Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Twenty Questions to a Fellow Blogger Part XXV: Jonathan Chilvers

Jonathan Chilvers works for a homeless project and the Citizens Advice Bureau in Leamington Spa, Warwickshire. He is actively involved in his church, leading a small group Jonathan Chilvers works for a homeless project and the Citizens Advice Bureau in Leamington with his wife, Eloise and helping to run a kids club for children on a local estate. In 2003-5 he worked for Christian People's Alliance councillor in Canning Town, E.London.


What made you decide to start blogging?

A friend of mine Nick Turnbull, who sadly no longer blogs, kept telling me for years that I should start. I kept telling him that I was already introspective and reflective to a fault and that blogging would just make that worse. I was also frightened of falling into what I call the "what I ate for dinner syndrome“ many people have interesting ideas, but fairly boring day to day lives. I would quickly bore myself let alone others writing about what I did and thought and felt today. In the end I gave in and started writing on the condition that I would only write about issues from a fairly impersonal point of view.

What is your best blogging experience?

Getting comments from people I don't know in real life.

And your worst?

Having a blog entry written in my head, but not having time to put it onto paper before it's too late and the moment's gone.

What do you regard as your best blog entry?

Probably this post on the authority of the Bible, because I felt I was able to articulate something that I feel strongly about in a way that was accessible to Christians and non-Christians alike.

Favourite blogs?

Experimental Theology, Kerron Cross, Babblebabblebabble, & Mars Hill.

What inspired you to go into politics?

That's a really difficult question. I've tried to trace back where my political interest stems from, but I've kind of given up. I have simply always been interested. Only my 10 year old self knows why I bothered to get up at 6.30am every morning to watch breakfast news. Aged 9, I was the only Cub Scout in my pack to race out of the meeting on Tuesdays in 1990 to hear the very latest on the Conservative leadership election. And when I turned 8 I was the only one of my siblings wanting to know exactly who the General Public were that politicians on TV kept going on about.

Are there dangers that a certain type of political party, such as the one you are in, can be perceived as being too theocratic to the point that the Christian faith is perceived as being enforced?

There's always the danger, but I don't think it has to be like that. Freedom and in particular absolute freedom to choose or reject God is at the heart of the Christian message. Christians should freely give of what they have through demonstrating and proclaiming the Good News of knowing God. When Christians try and enforce and impose beliefs or changes of behaviour they are implying that the Good News isn't good enough for people to choose it freely - if Christianity is true that will stand on its own two feet.The Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA) is a Christian Democratic party, which means that starting from Christian principles it develops policy and politics which are rooted in those principles, although clearly other policies and politics can be reached starting from a Christian position. The traditions, heritage, faith and values of Christianity have a huge amount to contribute to politics in this country and for some Christians the CPA will be the best environment through which to make that contribution. The CPA is open to people of all faith and none, although at the moment it has an overwhelmingly Christian membership, although it's voters are very mixed.I would love to see the CPA develop into a party which has many non-Christian members, but who subscribe to the values rooted in faith of Christian Democracy. This would create a party where Christians are free to articulate the faith and values behind their politics without it been seen as a threat or an enforcement of the faith. I have a huge respect for Christians in other parties, but personally I would struggle to be in any of the main parties, because none of them do God, you're allowed to have a personal faith, but it's supposedly not meant to creep into the public sphere. That's a ridiculous and dangerous public-private duality. If I thought that God and Christianity only had something to say about my own private life and not the transformation of society as a whole then I'd say forget the whole thing, I am not interested.

What benefits are there in being involved in local politics in the way you have been?

In local politics there is no escape. If you're working on the ground day by day you have the privilege of being involved in people's day to day struggles. Not just one off contact, but an ongoing relationship in the middle of the community. You see directly the affect of legislation on people's lives how benefits and housing and regeneration policy work in reality rather than just on Whitehall headed paper. The experience has made me suspicious of career politicians/civil servants. This is not because I doubt their motives - the vast majority of people go into professional politics for the right reasons- but because I'm not always convinced that they really know what impact their policies have in the middle of people's daily lives. I know what it feels like to have well meaning ideas imposed from above which are great in theory, but show a complete lack of understanding about how they will play out. Having the time to be part of one community means that there is the opportunity to invest in, equip and empower local people and groups. It's where you can really see change happen. It's slow and it's hard work, but it's real. We cannot change society sitting at desks from the top down, however comfortable and attractive that option might be. In 2005 I helped write the CPA's 2020 vision for Newham which crystalises a lot of this thinking.

Is there anywhere abroad which you haven't been to, that you would like to visit?

I'd love to go to the west coast of Ireland and although it's not, strictly speaking abroad, Iona.

Is there anywhere abroad you have visited, that you would love to revisit?

We don't fly anymore for environmental reasons (although we haven't said never). If we did it would definitely be New Zealand or Bosnia. New Zealand for the sensational countryside; Bosnia, because I was involved in a fantastic Christian project, NoviMost there a few years ago. NoviMost means "new bridge" and it is trying to bring reconciliation on the ground in Bosnia by equipping and training locals and providing practical help all through growing the local church. An amazing example of how the church can serve everyone regardless of faith without letting go of the transforming core of Christianity.

Who, excluding the present Prime Minister, do you regard as the best British Prime Minister?

I've always been impressed by the 1906 Liberal government, so I am going with Asquith, although I don't know too much about his political skills.

Which Christian figure has been your greatest inspiration?

Very difficult to name just one, so I am not going to try: Jackie Pullinger (worked with addicts in Hong Kong); Alan Craig (gave up a multimillion pound lifestyle to live and work in the East End); Corrie Ten Boom (showed extraordinary courage emanating from her faith at the Nazi death camps); people I know whose lives who have been completely turned around since being touched by God: Kyle, Vicky, Pete, Dave to name a few; people who find the strength in God to forgive those who have done appalling things to them, some of the stories from the South African Truth and Reconciliation commission come to mind; Anthony Dobinson (a teacher who first showed me that Christianity was a living faith and a Godly, humble and joyful man); people in my church who never fail to amaze me with their generosity and love; Martin Luther King; Phillip Yancey; CS Lewis. In a world as messed up as ours you need to look for plenty of inspiration!

Favourite Bond movie?

Never seen one. Maybe I've had a sense of humour bypass, but from the clips I've seen they seem to be sexist and glamourise violence.

Favorite Doctor Who?

David Tennant. Brilliant.

Chocolate, vanilla, or mint?

If it's that posh vanilla with real vanilla pods then vanilla. Otherwise chocolate, the chocolatier the better.

Which Band, past or present, would you most like to see in concert?

Not fussed really. I think Robbie is an amazing live entertainer, but I'd probably have to go for Louis Armstrong with his Big Band.

In terms of visiting for the weekend, Oxford, Cambridge, or Barsby, Leics..?

Oxford hass got more interesting quirks than Cambridge. Barsby looks good if you need to catch up on reading/sleep.

Favourite national newspaper?

Guardian.

What would you say your hobbies were?

Reading, playing squash.

And what would you say were your three favourite songs and three favourite books(Bar the Bible and The Complete Works of Shakespeare)?

Books: Anna Karenina (Tolstoy)The Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard)Beloved (Toni Morrison)

Songs:Swallowed in the Sea (Coldplay)How Great Thou Art (Stuart Hines)Mack the Knife (Blitzstein)

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