An Easter Message 2024 – Certainty In the Face Of Personal Death

  • Certainty in the face Personal Death and Physical Deterioration:

    The Unity of Politics, Theology and Philosophy in confronting the Death Dealing Threat of Climate Change. 

    This was a response to a dear friend. A very fit marathon runner  he suffered a devastating heart attack. Hospitalised, he woke at night experiencing existential panic, disorientation, almost insanity. He was unable to find any sense of Certainty.

    “I could prove nothing about my existence; everything upon which I had been anchored was swept away by nameless forces beyond my control; threatening my sense of personal integrity “

    How could he re-gain that personal sense of Certainty?  Having myself  been rushed to hospital  last July, contemplating the prospect of death but then recovered: I wrote:

    Our shared experience of on-coming death and the approach of apparent Non-Entity  takes me to the Existentialist Theologians and my own course at the Gregorian University on Metaphysics. My Prof entitled it Ontology—the Nature of Being. Tillich writes about ‘The ground of Being’ and thus I posit that our own ‘grounded personal being’, ‘our personality’ is the powerful and meaningful expression of existent reality. Such meaningfulness demands that in a conscious or sub-conscious way we have made a commitment to make our life meaningful and creative. Bultmann quoting Heidegger posits ‘Authenticity of  Personality’; that  authentic existence is attained by  fulfilling the duty of Care in the existentially social situations in which one is situate. They describe and contrast the Authentic and Non-Authentic person.

    A useful analysis, perhaps, in establishing the credibility of Politicians.

    In each person there is a continuing need, deriving from the womb and seminal relationships, for love and for constant reassurance that the ‘I who is me’ belongs. This profound need to belong moves the child/adolescent within and through parental relationships into the community- the street and neighbours, the local school, village/town and into the regional and national arena.                                                                                                                             Descartes’ intense commitment to ‘Cogito ergo sum’-‘ I think therefore I am’ gets it dramatically wrong.

    The existential reality is ‘I relate therefore I am’; The physical womb entwined with our parental relationship is also our psycho-emotional womb. It precedes and nourishes our intellectual capacity and by virtue of relationships enables our intelligence to grow and develop. Emotional Intelligence is the profound compound of psycho-emotional security and intelligence within the ‘Authentic Person’ developing within her/his familial and community setting be it local regional or national. Hence it is the network of relationships and Community which become the ‘ground of our Being’. Safe communities make for good creative people and this is surely the rationale behind the local school as a community in which pupils grow as personalities, not just passing or failing exams; the place of Youth Work for adolescents combined with Nursery, Social and Community Care and the National Health Service provision of health care from the cradle to grave. My own professional work and political experience demonstrates that safe and creatively supportive communities can be designed and this was the basis of the interactive Community Policing model we introduced into Staffordshire in the early 2000s ‘Safer Staffordshire’.( See

    But all this massive Community Care, educational provision and the NHS was built on the basis of the Beveridge, Attlee and Bevan foundation of The Welfare State.

    In personal terms as advancing age and physical and even psychological disintegration looms we can experience an existential panic. In that situation how can we recreate a real sense of our own significance and meaning ?

    Ontology posits an ‘uncaused cause’ of Being. Theologians call it God. It is the’ Power- Thrust’ behind, within and throughout all of Creation. It is of course the source of our own existence/our Being. Once we acknowledge this we create a powerful personal relationship with creation which brings its own profound sense of personal meaning, belonging and genuine love of self. Our co-operation with Creation in order to recreate it rather than pursue personal and institutional greed is now becoming the underlying Theology for Climate Change; the looming disaster of which  Carmody  Grey ( in The Tablet) quite rightly and alarmingly describes as the equivalent of a global nuclear war.

    As personal death looms our own decease creates the ‘Ground of Being’ and memory upon which our children, grandchildren ( in terms of my celibate colleagues from the English College Rome), their spiritual and ecclesial descendants and communities)  are born. We fertilise the ground upon which they are seeded; in which they grow and  mature. For the Christian we can say that as she/he carries their ageing body they experience it as their Cross,(La Croix du Combattant) as did Jesus limping along his personal road to Calvary and his Resurrection in the lives of his followers.

    But as a politician I have to go further. I tease my Christian friends with this saying ‘if Jesus is the Son of God then God is a socialist’: that the Lord’s Prayer is a demand that the Kingdom of God must be built in the here and now. The Magnificat is in fact a revolutionary hymn and Jesus was a threat to the ‘Powers that Be’, the National and Multi- National Elite of his day and thus had to die. His death  laid the ground for a potential new world order and certainly a new movement.

    One can argue that the national Welfare State, the National Health Service and strong Local Government organising powerful local educational, cultural, social services , highways, roads  transport services, proper rentable housing and community policing in the public interest was at least halfway to meeting the dream of Jesus and the Power of Creation “Thy kingdom Come, Thy Will be Done on Earth”. His God was the Power of Creation.

    As outlined by Carmody Gray the fundamental 21st Century danger is the oncoming massively destructive impact of Climate Change , humanly inflicted by gross and greedy exploitation of the world’s natural resources. It is a direct challenge to the Power of Creation.  It is on this ground that Politics, Theology and Metaphysical Philosophy must meet to reshape – No– move through and  beyond the present disorder to identify with the Power of Creation and work to create a new world order.

    The multi-national elites’ exploitation of the world’s natural resources through their corporations and politicians (their ‘Austerity’ driven destruction of Public Ownership of Electricity, Gas, Water, Railways , Education and the Welfare State in the interest of private profit has become part of the steady march towards the Climate Change disaster) threatens the very life of humankind both in the UK and throughout the world. Even now in 2023-24 they seek to extend their ability to overexploit natural resources and through their politicians continue to threaten and wage war when the fundamental world crisis demands not immature competition and greed but mature world-wide co-operation. This must engage  the EU, USA, China, India, Russia, Japan and the potentially great powers of South America, Africa, Australasia, the Middle East and Asia and the UK in planning and executing together the defeat of the existential threat caused by Climate Change.

    The time for suicidal national/international war is over –Armed Power and powerful States must confront that fact.

    The very survival of the world, our own countries and our own very local communities, depends on  mature  adult  co-operation between National States controlling their Corporations rather than foolish self-destructive competition.

    The final word must lie with that great US Senator, sometime Presidential hopeful, Bernie Sanders “Instead  of the insane dynamic of competition- the US and China must unite to fight Climate Change—Not Each Other.”

    That very logic must apply to the tragic conflicts we are inflicting on our World this Easter 2024.

    Michael Poulter.