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The ironic lack of politics at Christians in Politics

 

I genuinely expected to be disappointed when I first found myself at an event organised by a Christian political group. Four years ago I put a blog together after becoming frustrated with the weak Christian response to the Occupy movement’s demonstration outside of St Paul’s. I named it God and Politics in the UK and started writing about news stories I’d seen, attempting to present some opinions on them from a Christian perspective. But after I’d been going for a few months I decided it might make sense to actually find out first-hand what other Christians who shared an interest in the state of this country were up to. So having looked around on the internet a bit I decided to go along to a monthly prayer meeting organised by the Conservative Christian Fellowship. It wasn’t the fact that it was a Conservative meeting that interested me, but rather that it was being held at the Houses of Parliament and I was curious to know who might be attending.

I’ve been to some pretty dull prayer times in my life and all I could imagine on the train journey there was being surrounded by a few posh people with grey hair praying for David Cameron using very dry liturgical language. As it turned out I couldn’t have been more wrong. The Chapel of St Mary Undercroft was packed with a wide range of ages, backgrounds and ethnicities. Over the evening we passionately prayed and worshipped, singing modern songs led by members of Hillsong London. The atmosphere was warm and welcoming and the focus was a spiritual revival for this nation. I came away blessed and excited.

When I went to an equivalent meeting organised by the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum the following month, I found a group of mostly young people equally passionate and fired up to pray and serve God. It felt like I’d stumbled upon a beautiful secret. God was stirring many hearts and raising up committed individuals to serve him in the political arena through prayer and deeds.

Since then I’ve got to know the leadership of the Conservative Christian Fellowship and Liberal Democrat Christian Forum along with Christians on the Left very well. What has amazed me most, even more than their faith, is the love and unity displayed across political borders. Despite their differences of opinion they are united as an army of God longing to see His Kingdom come in this country, including the corridors of power.

The umbrella organisation for these three groups is Christians in Politics and this weekend it held its very first national conference. It was a great privilege to go along to speak and also to experience a wonderful time of fellowship with a diverse bunch of people (Harry Farley’s write-up at Christian Today demonstrates just how surprised some delegates were by this).

One of the key themes during the event that I tapped into during my talk was that if we want to see this nation transformed for the better, then we need to become God’s agents of change. Now this is the same for each one of us, irrespective of who we are or what we do. If we consider ourselves to be Christians then we need to be influencers rather than be influenced by society; to pray and act rather than sit on our backsides and hope God will sort it all out. Neither can we compartmentalise the jobs. To say that I have an interest in justice issues but that evangelism is for others is to misunderstand the very nature of Jesus’ teaching. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples to go and make disciples in every nation. There is no getting away from this call to every Christian, but prior to this during his Sermon on the Mount he says this:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. (Mt 5:6-9, NIV)

Jesus is talking here about the way that we act and live and how we should be changing the world. To reinforce this, in the following passage Jesus describes his followers as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are not to hide what we have or to be passive in our faith. He concludes this section with these words:

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

To glorify God is to let our faith flow through every part of our life to the point where others can’t help but notice.

So many of the people I met at the weekend clearly love God and the desire to fully live for Him has led some of them to become MPs, councillors and policy advisers because that is how they see themselves being advocates for the Kingdom of Heaven – not Christians who happen to be involved in politics, but servants of God called to bring His light into the places that shape our society.

I came away mulling over the irony of it all; at a conference about politics, I had experienced far more unity of vision and far less church politics than I do at the average Sunday church service. Most Christians have little interest in engaging with the realm of politics because they see it as dirty and tribal rather than a mission field desperately in need of people whose principles are thoroughly rooted in God’s values. Yet in our churches, precisely because we’ve been reluctant to follow Jesus’ calling to get out of our comfort zones, we lose sight of the very essence of the gospel, becoming engrossed in petty squabbles and falling out with each other over matters of secondary importance.

When churches spend as much time teaching and talking about looking outward, rather than just inward, and if those of us willing to listen to the guiding voice of the Holy Spirit put it into practice, it is inevitable that we will see God moving. The more we focus on God’s mission rather than ourselves, the more faith grows and our differences lose significance compared to the joy of serving Him alongside each other. If the bitter divides of politics can be melted through the love of Christ, then surely this is a sign that so much more that can be achieved in all of the spheres of our society and culture for the sake of the God’s Kingdom – if we are willing to fix our eyes on the author of salvation and respond accordingly.

  • Anton

    The fine David (now Lord) Alton, who sacrificed his political career to oppose abortion, wrote a fine book a while ago about how our political parties each used to represent a different aspect of the gospel.

    Would that it were so today.

  • Jon Sorensen

    I think the Christians in politics has the problem the Christians take all sides of issues and justify all their positions as Christian position. They are pro choice/life, pro EU/anti-EU, far right/left, fiscally conservative/anti-“conservative”, Keynesian/ Hayekian, pro gun/anti gun, pro/anti Euthanasia etc. You will not find a topic where Christians don’t take both sides of the argument and based it on the Bible.

