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.
Thanks to Peter Kirk, Church Mouse, Stuart James and Danny Webster for your wisdom on this. If you’re on Twitter please make sure you follow them all. You won’t be disappointed!
Categories: Bible, Elections, Party politics
The Christian Peoples Alliance has no connection with the other – the alien in biblical parlance – who live in this country. This would be a joke if it were not serious. The notion that if we were all good little girls and boys and did as daddy said through daddies man Malcolm Martin and no other – that sadly is what he comes over when I listened to him on various topics. He scares me. Real world politics are not for those who have no idea, understanding or nuance for the very messy and violent greedy world out there. Dogma is fine. Reality is better. Rant over.
If you have a look at what Malcolm does and has done you can’t say that he doesn’t engage with the world. He’s a street pastor for example. He’s just decided that the only way he feels he can engage in politics is through a Christian party, which is more than some Christians who don’t even do that.
If he gets in to the Assembly then it’s a whole new ball game and and working with other parties is going to be the real test of how he matches up his beliefs with real life politics.
I have looked at what Malcolm does and heard what he says. He does not engage he instructs through insistence. The Street Pastoring is not about telling someone what you believe or about witnessing your faith – unless asked of course. Like I said. He scares me.
No i don’t think a Christian party is a good idea either, not least because there is a danger it becomes corrupted in that ”real ” political world.I think people coming together over specific issues, campaign hubs and working with M.P.s with an interest in kingdom values is far more productive . The clearing the ground report is an example of positive work. Lobbying the government is important to add a Christian voice. It was great to read of the high number of Christians who vote which would indicate concern for the society in which we live. I wonder how many write to their M.P. s and get more actively involved in campaigns ?
I actually wrote a blog post on this very subject a couple of weeks ago. It can be found here: http://greenchristian.co.uk/2012/04/the-problem-with-christian-parties/
In short, I think they run the risk of people confusing their political agenda with the gospel. Also, the time and effort put into them would make a much greater impact if it were channelled into supporting Christians in more mainstream parties.
Thanks Stephen, I agree with you. I read your article last week. It’s really helpful and makes some important points. It’s definitely worth reading.
To be fair to ‘bouncelot’, the position that he or she is taking is heavily biased by the fact of their support and involvement in the Green Party, rather than being objective about Christian politics.
There is no need for any ‘confusion’ between a political agenda and the gospel. Any person standing in politics, should be doing so because they have a conscience which drives them to serve their fellow man and society with their own moral conscience. Anyone in a democracy, has the right to do this. Christians are not excluded, either individually or as a group, neither should they be. There is absolutely no reason why Christian parties cannot or should not have a broad and comprehensive manifesto, other than ‘bouncealot’s personal prejudices.
Neither is there any evidence that people are ‘put off’ becoming Christians by a Christian party like the CPA standing up and arguing the case for moral politics. If there is, then please highlight the case with names and facts! Otherwise it is better not to make unfounded claims about this. If anything, the CPA would encourage people to make a stand for Christ, instead of seeing ‘secret 007 Christians’, hiding under a mainstream banner for fear of being detected. Not that there are some notable exceptions, as there are, but in general, Christians in the mainstream parties, do not make much of an impact in mainstream politics, other than towing the party line! A Christian in the Green party for instance, is unlikely to make any headway with significantly reducing the number of unnecessary inconvenience abortions, as his or her fellow members may predominantly support abortion on demand. He is therefore severely compromised and his faith is in political practice, deemed ineffectual, if not hypocritical.
Rather than criticising your fellow Christians in the CPA and other movements, you would be better serving God by praying for their success as the love of God commands you. This would be much better than the unscriptural practice of making your fears, imaginations, prejudices and political bias in negative criticism of your brothers and sisters in Christ.
I think you are right to say pray to God that Christ’s Way is promoted by Christians. Prejudices and fear are normal human emotions related to how they have [a] been brought up, [b] their peer influence, [c] cultural nuances and [d] educational learning.
Firstly, my wordpress account wasn’t letting me comment using my real name before, so I am “bouncelot” (the username comes from an old injoke).
I wasn’t saying that Christians shouldn’t be able to stand for what they believe in when it comes to politics. I was saying that parties like the Christian Party and the CPA are – thanks to their name – sending the message that their brand of politics is THE Christian take on today’s political issues. At the moment, neither party is taken seriously by the general public. But if they were, you do risk a situation very much like the one in the US, where Evangelical Christianity is associated in many minds with the Republican Party’s political agenda. When I’ve been discussing American politics online, I’ve come across a great many people who find Christianity objectionable on the basis of the political beliefs it is promoting.
I don’t have a problem with Christians forming parties with the word Christian in their name, as long as the name also refers to a political ideology. Christian Democrats and Christian Socialists hold very different views of politics. But the two terms make it clear that this is only one possible view for Christians to hold.
You say “This would be much better than the unscriptural practice of making your fears, imaginations, prejudices and political bias in negative criticism of your brothers and sisters in Christ.”, but you are doing the exact same thing when you criticise my involvement in a mainstream/secular political party. Whilst I haven’t deliberately put my faith at the (visible) forefront of all aspects of my political involvement, I most certainly have not hidden it. I am very open within the party and when fighting elections about my faith. I will mention it whenever it is directly relevant to what I am saying.
