Religion and politics

I was told when I was young that religion and politics were two subjects NOT to be spoken about in polite company. And it is easy to see why: both potentially can cause rifts and ripples when these subjects are raised. As I discovered in the Brexit and Trump sagas, when the matter was raised it could have unintended, untoward consequences. The secret is knowing the time and place to speak. I fear when I look back on my life, I have not always done well on that score, and yet playing my cards close to my chest wasn’t for me.

My own history on such matters has been fairly checkered. In my teens I was very political (to the far left) and if things had turned out differently, who knows what could have been. But then I “got religion”. Moreover, the religious folk I mixed with who sought to influence me made the point religion and politics do not mix and I should be focusing on preparing for the world to come rather than that of the here and now, although I did come to discover many were closet conservatives as opposed to my overt socialism.

Gradually, I came off politics, partly seeing some of the flaws of socialism but never becoming a convinced conservative. For a while in those early converted years, I become quite zealous in pushing my religion, seeing it as my duty, by whatever means, to try and convert the people around me, and this I tried to do although I have to confess some of the fire went out of me as I approached middle years. In more recent years the fire has begun to return. At the same time I have become more political, albeit unaffiliated to any party.

But now I am officially old, where do I stand now? It did occur to me that some folk will think it strange that when I post on Facebook, I cover religion and politics in equal measure, although I try not to mix the two. I recognize politics appeal to all faiths and none and people of the same faith can and do see things very differently when it comes to politics. When it comes to a religion, I take the view that while I must not impose my religion when it comes to political debate, religion must inform my politics. Regarding my job title, I call myself a gospel preaching, community activist, and this has meant I can not discount either religion or politics.

Regarding gospel preaching, it is pretty clear to me that the Gospel is man’s only hope, and while I need to think carefully regarding time and place (and method), I need to promote (e.g. as I do here). It seems to me that politics does include a significant element of doing things that affect the community and as a community activist I cannot ignore such matters. Since that early enthusiasm for socialism I have seen myself oscillating between that and conservatism and in coming down somewhere in the middle. Despite wanting to, I have been unable to in all conscience to give my affiliation to any political party, and see good and bad in all.

As for religion, a statement I wrote many years ago after having reflected on the history of the church to which I belonged, remains true: “I am inclined toward a vision of the church that is Catholic in spirituality, Liberal in social activism, Reformed in doctrine, charismatic   in experience, Evangelical in zeal, Puritan in living, Methodist in organisation and Brethren in ecclesiology, but above all passionate for Jesus”. I truly believe that even though the Bible doesn’t tell us how to vote (and almost all of it is set in undemocratic situations), it does have something to say about the whole of life and is why I cannot discount religion – religion informs my politics.

We are where we are, and it seems to me as I look upon the world with its enormous challenges and conundrums, we cannot ignore politics or religion. I suppose politics is about short term and sometimes longer term fixes, but never perfect given humans are sinners and in the main unredeemed. Religion though is not about pie in the sky when we die; and while being attentive to eternal matters it also should be about doing good in the here and now, imperfect world we inhabit, meaning we cannot ignore politics.

But as I said at the start, time and place matters, as does context and manner, and also we should begin by practicing what we preach.

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