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The Ark

Should I engage in politics?

Wed February 14th, 2018

Politics is a messy game – full of half truths and soundbites! Why would I ever want to be involved in politics? Ex-leader of the Liberals, and Christian, Tim Farron found that his testimony was compromised and that being leader of a party and a Christian at the same time was too much. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both professed a Christian faith but presided over a period in which the government was very anti-Church and in which the church lost the right to organise open air gatherings without a licence. Theresa May allegedly went on a prayer retreat before taking office, but few Christians have much to say about her that is positive.

There have been Christians in the house of commons who have had to resign due to their infidelity or deceit – is serving in government something that turns you to the dark side? Do you want to risk that? Why chase a position in society that only opens you up to background checks and questions about your past and your beliefs?

Monica Lewinsky

Who hasn’t heard of Richard Nixon, because of Watergate, Bill Clinton because of Monica Lewinsky (or Whitewater before it) We have our national hero, Churchill, but there are still plenty of stories of him being drunk in public.

The truth is that it is hard to serve in politics without having mud thrown at you and you know the saying that ‘mud sticks’. Yet we have the joy of living in a time when there are more professing Christians in parliament than at any time in living memory. So, it seems that whereas politics is indeed a messy business, there are more Christians sticking their heads over the parapets than ever.

Why stick your head over the parapet? Shouldn’t we just pray? Paul tells us to pray for those in authority over us (1 Tim 2:1). Wilberforce took the view that praying wasn’t enough and like James thought that faith without works was dead (James 2:26). It took decades for Wilberforce to win the battle over abolishing the slave trade – but without reformers like him where would we be?

If we don’t try, then others with quite different world views and agendas will try, and we can sit in the church whining about these strange people representing us in political parties, on the local council or even at Westminster.

Serving

We can’t all be involved in politics but why can’t some of us be? Serving from a pure heart would be a great way to describe a politician wouldn’t it? - We have people in the church who do that in other spheres every week!

Look at the great success of the gay lobby – by engaging in politics they have been able to achieve many of their agenda items from the 1971 GLF Manifesto and have most certainly changed public opinion. Over the same period in time, the church has often sat back and allowed other people to ‘do politics’ and we have allowed a few men in cassocks to speak on our behalf.

Isn’t serving society a great way to demonstrate the love of God to people? Just as we help neighbours with their flat tyres of taking parcels in for them, wouldn’t it be good to help them with their council queries? There are lots of opportunities to serve the wider public in politics – local or national. 

Political parties

To make it in local politics you need a voice which is normally provided by a political party, often one of the big three – which is the one that Christians join? – The answer is all three! There are Christians who passionately believe that the only party to belong to is Labour and just as many who think Tory! There are Christians in the Liberal party and dare I say even in UKIP? If you worry that political parties are just groups of extremists getting together then join one and be extremely Christian in your views and acts of kindness!

Can I be involved?

Why not engage with your local resident’s association – these small groups are one of the first levels of leadership in our communities. Why not spend some time on the council website and look for the council’s view of what the major issues are in your town or city? Have you thought of praying for those issues? Does your Pastor and church know about them?  What about attending a Ward committee meeting, where you can meet local community workers and councillors and have your say?

Have you ever thought of going to a political party meeting? The Labour Party, the Tory Party, the Liberals? Very often these regular local meetings only have a few people and if a couple of you went along and joined you could have a say and radically alter the mix of people there. It would help you learn what are the issues the various parties are talking about at grass roots level.

Being a local party member is one of the first stages of engagement with our political process, don’t dismiss it out of hand but consider how you might be salt and light in that group.

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.  Matt 5:13-16 HCSB

Write to your local councillor or your MP about things that matter to you. Never preach and avoid talking in Christian jargon to them but talk about the issues and praise them when they do things that you like and encourage them to change their minds when you feel they are out of step.

Can I get any training?

The Evangelical Alliance which lobbies in Parliament for the Church, runs a website called:

https://thepublicleader.com/

and offers brilliant and accessible training courses on the issue of how a Christian can begin a process of engaging within the sphere of politics.

The Christian charity CARE runs a leadership programme preparing young people for a career in politics or other significant public life and their website is also a great source of background information.

https://www.care.org.uk/leadership-programme 

What is the future?

We can all sit around complaining about the council and the government but people who get involved are too busy to complain. Local resident’s associations can impact the look and feel of their community, and local political parties can feed back to the national hub when it comes time for manifesto writing.

The fact is that people who get involved in politics are sometimes hurt, but they also sometimes do a lot of good. Whatever your involvement, avoid taking bribes, be honest and avoid sexual immorality and above all do a lot of good, helping your neighbours.

People who do not get involved in politics will not influence the future. Shouldn’t we all want to influence that?

We should all be involved with politicians as we pray for them and frankly there is no excuse for not doing that.

For some of us, prayer is as far as it will ever go, but why don’t we start talking to God about what He would like us to do and maybe some of us will also stick our heads over the parapet?