No-one should be trying to defend the excesses exposed during the MP’s expenses scandal, but we must keep our ears open to all sides of the story. The media have a vested interest in publishing what is tragic and scandalous, at the expense of the honourable and mundane. While fixating on the small number of MPs who grossly betrayed people’s trust – perhaps about 50, we didn’t often hear that there were approximately 600 still working hard to do an incredibly difficult job. People often ridicule MPs and councillors en masse as money and power-grabbers, but when you ask them about their own local MP they always say, “Oh, she’s wonderful. She does a lot of good work for the community.” We always seem to have a blind spot for this herd thinking.
The other angle on the story is how demanding the role of an MP actually is. For the vast majority, they have to work in two very distinct geographical locations, with two different groups of people. This split means that they have to work hard to hold family life and relationships together and there is the added pressure 24 hour media scrutiny of everything they say and do. We also grossly overestimate their ability to effect change, creating unrealistic and unfair expectations. For example, as a GP, when someone comes into your surgery, there is a basic unspoken understanding that their problem will be medical. This means that through her training and experience the GP will be able to accurately deduce the problem. There are also ready tools to hand, such as prescriptions for drugs and referrals to specialists. However, when a constituent walks into an MP’s surgery, the situation is very different. Their issue may be about anything from planning permission, to schools, to internecine neighbourhood strife, to third world debt. The breadth of understanding required is huge, but also bear in mind that an MP holds no official post of responsibility in their locality. They do not run any of the local councils. They are not the chief constable, or the tribal elder. Any impact on situations that they have comes through influence and relationship. But as we all know, relationships take time to build. Having observed many MPs at work, I want them better resourced and better staffed, rather than the opposite. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want overworked, underslept, stressed out, media-hounded, family-absent people making my laws.
Finally, if we truly desire to see the political system “cleaned up”, it is much more likely to happen when those who have that passion become involved. As yet, my bath has never got cleaner because I have stood beside it, shaking my head wearily at the state of it and speaking cleanness over it (though I keep praying!) It gets clean when I get into it and clean it. Our engagement or lack of it reveals how much we really care. Will we simply critique like Pharisees, or serve like Jesus? The salt and light thing really works. Light does illuminate darkness. Salt does preserve the meat.
You’re right. You can’t. But I put it to you that you probably don’t agree with everything that your spouse or partner believes, and you certainly don’t agree with everything that your church believes, yet you covenant together. We find common cause for the greater good. Instinctively we know that we are communal beings, designed in the image of our Triune God to interact and work with those whom we are not like.
But there is one party where I agree with 100% of their policies. It’s called the Andy Flannagan party. And it has only one member, and sadly it’s me. That is the philosophical thick end of the wedge
To effect change we need to co-operate with those with whom we may not necessarily agree on everything. In fact, that is where the excitement is. That is where prayer and faith is required. Our ideas and presuppositions are challenged, sending us back to scripture and causing us to flesh out the word. And it is an incredible missionfield.
The more obvious point is that if there are policies that we disagree with in a certain party, then how will those policies be changed unless people like us get involved in making the arguments? Your voice is heard much more clearly when you whisper from a place of relationship, rather than rant from a distance.
For those that say through our involvement in the political system we will inevitably be corrupted by the system, I have news for you. We are inevitably corrupted by the system. To pretend that we can as Christians simply sit outside the systems of our world is pure nonsense. Every time you fill a car with petrol, you are supporting some very questionable Middle Eastern states. Every time you shop at a huge supermarket, you are endorsing the destruction of high streets and enabling questionable treatment of food suppliers. Every time you pay for a newspaper, re-order your broadband, use your local library, visit your GP, renew your house insurance, you are more deeply imbedded in the disturbing, complex, yet redeemable (and which will inevitably be redeemed) structures of our world. You can’t avoid it. You ARE part of the system and you are supporting it by your mere existence. The question is not whether or not we should get involved. We ARE involved! The question is whether you sit passively just letting it all happen, or whether you act to change things.
Sometimes people will nod with a smile and say that it’s great that you‘re “involved”, but that they can’t divert any time or resources in that direction. If you believe that Christianity is merely an escape ticket for a disembodied heaven, then of course you won’t invest as much time in caring for the environment or addressing structural injustice. Why would you? Any time spent doing that would inevitably mean less time telling people about their need of Jesus. The argument goes – helping the poor is great – in fact – bless you, you are a great example of compassion, but actually what is eternal is more important. Fair enough. If that’s what you believe. Some of us believe this intentionally, while some of us just believe this by default from years of presumption. Now I wholeheartedly believe that people do need Jesus, but I also believe the bigger story needs telling.
