Ranters of Mow Cop

Ranters of Mow Cop

Friday, 8 May 2015

The feebleness of our Christian involvement with politics


Reactions to today's shock election results among the Christians I know personally, or through social media are mainly screams of disbelief and dismay. The future for people living or serving in less affluent appears exceedingly grim as the interests of the super-rich have won the day. Our food banks, money advice centres, job clubs and homeless drop ins are likely to be busier than ever.


There is a plethora of  Christian comment in the blogosphere today asking what next?  Most of it seems to be gentle and conciliatory, as if the default position is to be like Mr Cameron a one nation Tory.  Some contains good sense grounded in a Biblically shaped world view such as Antony Billington's piece 


not just the world of politics, but of education, business, economics, media, arts, law, health, family – spheres which can be influenced by the presence of Christians within them, more than we might imagine, as we build relationships, seek justice, make a gracious stand for the truth, be a messenger of the gospel.


Let's inform MPs of matters that concern us – not simply the narrow range of topics where people expect us to speak out, but on other things too – austerity, education, health, unemployment, environment, immigration. Let's get involved where we're able to do so.


There are pieces that encourage us to look at politics with a long view in the light of God's eternal plan such as Steve Latham's blog


To follow the Anabaptist understanding, we must build the church as an alternative community of God's kingdom, his future breaking into the present.


A piece from the Evangelical Alliance follows a traditionally conservative reading of Romans 13 and rightly stresses


that relationship be at the heart of our political engagement. .... so get to know your MP and local councillors.


It advocates, following the ideas promoted in the Show Up Campaign that Christians should be engaging in the world of politics though it then seems to make this rather instrumental, suggesting


our engagement with politics should first and foremost be about sharing the gospel so that others can be in relationship with God. This is after all the Great Commission.


It's rare however to read much about the practicalities of community politics by which other people in our churches and communities can become more fully engaged with the democratic process and become more politically literate. This sort of local involvement seems to have paid off well for some of the leading politicians in the Christians on the Left group, such as Stephen Timms, Gavin Shuker and newly elected Cat Smith.  The Citizens UK General Election Assembly was another good example of this practical engagement build on the foundations of two decades of community organizing in London faith communities.


Nor is there sufficient serious Christian engagement with the hard intellectual work of political theory, and translating it for ordinary believers so they can unmask the powers and principalities behind the ideologies of neo-liberalism that drive contemporary global capitalism and the dark path of fundamentalist secularism. The rediscovery of the theology and politics of the common good are perhaps the best attempt on offer. However, in the end this tends to boil down to a middle way of consensus loving social democracy, with lots of  motherhood and apple pie values that rarely lead to radical social transformation.


For me what is missing above all is the crucial dimension of prophetic rage. The rage that I and many others feel that

·       five years of austerity politics and welfare reform that have made thousands destitute and sent over a million to food bank queues, issues which were largely ignored in the campaigns

·       that once again it's clear that our democracy is overlaid on a general acceptance of inequality based on money and power.

·       a dishonest media campaign where perfect fear drove out love including the demonization of the Scottish National Party, and the scapegoating of migrant communitiesby almost all parties

·       incompetent or misleading polls, mainly paid for by the Tory press where the supposed poll equality suited the "Terror: Labour and SNP Coalition" narrative

·       the political illiteracy and mean spirit of so many voters in England shown by so many people punishing the junior partner of the coalition government by transferring votes to the dominant party

·       the electoral system which delivered an overall majority to a party with only 37% of the votes, one with 5% getting 56 seats and one with 13% gaining only one.

·       Britain seems to have voted for £12bn additional cuts to benefits.

·       Katie Hopkins will be staying in the UK!


As Christians our integrity demands that we name and own that rage. We need to recognize the feebleness of a Christian response that denies the anger and ignores the injustice and the pain and our fears for the future. It will not do simply to honour, befriend and pray for our elected authorities.  We cannot say "Shalom, Shalom" where there is no shalom, or just whitewash over the cracks in the system.


for when the wall has fallen, will you not be asked: Where is the coat of whitewash that you put on it? (Ezekiel 13.12)


So where there is evil, confrontation will need to continue.


But then comes the more difficult task of dealing with these emotions and seeking to engage effectively, and as far as possible constructively, and graciously and in the Spirit of Jesus.


a depressing day after the election night before draws to a close ... But politics doesn't just happen once every five years, it happens every day: in creative action, in voices speaking out about what they believe, in changing hearts and minds.


How long O lord, how long?

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