As I write the news is dominated by the election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party. Once considered a rank outsider, who struggled to get enough Labour MP's to nominate him, Corbyn won the leadership ballot easily, riding on a wave of support from the party electorate. Seen as a hero by many on the left of the party, Labour now has thousands of new members attracted by Corbyn's promise of change.
Corbyn won because many in the party felt the more established candidates had marginalised their views and compromised too much with the prevailing orthodoxy. Here, at last, was the chance to elect someone of conviction who would remain true to party principles. Expectations have been raised that things will now be different and, with no previous experience of high office, Corbyn now has to deliver. Will he?
I doubt it. My view is no reflection on Jeremy personally; rather it is based on what history teaches us. It was a very different politician, Enoch Powell, who said: 'All political careers ... end in failure.' The Who in their famous song Won't get fooled again said: 'And the world looks just the same and history ain't changed ... meet the new boss, same as the old boss,' The profound revolutions of the last century did not produce real advancement for most people. The new bosses turned out to be as bad as the old, as George Orwell's allegory Animal Farm powerfully portrayed and as many in the Middle East would say today.
This is not to say that politics is point less: progress
has and can be achieved. But not all social problems will be changed by changing social and political structures, for the problem is ourselves and how we treat each other, regardless of the social structures in which we find ourselves. As Mahatma Gandhi wrote: 'If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him.'
Two millennia ago, another outsider began to capture the imagination of many.He still does. And although he engaged with the social and political structures of his day, his prescription was not primarily social or political. 'My kingdom does not originate from this world:' he said.
He rapidly acquired committed and passionate followers and his popularity disturbed the authorities. And this was his core message: 'Repent (change your hearts and minds) for the kingdom of God is at hand.'
Eventually his career seemed to end in failure; he was put to death on a Roman cross. But that was not the end and the resurrected Jesus has exercised a powerful influence on our world ever since. He was the truly authentic outsider.
We should pray for and support those who engage in politics and government. They perform a vital role. But 'don't be fooled again', the ultimate answer to human need does not lie in reformed political or social structure, important though such reforms may be, but rather in a transformation of the human heart brought about by God through the Holy Spirit.