June 2009

Church and Politics

A day or so back I received an email from the ‘head office’ of the URC in Tavestock Place in London. It was a press statement and the statement said that the;-

‘United Reformed Church members have been reminded of the importance of voting in the European and County Council elections on 4 June despite recent bad publicity about MPs’ expenses. Members have been urged to cast their vote, particularly to counter the threat of the British National Party.

A full resolution passed at a meeting of the Church’s Mission Council on 17 May said:

Mission Council, acting on behalf of general assembly on a matter of immediate importance:

  • Reminds members of the importance of voting in the European and County Council elections on 4 June, despite recent bad publicity about MPs’ expenses.
  • Urges members of the United Reformed Church to cast their vote in order to counter the threat of the BNP. ‘

For your information: In 2004 the United Reformed Church declared that:- ‘Mission Council notes with concern the rise in many European countries of extreme right-wing and racist political parties. While we accept that such parties are entitled to operate within the democratic process we believe it is vital that they do not become accepted as part of normal political life. Within Britain we affirm that membership or any form of support for organizations such as the British National Party is incompatible with Christian discipleship.’

Such statements often cause consternation to many, especially those who believe that religion and politics shouldn’t mix. That religion is a personal thing, especially in this secular age where politicians ‘don’t do God’ – as the former Labour spin doctor, Alistair Campbell has said.

The problem is that the Old Testament prophets and Jesus spoke again and again about political actions that show ones faith, or as the URC statement calls it Christian discipleship. There are things that we cannot remain quiet about, and things that we can never support. And sometimes there are times that we have to fight against evil.

You can as a Christian support almost any political party, and there are fellow Christians who will passionately disagree with you. There are policies in most parties that even a fervent supporter struggles to swallow. But at a certain point a policy, party, or ideology crosses the line and is no longer acceptable. This policy, party or ideology is fundamentally at odds with the Christian faith. The URC has said that the BNP is such a party. The support of it is incompatible with being a Christian. Of all the incredible variety of parties that appear in British political life, it is one of the few (and the only one with a largish following) that has crossed that line.

By the time you read this the European Elections will be over, and the post mortem will probably already be relegated to the inside pages of the paper. The Church, any church, should not normally tell a person how to vote, that is between you and God and your understanding of your faith. But in some circumstances the Church rightly points out that our faith calls us to be and do certain things. How is your Christian discipleship?

June 2009