Father Nadim is an Anglican priest, journalist, and director and co-founder of the Awareness Foundation, which "was established to help Christians make sense of their faith in the 21st Century, and to increase awareness of their neighbours' faiths and cultures, so that they can live in a diverse society without fear and without compromising their beliefs" (Awareness Foundation website). He welcomed me warmly into the Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Square before accompanying me to the Sloane Club where he was made a member by the generous grace of the club, there being no church hall at Holy Trinity Sloane Square. It was a delightful place to have a cup of coffee and talk at length with Father Nadim about being a Syrian christian, the Awareness Foundation, and of course, virtue.
The definition of virtue, as found in a dictonary, is not adequate for Father Nadim. For him, virtue is found in all positive and fruitful relationships. He chooses his words carefully and is thoughtful about how he expresses this view, taking time to emphasise that of course relationships are difficult, of course people make mistakes and of course we do not always behave virutuously. However, in seeking to build contructive relationships and working to make them so, virtue will be found. It is the tension between the postive and the negative, the cross and the resurrection, that is the essence of virtue for him.
For Father Nadim, virtue is exciting and dynamic. It includes the whole spectrum of human behaviours and because it includes the recovery from sin, it must perforce include sin. Virtue, as defined in this way, makes Father Nadim feel alive and aware of his humanity, his vulnerabilities and his strengths. Indeed, he maintains that in order truly to live a virtuous life - one that seeks and maintains positive, progressive relationships - requires the ability to be vulnerable (and thus open to being loved) as well as to be responsible (and thus able to love). It is only when we are aware of the true nature of our longings that we will seek and maintain virtuous relationships as opposed to trying to shop our way out of them, for example! The catalyst for this change in behaviour, if it is needed, is usually some kind of loss. The cure does require faith in the fact that our longings will be relieved through progressive relationships.
To embed virtue in our society, Father Nadim suggests we should encourage people to ask themselves three questions "Do I love anybody? Whom do I love? How can I express this love for them and how can I expand this love to cover a wider circle of people of people in my life and keep expanding it all the time?" He knows that asking these questions is easy but that answering them and acting on the answers may be extremely difficult for some people.
However, we have to start somewhere and being loved and loving are, for Father Nadim, the obvious places to start.
For more on the virtue project and links to other interview summaries, please see an earlier post:
Behavioural Change: The Way out of this Mess? (for the virtue project)