As those who know me well or have read some of my writings and blogs, which are available on this website, will have noted I am pretty well engaged politically, with friends in all the main parties, despite not being party political. I do so because I believe it is right, both as a Christian believer and as a community activist. One of my latest ventures is to help organize a political hustings, ahead of May’s election, which I will blog about shortly. I was struck earlier today when I read something a Facebook friend had posted: “I always wonder why Christians don’t get together and become a powerful voice in their own communities. Recently, 150 Christians from one church decided to join their local Conservative branch, as Tories are in power. They alarmed everyone because they could have taken that branch over through sheer weight of numbers. I am not sure how it was resolved, but I do know that there is a lesson here. We are stronger together than apart. We could change things in our communities, if we could work together”.
I had a number of reactions to this, some of which were related to recent thoughts and discussions. Out of sheer devilment, as well as theological conviction, if I were a member of that church, I might well have joined the local Labour branch and then blogged about it. My own background is conservative Evangelical and while those I associated with in my early years weren’t politically engaged in the main, given the emphasis placed on the world to come, it became evident they tended to be c(C)onservative in politics as well as religion, just as the liberal Christians they had often taken a dislike to tended to be more associated with Labour. I would also urge caution to those wishing to infiltrate any party based on past experiences. As for having a voice in our communities, this is something Christians should consider if we truly care and are intent on loving our neighbour. Things have come a long way since my early days, with Christians of all shades becoming more involved with their communities and giving greater priority to social justice matters, and I find nowadays a whole range of political views espoused, often from unlikely sources. Check out my blogs for an elaboration of my position now, e.g. here, here, here and here.
The first thought relating to these ramblings is a comparing notes discussion I had with a Methodist minister, who like me happens to manage one of the church winter night shelters presently taking place. It isn’t appropriate to share what my friend said, which I found helpful, but as we spoke it did help crystallize some of my thoughts. It seems to me that most politicians, of whatever shade, will like what we do but also want us to go along with whatever agenda it is they have. It is here I disagree. Regarding night shelters, we operate on the basis of providing Christian hospitality and are not interested in whatever priority or stipulation others might want to lay down other than that which might impact our ability to provide a good service. As for joining sides, none of the political parties are pro-God although aspects will be, and the only side we should be interested in joining and calling others to join is God’s.
The second thought relates to the latest episode of the 1980’s TV series, Highway to Heaven, which I have just watched: “The Silent Bell”, a show I like for reasons I discussed earlier. The synopsis of this episode is: “when the church decrees that religion be taught in his preschool, a minister faces a crisis of conscience and an exodus of ethnically mixed teachers and students”. Firstly, much as I love this series, this episode like many is ideologically loaded, not helped by the portrayal of the person forcing the issues as an obnoxious, smug, self-serving, insensitive bigot. While I would have resisted the pressure to sack my non-Christian staff or do away with the celebration of diversity ethos of the school in question, I would have said given the school is Christian that the ethos should be Christian and while it should teach other religions, the emphasis should be on Christianity. Many a school has come a cropper over such debates, but as with my earlier “Christian hospitality” point churches should hold its nerve and beholden to finding and following God’s will.
So back to my Facebook friend’s final point: “We are stronger together than apart. We could change things in our communities, if we could work together”. As churches, it would be wrong to align ourselves with a particular political party or ideology, although this may be something for individuals to consider and there will be issues the churches will need to pronounce on. We should firstly be about preaching the good news of salvation in Christ alone and bringing about the Kingdom of God, both in the here and now, and that which can only fully be manifested when the King returns in person and in glory. There is much work to be done on the stronger together front and finding ways to bless our communities, knowing there are many needs. We are called to be salt and light, in a world that is far from perfect, just as our King has instructed us to be.