With hesitation and a degree of nervousness, here is a Just Reflection on the forthcoming general election in the UK. I don’t feel qualified to write about politics and I don’t have anything ‘new’ to bring to the table. But because I passionately believe social action is not enough and that social justice is required, politics matters and so I can’t ignore the election.
My story (with disclaimer!)
First, the disclaimer: these are my personal opinions (not the views of my place of work, church, family, cat etc.!)
I have been a member of Christians on the Left (which is affiliated to the Labour Party) for over four years, and have been a member of the Labour Party since the election in 2015. When I discovered Christians on the Left, I found with relief my political home.
I met others who saw in the pages of the Bible an imperative to be on the side of the poor, the oppressed, the marginalised, the vulnerable and exploited.
But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! Amos 5:24
I discovered my Christianity and my political views were not at odds with each other; the voices of the US Christian Right are so dominant I often felt either my faith or my politics were wrong. I found others, like me, motivated by God’s heart for justice whose left-leaning political views flowed out of their faith.
I have been influenced over the years by a number of Christian political activists:
- Jim Wallis – a US Christian writer, and the founder and editor of Sojourners magazine
- Andy Flannagan – Director of Christians on the Left
- Jon Kuhrt – Executive Director of Social Work at West London Mission
I’d encourage you to read their works (online and in print) as they communicate the key issues so much better than I ever could!
I love the following story which I first read in one of Jim Wallis’ books and quote to people frequently:
‘Imagine you’re standing by the Niagra River, just above the falls. As you enjoy the beautiful scene, you see what looks like a hand waving in the rapids. You realize it’s a person who is being pulled toward the falls. You find a long stick and you extend it to the person and pull him to shore in just the nick of time. A crowd gathers and various ones help the victim—this one provides a blanket, that one calls 911 on a cell phone, another provides emotional comfort with a caring hug. Just as the ambulance takes the survivor away, you look upstream and notice another hand waving frantically from the water.
‘Soon you organize the crowd to help the second victim in the same way. Then you look upstream and see two more, no, five more … no, at least a dozen hands of people waving for help as they are pulled toward certain death. Do you keep pulling people out of the river? Of course, but sooner or later, you’ve got to pull the crowd on shore together and say, “Listen, we need to send a group of people upstream to find out who’s pushing people into the river.”‘
We need to go upstream to find out how the people are getting into the river.
Or as Andy Flannagan wrote in a recent guest blog for Resistance and Renewal:
All over the UK the Church is doing an incredible job.
We are running food banks…mentoring teenagers at risk…counselling those in debt… befriending the elderly…sheltering the homeless…running parent-toddler groups… homework clubs…music and arts workshops…healing on the streets…sports camps… working with prisoners…community choirs…
It is wonderful, but there is a danger.
The church may spend the next fifty years being the nation’s paramedic, treating the victims of a flawed system but failing to bring righteousness and justice to the system itself.
Praying for politicians
I’ve been challenged by the cross-party organisation Christians in Politics and their Show Up campaign to pray for politicians, especially those with whom I disagree. Christians in Politics have written a helpful guide on what to pray.
I have now added a photo of my Conservative candidate (who will become my MP again on 8 June – I live in a Tory safe seat) to the photos of my three local Conservative councillors inside one of my kitchen cupboards as a reminder to pray for them. I have also ‘liked’ my MP on Facebook, causing confusion and consternation to my mum!
When my late grandma was born in 1916, women in the UK could not vote. Some women were granted suffrage in 1918, but electoral parity wasn’t achieved until 1928. My grandma did not take her vote for granted and therefore always voted. When I put my cross in the box, I consciously think of the women who gave so much to the suffrage movement and try to emulate my grandma’s attitude.