What are the top six reasons christians don't get involved in politics?
Yesterday, I walked through the heartland of UK politics having a conversation with two friends. We discussed what stops Christians getting involved in politics. As this was going on I saw what must be two of the UK’s favourite buildings – The Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. It was not the grandeur of their architecture that struck me, not this time. Most interesting to me was how closely they stood next to each other.
How significant is it that the UK parliament, home to so many influential decisions, stands alongside an established place of Christian worship? Politics and Christianity, rightly or wrongly, standing shoulder to shoulder.
Our conversation has not created an infallible list, just six suggestions and our responses. We wanted to open it up for your comments, so together we can create a fuller, more accurate image.
1. Politics is ‘dirty’
No one is claiming politics is the perfect profession. People make mistakes. Representatives can misuse their position. Some crack under the incessant pressure of the media spotlight, but is politics really dirty, corrupt and dishonest?
I do not think it is. There are a multitude of honourable people involved who undertake an extremely difficult job and want the best for our country, whatever they believe that to be. That, to me, is the real picture, not the sensationalist headline-grabbing version. Though only the tragic and scandalous makes the news, there is another side to the story.
On the other hand, politics is a bit ‘dirty’; so what? Does that block Christians from any involvement? No profession is faultless, no vocation holy, politics like everything else.
Jesus got stuck into this flawed world. He came to redeem it. We need to redeem politics. Jesus was the light of the world and he said his followers are the light of the world. Politics is dark and so surely that is exactly where Christians need to bring and be light. The darkest places need the light the most.
2. What’s the point? We’re doing other good things.
Politics changes things. Far from being boring, politics decides on matters that affect us all multiple times a day; the level of tax, investment in emergency services, the best education system amongst so much more.
As a Christian, I want those choices to benefit people. I want them to protect the minorities and the margins, the people the Bible talks so much about. Politics has the chance to try and make sure Kingdom values are etched into the fabric of our country – that is the point!
The church is doing so many wonderful things; blessing, loving and serving this world in a myriad of ways. At the same time, we need to see the bigger picture.
Dr Martin Luther King once said that he did not just want to be a Good Samaritan. He respected the Good Samaritan. He was tired of seeing people battered and bruised along the Jericho road, but he did not want to pick up one more person.
Instead he wanted to fix the Jericho road, to fix the reasons why people were left beaten and broken. Surely that is the better solution!
Yes, let us look after those suffering; but we should work just as hard getting rid of the causes of that suffering too. We need to switch our mindset from ‘either/or’ to ‘both/and’. On reflection it seems we are doing much more picking up than fixing. Politics is a golden opportunity to repair the systems of injustice so fewer suffer in the future, a glimpse of heaven on earth.
3. Politics is not a priority, we should spend our time ‘saving souls for heaven’
Undoubtedly, telling people about Jesus’ love, ministry and sacrifice is important as he commanded us to do that. Yet, on looking at Jesus’ example, I believe the mission of following him has more dimensions to it than just this.
Following Jesus is about partnering with him to restore all things back to the way he created them originally, and wanted them to be from the outset when things were whole and faultless. God is making all things new, reconciling this world and everything in it back to himself. He allows us to be a co-worker in that ongoing process, not that he needs to but because he wants to build relationship with us through doing it together.
God’s mission is about fusing the Kingdom of heaven where God’s reign is perfect with this world where his reign is only in part because of human disobedience. Any links we can make to link those two together are glimpses of the Kingdom that is to come. I believe politics can be used to make those links.
William Wilberforce used political means to bring about the abolition of slavery over two hundred years ago. In God’s kingdom there are no slaves, so bringing that legislation about here on earth is a foretaste of heaven to come, slowly ushering in the King’s return. ‘Saving souls for heaven’ is very important, as is working to bring heaven to earth. Doing both is definitely best.
4. Jesus was a servant, not a Caesar.
Jesus undoubtedly was a servant, everything he did served people and showed them love, hope and respect. Politics can be used to do exactly the same.
Politics is about people, and what kind of a society people should live in. Politics should never be used to exploit, oppress or devalue people – unfortunately some times this has been the case. Again, we need to redeem politics and move it away from being used for those purposes.
Following Jesus does not mean that you cannot be a politician; it just makes you a different kind of politician. Jesus was the servant king, and we can be servant leaders. It is possible to navigate the path of both, and we can draw encouragement from those in the Bible who, with God’s help, were able to do just that.
5. I am involved in politics, just not party politics.
We are brilliant at shouting from the outside. Campaigns that Christians have been part of have brought many fantastic results. Many of us have sent postcards, signed petitions and protested physically, all good things – but we cannot just continue focusing on making our outcry louder and louder.
Whispers from the inside can be just as effective, if not more because they are done through relationship. Whispers to friends are surely more effective than shouts to strangers.
Local party organisations are desperate for help to make everything happen. While no party may fully embody your views, that should not stop you getting involved. No husband and wife agree with each other on every single issue, but that does not stop their marriage. No Christian will ever find a church which embodies all their beliefs, but that does not stop us worshipping there. In those scenarios we find common ground and build on that – we must do the same with parties. The country needs people to champion issues of justice, model lives of worship and be salt and light in, then through, political parties.
Collectively, let’s redress the balance between our shouts and whispers.
6. I don't know how to get involved
Affecting a political culture and bringing good through the system can seem like a daunting task. Agreed.
I Thank God that throughout time He has equipped people for daunting tasks. Remember Moses, who started out nervous and quivering, struggling to talk? God empowered him to lead a nation and cry out to Pharaoh.
We need Christians to engage, and engage personally, with politics. That does not mean we should all become MPs, but we need more people to respond, ‘Here I am, send me.’
If you are unsure about how to get involved, there are places that can help. Christians in Parliament have a wealth of resources to help. As a first port of call, head to www.susa.info
and take advantage of everything on offer there. Here at the CSM too, we would be more than willing to work out the best way for you to get stuck in.
As I returned back passed those two imposing buildings, one thought dominated my mind. For years people have flocked to one of them to worship God, while the other is in desperate need for people to do the same there.