And when it comes to the question of whether a Christian is severely compromised by belonging to a political party, nobody with any sense thinks that any member of any political party agrees with all of its policy stances. If they did, then parties would consist of one member and almost never change their policy on anything. If you aren’t in a political party, you can’t do anything to change its stance on a particular issue. Christian parties need to win substantial numbers of seats to make any impact at all on the political sphere. Those of us within secular parties, on the other hand, have the chance to persuade party colleagues to change their views. We are also more likely to end up in elected office. In short, we are more likely to make a political impact than the CPA.
Finally, when it comes to the question of abortion, there is no chance of any government banning abortion in the UK unless and until there is a massive change in society’s attitude on the issue. The only way to reach that goal is to convince people that abortion is wrong. And that’s going to be a long, slow, process. In the meantime, the best way to fight abortions is to take actions that will reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, and make adoption a more viable option. Those of us in political parties which favour abortion can work to slowly persuade other members of our point of view, and work on policies that would mean fewer people will want an abortion in the first place.
It’s not an ideal approach to the issue, but it’s one that takes account of how politics actually works. If you want to make a difference, you have to find ways of working with people you disagree with, and you almost always have to be willing to accept some level of compromise in order to make any progress at all. I’m working to make that kind of impact in the way I believe God has called me. I’m acting as salt and light within the Green Party, just as other Christians are doing in parties across the political spectrum. I don’t believe that makes my faith compromised, ineffectual or hypocritical. If it did, then the same would apply to Christians working in companies which sometimes do things that are not in line with scripture.
The trouble with mainstream parties is that none of them have any connection with true Christian concepts. They all used to, but have now departed so far from the what they used to be that one would have to sear ones conscience to be part of them. If they are allowed to continue, the country will become a Sodom and Gomorra. I agree that any party with the word Christian in its name has no chance, but there must be another way to achieve a party that is dedicated to achieving a Judeo/Christian lifestyle.
The likes of Melanie Philips of the Mail, although a Jew, is always standing up for Christian principles and a party made up of mixed individuals who have Biblical Integrity or share the traditional moral lifestyle of this country and want to see it upheld.
It would seem that there are many that are reconsidering their allegiance to existing parties because of the way that the traditional Christian lifestyle is being trashed. UkIP will not in the long term provide the solution.
I’m sorry your comment diddn’t come up straight away. It ended up in the spam box for some reason. I like what you’re proposing. I would love to see a party being formed with grounded principles that placed party politics below the need to serve the nation.
Maybe that day will come.
Hello Stephen. Thank you for your response.
You said “Those of us in political parties which favour abortion can work to slowly persuade other members of our point of view, and work on policies that would mean fewer people will want an abortion in the first place” – can you show or demonstrate any evidence that you or others who are Christians in the Green Party, have made any difference to your party’s pro abortion politics, since you have been members of it?
It is not enough to just have a ‘nice belief’ that somehow a few Christians with little paddles in your party will change the pro-abortion views of the majority, unless you have any real evidence that you have made a tangible difference over the years Christians have been involved in it. Otherwise it is little more than a self delusion isn’t it?
This issue alone is one of the most ungodly that this country is involved in, even though masses of people are oblivious to its evil. Yet to God, this practice is an abomination equal to burning of children to Molech in the OT, yet greater because the children burnt to Molech were probably in number very much smaller, whereas the numbers of convenience abortions done by the UK alone, is amounting to millions of babies. I believe that in Heaven, if we are allowed to go there, we will see those millions of aborted babies, whose lives were taken away from them by doctors, nurses, politicians and political parties. God will judge us for this evil. He judges us for the evil we do and are involved with or are ‘party to’. Like the Good Samaritan, the one who was righteous in God’s eyes was the one who went straight to the need, while those who were evil, passed by on the other side. This is how God will judge us in respect of every baby aborted, which to God is the murder of a baby.
Because we are involved in supporting abortion, the UK and particularly those involved with it, are already subject to God’s anger and judgement. It is no surprise then that when Christians do not radically oppose the murder of babies, that God will not honour parties who support it, nor Christians that turn a blind eye to it, nor this country that does not care enough to save the life of even one unborn baby. Do not be surprised if in less than a generation, there are no Christians in politics, because they have been oppressed by unchristian opposition, because of the current position of Christians on this issue, alone (let alone others).
Having said that, I am glad that you say you are a Christian standing up for Christ and proclaiming biblical morals in the Green Party. I hope that you have good success, inasmuch as your position allows.
There are many groups already opposed to Abortion Society for the protection of the unborn child, Life, Christian concern,and they compete in a battle of ideas,desires against other groups and for political influence. The pro choice groups generally underplay the negative effects of abortion so accurate research and information and personal testimonies are important in making a case. We need to support and show compassion to people who think they are able to make a ”cost free” choice on abortion. Being yeast in the dough is more effective not least because we need to be amongst people in our communities ( that includes the political community ) just as Jesus did.
Changing minds is often a long, slow process. I have persuaded other members of the party that being opposed to abortion does not mean being anti-women (and, yes, that is how most pro-choicers see it). Which is the first step on the road to changing that policy. But as you’re asking for evidence to justify my involvement in a secular party, do you have any evidence that the Christian Party or the CPA have changed government policy on abortion?
As I said, I think we need a major change in the culture of the UK before any radical action on the issue is politically possible. For as long as the overwhelming majority of the population consider abortion to be a right, no government of any stripe would have the votes in Parliament to ban it – if that is, in fact, the most effective way of saving those lives. Which means that – barring a radical and very sudden change in public opinion on the issue (which is only likely to come about via a revival) we’re going to be stuck with abortion being legal for decades to come.
For now, the most effective way for Christians in politics to address the issue is to gradually persuade others of our point of view and to look at ways of reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies.