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Why it’s about time to blow whistle on our blame game

The new Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is a keen jogger, and he certainly hit the ground running in his Easter Day address this week, not long after his early morning programme on Classic FM.


In a typically direct church sermon he said it was “mere cruelty” to set up individuals and institutions to heights where they could only fail.

There is indeed a great danger in our culture of expecting individuals to be superhuman, and then when they fail to deliver, the criticism sets in.

Take, for example, the over-paid world of Premier League soccer where football managers are expected to succeed all the time.

Last Saturday, Martin O'Neill, one of the best managers of his generation, was sacked by Sunderland after a bad run of results. He was replaced by the Italian Paolo Di Canio who initially created more headlines about his alleged fascist views than his plans to save Sunderland.

Sunderland may well have made a mistake in expecting a new manager to work miracles in a short time, even when a talented veteran like O'Neill failed to do so.

There are similarly high expectations in national politics.

Chancellor George Osborne is tasked with turning round an ailing economy, and then he is criticised for not doing so by his Labour opponent Ed Balls. Yet, Balls was one of the people in Gordon Brown's government who helped to create the economic mess in the first place.

Nearer to home, the same kind of high expectations apply, and if individuals fall short, they are criticised.

Recently the Chief Constable Matt Baggott was under pressure because of the way in which the police handled the Union flag dispute, but could anyone else have done much better in such a very difficult situation?

At the top First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness carry the high expectations of people on both sides who want them to produce a version of power-sharing which will please everybody.

The Stormont politicians have been regrettably slow to agree a strategy for a shared society, and they have been given a timely reminder of this by President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry who have expressed their disappointment at Stormont's lack of progress on this key issue.

Nevertheless, it is easy for the rest of us to blame Robinson and McGuinness and their colleagues for their failures.

In that way we can exclude ourselves from any blame, but in fact peace and progress should be something that we all work for together in our daily lives.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has made a good start by encouraging us to think more clearly about the blame game.

He has also shown that church leaders can be refreshingly down to earth when it suits them.

The only danger in this, of course, is that we might expect too much from Justin Welby, and then criticise him if he fails to live up to our expectations.

However, he has cleverly dealt with this possibility already.

He referred to reports that 40% of church-goers thought that he could resolve the problems of the Church of England.

The Archbishop added: “I do hope that this means that the other 60% thought the idea so barking mad that they did not answer the question.”

I hope that we shall hear a great deal more from this godly and impressively streetwise Archbishop of Canterbury.

He shows that the Church universal still has a relevant message for our modern world.

Belfast Telegraph