Last night I ended up in an unexpectedly busy conversation on Twitter with some wise people talking about the nature of Christian political parties and whether they are actually a good idea. Having reached a conclusion of sorts we decided it would be a good idea for me to go away and write a blog post on it.
As is always the case in the world of blogging, being first to a story is undoubtedly a good move and whilst I was gathering my thoughts, Danny Webster who is the Parliamentary Officer for the Evangelical Alliance put together this speedy article on the whole issue and posted it on his blog. I really recommend you read his once you’ve finished this one. Danny is far more experienced in political matters than I am and really knows what he’s talking about.
In case anyone is wondering, I don’t endorse the Christian Peoples Alliance (CPA). I don’t condemn them either, for that matter. They have some sensible policies and Malcolm Martin whom I interviewed was a thoroughly nice a decent person. The reason why I did the interview was that the opportunity came up and I thought, “Why not?” If anyone else from another party wants me to interview them too, I’m more than happy to do it.
However, I now come to the crux of this post: Are Christian political parties really what God wants?
If you have a look round Europe, you’ll find plenty of political parties with Christian in their name. Some of them are pretty big including Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Germany. Most of these parties were founded by Christians and base their policies on biblical principles. Generally they are conservative in their outlook. We don’t really have an equivalent party in the UK. All of our largest parties have had significant Christian influence in their histories but none of them claim to follow biblical principles explicitly.
From my limited understanding, the difference between a party such as the CDU in Germany and the Christian Peoples Alliance in ours is that the CPA states that it puts faith at the heart of its politics rather than just biblical principles. There is a distinct difference. Whereas plenty of people, irrespective of their beliefs, would be happy aligning themselves with a whole raft of biblical principles such as the basic human rights of every individual, social justice and the importance of marriage, aligning themselves with the Christian faith is something very different.
If a party stands up and says that it represents the Christian faith, then the implication is that all Christians should agree with its policies. As we all know though, Christians don’t agree on a lot of things and party politics is one of them. The added danger is that such a party will be perceived as working towards a theocracy where the government subjects its people to what they believe is God’s will and of course because it’s God’s will it can’t be questioned. Where this is taking place in the world in countries such as Iran, theocracy inevitably leads to oppression.
I’m not saying that theocracy is the CPA’s aim. But they do want to promote faith in God and put him at the heart of politics. If they are going to do this effectively and with accountability they will need the backing of the churches and I doubt many church leaders would currently give them that. If the parties in power were overtly atheist and Christians were being oppressed then that might change, but I really can’t see this happening any time soon.
There’s nothing I can find in the Bible about Christianity gaining political power. Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy, but it was never intended to spread beyond the Jews who lived under the Mosaic law. Instead in Romans Paul talks about us submitting to the authorities, not usurping them.
Jesus says in his prayer: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Then he goes on to talk about the kingdom being like yeast that spreads all through a batch of dough. God’s kingdom gets everywhere but not by force.
I would suggest that there are two ways God’s values will become prevalent in our society. One is through revival, which I long to see, but will only come through prayer and not politics. The other is by Christians working their way into positions of power and influence where they can live out kingdom values. That includes politics. There are some fantastic Christian MPs and political activists who are doing just that. They are working through the existing frameworks to influence what happens in government and in our nation. They haven’t chosen to go up against the existing structures, but work in them and through them and I admire them for that. Realistically, they will have more effect and do far more good than by looking to do something exclusively Christian and will gain the support of many more people, Christian or otherwise, in the process.