Tom Wright’s writing on this topic is extremely helpful. He speaks of our misunderstanding of heaven, which has been based more on medieval art and writing (such as Dante) than on scripture. A recent surge of “folk understanding” of heaven is illustrated by the hugely popular “Left Behind” novels published in the United States. When Jesus speaks of heaven he is not speaking of a disembodied place which our “souls” float off to, but the sphere where God’s reign is total. This is the sphere of heaven. There is also the sphere of earth, where sadly his will is not exclusively adhered to yet! This makes sense of his prayer – your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Think of the famous Mastercard symbol, or any of the Venn diagrams that confused you at school. We experience and pray for moments when “heaven touches earth” – moments of grace and beauty and compassion and truth, where God’s will is done. These are in the intersection of that diagram. One day however these 2 spheres will be fully fused! The new heavens and new earth combined.
Our attitude to the planet and its structures, as economics and ecology mix inextricably, are formed by whether our mindset is one of moving on to the next place, or one of renovation. Our God is a God intent on renovation. He has a plan for this place and it is good. This place IS the next place. It will be transformed. And incredibly we are called to be part of demonstrating what this next place will be like right now, which surely involves change within and through political structures
(Author: Andy Flannagan)
CSM As Ambassadors For Christ
Graham reflects on CSM's role as citizens of heaven (Author: Rev Graham Hunter)
A Youth Perspective on the proposal to change our name from CSM to Christians on the Left ~ A New Na
A youth perspective on the name change (Author: Francesca Chin-Lewis)
Please vote for this option: not co-option
Ian writes on the name change ahead of the AGM. (Author: Ian Geary)
Faith And Young Labour
CSM member Simon Darvill talks about his recent election as National Chair of Young Labour (Author: Simon Darvill)
It's a wonderful life
Ian Geary shares his thoughts on the film 'It's a wonderful life' (Author: Ian Geary)
Faith in Politics?
CSM Chair Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP uses his own experience to explore the question of faith in politics (Author: Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP)
Should Preaching Confront Capitalism?
James Lee examines whether the church should challenge capitalism itself (Author: James Lee)
From Rhetoric to Reality
Sam Brown uses the example of the Jubilee Debt Campaign and the Robin Hood Tax and examines how, as Christians, we can move from conversation to action. (Author: Sam Brown)
At Its Best When At Its Broadest
An essay which says Labour needs to be open to a post-secular, post-liberal and pro-faith approach. (Author: Ian Geary)
God and Politics - Transformed to transform
Theology student Marcus Smith lays out how politics looks when God is allowed to be God. (Author: Marcus Smith)
Theos talks about religious rhetoric in politics
Religious rheotric, is it worth the pain? (Author: Paul Bickley)
Between Plato And Aristotle
Tim Stacey on the Christian Socialist Movement, the Movement for Change and a vision of a Big Society (Author: Tim Stacey)
CSM Stories 'Why I am a Christian and on the Left'
Ian Geary explores in depth his journey in faith and politics. Very helpful for considering your own position and why you hold it. (Author: Ian Geary)
An address by ArchBishop of Southwark Peter Smith celebrating CSM's 50 year legacy
Cathloic Arch Bishop Peter Smith praises CSM's passion for justice and expounds its biblical basis (Author: Sam Buck)
Advent Reflection - Week 4 - Liberation
Andy Walton writes our final Advent Reflection (Author: Andy Walton)
Advent Reflections - Week 3 - Humility
Our third Advent reflection (Author: Sam Buck)
Advent reflection – week 2 – Equality
Our second advent reflection. (Author: Sam Buck)
Advent reflection - week 1 - Prophecy
Over the season of Advent CSM will be exploring the meaning of the Christmas story in a series of reflections. This is the first... (Author: Sam Buck)
Religion and Patriotism
CSM member Mark Greer explores the connections between faith and state loyalty. (Author: Mark Greer)
Faith and politics
homepage (Author: )
50 years of CSM
Stephen Beer reflects on the movement 50 years on (Author: Stephen Beer)
Tuitio Fidei et Obsequium Pauperum - In defence of the Archbishop
An article in defence of Rowan Williams. (Author: Rob Carr)
Christian Socialist Movement - 50 years on
Stephen Beer writes about fifty years of CSM - and looks to the future. (Author: Stephen Beer)
Faith and Class Politics
Ex-paramilitary and peace campaigner explains how Christianity and Socialism mix in Northern Ireland. (Author: Billy Mitchell)
POLITICS AND CHRISTIANITY - A CSM VOLUNTEER SPEAKS
At the end of his time with CSM, CSM volunteer James Somerville-Meikle makes the case for political engagement.. (Author: Andy Flannagan)
Labour as a radical tradition
This article by Dr Maurice Glasman will be published shortly in the Soundings Magazine. It details Labour's roots in the Christian faith and reflects what Labour can learn now from this source. (Author: Dr Maurice Glasman)
What are the top six reasons Christians don't get involved in politics?
