Bishop Nick visited Leeds Grammar School in Alwoodley to speak to the sixth form as part of their ‘Speakers of Influence’ series.
For over an hour the students listened attentively and were keen to ask questions, as he talked about communications, the relation between politics and faith, and science and faith.
He said one of the rules of communication is not to assume you’ve communicated a message, but to find out what people think you've said.
Speaking about his experience of broadcasting, he said, “I often speak on Radio 4 and Radio 2 - they’re different audiences and you need a very different language and tone for each”.
He said it was particularly difficult broadcasting in the immediate aftermath of a tragic event: “You have to shine a different light that gives some hope. You don’t hit people over the head with 'theodicy', that is, the defence of God in the light of suffering, but you try and offer a different way of looking at a situation”.
The questions from the students came thick and fast. One student asked “Why do we separate faith and politics?” Bishop Nick said, “Some people think that faith operates in a compartment marked faith and doesn’t relate to the rest of the world. But both politics and faith are about people and choices and values. Christian faith is about God in the real world, not relegated to some imaginary fairy land where it can't do any harm or embarrass anyone. Faith has to be open to scrutiny in the public square. It needs to work in Baghdad as much as in Wimbledon”.
Another student asked, “Is faith just to comfort?" He said, “I don’t believe that faith is a comforting crutch to enable you to limp through life. But often, when the veneer of coping has been stripped away (after the death of a loved one for example), the same questions arise for everyone: “Why do I matter?” “Why do you matter? “Why does your freedom matter?”. Christian theology is simple – human beings are made in the image of God so they have inherent value, not a value that’s attributed to them by someone else”.
The students were very interested to hear about his friendship with Brian Cox and the relationship between science and faith. He said “Some people think there’s a huge chasm between science and religion. But Brian and I are both in awe of the universe. He’s an agnostic, and tends to ask the ‘how’ questions, and I ask the ‘why’ questions”.
At the end the teachers remarked on the level of the students’ interest and their desire to keep discussing.