    • alternative_perspective

      I think on the abortion front there’s a great degree of harmony with only a small minority of fringe liberals attempting to justify the unjustifiable.

      Generally though I think you’re quite right. I’ve pondered this myself and I’ve noticed the same with regard to theological positions take for instance catholic and reformed beliefs.

      I came to the conclusion that although the existence of truth is simply Yes or No, apprehending the same is multidimensional and embraces a spectrum of understandings.

      I found the analogy of ‘flat land’ useful in understanding the situation. In my opinion truth is deeply multidimensional but we are 3D beings that are unable to perceive the fullness and multidimensionality of truth in any one moment. Thus different people perceive the same truth from different perspectives and so come to different conclusions.

      To the reductionist multiple perspectives argue against the existence of objective truth but I think if we take are more humane and open-minded approach I think the problems resolve themselves. What this then demands is an openness and humility in one’s approach to truth.

      Thus for me, I respect the integrity of both the catholic and reformed positions and want to affirm both but do not wish to do so to the exclusion of one or the other, this I would attempt to describe myself as both catholic and reformed. The problem comes though when we stray beyond the breadth of scriptureand try to impose our beliefs on it.

      I understand you’re a bit of an Anti-theist, for whatever reason that maybe. And so probably align yourself with a more reductionist mindset but I hope you will receive in good faith what I’ve written above.

      Ultimately I think epistemology is hard and that hardness often leads people to make overly pessimistic ontological conclusions.

      • Jon Sorensen

        I think you are mistaken on the abortion front. Remember when abortion was legalised in most western countries Christians had the clear majority. Christian majority, not a “small minority of fringe liberals”, decided to legalise it. We can also see that in the US. More Christian a state is, more abortion are performed per capita. And remember the scene in the Bible where abortion was performed? If you follow God’s process an abortion is biblical.

        Interesting how you describe yourself as both catholic and reformed, but also claim that they stray away from truth sometimes. You have created your own denominations just like millions of other people. Would that be a clue that the Bible is not clear and those well over 100 authors who wrote it did not agree on issues? Would you think that if God had written it, wanted it to be clear and wanted to preserve it, it would be a completely different book?

        You respect both the catholic and reformed positions, but do you respect a Mormon, Jewish, Muslim or atheist position on the Bible?

        I know theists like ‘flat land’ analogy, but I think it is rally bad. First it to be a good analogy we should have evidence that we live in a ‘flat land’ of truth. Secondly it has a hidden premise that we don’t have enought info to figure out if objective truth exist. Thirdly it is a fake explanation preventing us to find the real answer. Forthly it assume additional info / evidence would converge when usually it is other way around. ‘flat land’ analogy seems to promote bad thinking.

        I think theists talk a lot about epistemology and ontology, but very little about what is a good criteria for evidence and why people should believe in some evidence. That should be discussed first before jumping into epistemology.

  • dannybhoy

    Now that is an inspiring post – Alleluia!
    Christians should indeed be interested in politics, and some actively engaged if they feel so led. It doesn’t matter that we don’t all hold the same political views, as long as we bow our knees to Christ and His kingdom, share His Gospel of salvation and seek to serve Him in our society.
    More and more I hear the message that the battle has to be won through prayer and praise -in unity and love for one another.
    Great stuff.

  • RevN

    I am a Vicar married to a Conservative Councillor and after the election I received a very nasty anonymous phone message – “you should be ashamed Vicar, how can you call yourself a Christian if you’re Conservative, you should resign – I used to like you until I heard you supported the Conservatives.” I have never said publicly how I vote – unlike many card carrying left wing Christian ministers – is it one rule for some and another for others?

    • dannybhoy

      I was a conservative councillor, and am now a UKIP supporter. I distribute Church stuff and political stuff around our village. I know this has been frowned upon in our church, but so what?
      I am always pleasant to everyone I meet, and always willing to discuss any issues arising from these ‘conflicting’ interests. The Gospel comes first of course, and the need for salvation, but I love a good discussion.
      Too many churchgoers act as if they had joined a secret society and taken a vow of silence.

    • CliveM

      There little more self righteous then the left.

    • Dreadnaught

      Probably you don’t live up to their image portrayed in the ‘sit com’ world of ‘REV’. You should take that as a compliment. Stuffem.

  • ” … if we want to see this nation transformed for the better, then we need to become God’s agents of change.”

    In the little things too, Gillan. It seems to Jack this is where so many of our leaders go astray. They focus too much on the ‘big picture’ and neglect small acts of love and kindness. It seems this is present in this Christian fellowship and long may it last.

    “There are many people who can do big things, but there are very few people who will do the small things.”
    (Mother Teresa)

    • CliveM

      Yes agreed. Many people forget this. It’s also true in everyday life.

  • maigemu

    No CPA or CP participation?