliant. Mandelson - it would be fascinating to see this able, brilliant and very famously flawed political genius batting off the rest of this crew. And Madame Speaker? Her overviews and observations would be very enlightening.

Anyone else any thoughts or comments?


  1. I've been a fan of Harry Williams for nigh on 25 years. He seems to be rather neglected nowadays, but he was one who drew water from desert places.

  2. I met him once when I visited Mirfield and sat next to him at dinner. Some of his stuff has dated a bit, but "Someday I'll find you" was a book that switched a lot of lights on for me. Honesty was one of his great strengths.

  3. Richard Dawkins? On the religious side, of course. He clearly takes atheism to a degree normally associated with C16 Dominicans.