An exploration of six of the biggest reasons Christians stay clear of political involvement, with responses explaining how they might be overcome. (Author: Simon Watkinson)
The History of CSM
The early Christian socialists; FD Maurice, Charles Kingsley, J M Ludlow and others, might have found little common ground with those who gathered at Kingsway Hall in 1960. Most of them knew little about socialist thought or political engagement, though (Author: Dr. Andrew Bradstock)
Christianity and Politics: A Member Reflects
A reflection on Chrisitanity and Politics by CSM member Edward Jacobs (Author: Edward Jacobs)
Government's Record on Christianity and Faith
"People should stand up for what they believe...our society will be better because people with convictions about what a good society means are playing a part in creating that society.” -Prime Minister Gordon Brown (Author: )
The Politics of Integrity
In the second of his contributions to the Everything Christian site, Chris Le Marquand looks at what Christians can learn about integrity considering the recent expenses crisis etc. (Author: Chris Le Marquand)
Is Loyalty a Virtue?
In the first of a series of political blogs for Everything Christian (www.everythingchristian.co.uk), Chris Le Marquand explores the issue of loyalty from a Christian perspective. (Author: Chris Le Marquand)
Recapturing a sense of what is the Common Good.
We need collectively to be honest and realistic about what we ask our politicians to achieve, and not push them to promise what cannot or should not be delivered within the resources that we have. (Author: Richard Vautrey, Vice President, Methodist Church)
Why it’s not enough just to vote
The question is, "Where are the people of God who have the prophetic insight to put things right?" (Author: Jeremy Dillon)
Ten Things Labour has done for Christian Communities
The Labour government welcomes and supports Christian communities in living out the shared values which are the foundation of healthy local communities. Here are ten things that the government has done to make real that support. (Author: Ed Cox)
Why politics ?
18 yr old David Bagg gives us his perspective on why God is calling a generation into politics. Personal calling and strong convictions in a heartfelt article. (Author: David Bagg)
Monday night (9th September) saw Tony Blair deliver the first of series of seminars entitled ‘New Perspectives on Faith and Development’ . He concluded that 'faith matters' and that faith groups have a massive role to play in development (Author: Andy Freeman)
Taking the Next Step
Allan Davies explains how rewarding it can be to join the Labour Party, as well as the process for joining and becoming active in your local Party branch. (Author: Allan Davies)
Breaking the Mould: Politics for the next generation.
I believe that the biggest sin the church has committed is to make God appear irrelevant, uninteresting and downright boring. It’s the same with many politicians. (Author: Jeremy Dillon)
Fighting the Norwich North by-election
CSM member Chris Ostrowski was Labour's candidate in Norwich. He writes about his experience. (Author: Chris Ostrowski)
Does religion have a role to play in British politics?
The interaction between religiously inspired morality and politics: One cannot remove morality from political discourse and so it is far better to have it out in public. (Author: Mike Ion)
Why I Joined CSM
Tom Quinn, part of Young CSM, tells us why he joined the Christian Socialist Movement. (Author: Tom Quinn)
Politics and theology: Something to say
Simon opens our new 'Theology' section by taking on the challenge of why we should have biblical interpretation behind our politics and ethics. (Author: Simon Hall)
Good to Great: What do we expect of CSM ?
Terry Wynn brings a thought provoking look at our expectations for the movement. What do we want CSM to be and how can we rise to the challenge together and see God at work in our movement ? (Author: Terry Wynn)
The Post Secular Age
Terry Wynn sees opportunities as old presumptions fall apart. (Author: Terry Wynn)