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Faith and Politics? It's non-negotiable

31st May 2019 - Stuart Weir

We are in a moment in time in the United Kingdom that demonstrates great tension. Many of us are almost bald with the amount of infuriated hair pulling we’ve done due to party politics and Brexit over the last year or two. As if one referendum wasn’t enough chaos, us Scots have voted on two overall and both have been hugely divisive. We have treated one another so poorly during both. Add to this Nicola Sturgeon’s recent announcement to the Scottish Parliament about some fresh legislation to push for Scottish Independence once again.

Across the Irish Sea Northern Ireland has been battered black and blue as a political football over the ‘backstop’ for the Irish border. As the MLAs watch every show on Netflix at home, Stormont is left to rot. Heads drop and Westminster threaten to change key legislation that Northern Ireland has always seen fit to see off in the past.

In Westminster the Conservatives have systematically torn one another apart over Brexit and are now seeking a new leader for the party who will likely become the next Prime Minister. In what seems like the perfect moment to strike for the opposition, the Labour Party has been simultaneously tearing itself up, leaving both vulnerable and exposed at the local and European elections. The Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and the Brexit Party with gladness swept up as a result of the blue and red maelstroms.

I seem to have encountered many fellow citizens standing in disbelief, eyes latched onto the next bit of disappointing news, shaking their heads slowly as they exhale breaths of powerlessness. Even the mention of an upcoming General Election causes collective groans. That’s what we see and feel. People are done with politics.

A stirring of the pot is taking place in our time.

Yet for all the let downs and cynical politicking we need to recalibrate our hearts and minds before God because he ‘is high above all the nations, and his glory above the heavens’ (Ps. 113.4). We need to take a minute and realise that the One who has created us has mandated that we be agents of governing where we live. That’s a key part of what it means to be God’s image bearers. We don’t get to opt out. In order to live up to our humanity more fully, it is incumbent upon us that we are fully immersed in the stewarding of the resources that surround us.

The scriptures that Christians sit around together, listen to, preach, receive, repeat, interpret, provide us with example after example of women and men who took this mandate to tend, care, rule and subdue, the worlds they inhabited. Stories of inspiration, difficulty, perceived failure, bravery, panic, rage and faithfulness perforate what is a sweeping narrative of God in relationship with his people.

The Bible tells stories of God’s people working at the highest echelons of government in both foreign and domestic scenarios. There are stories of nations who are under attack from enemy nations. An enviable set of social instructions for how to set up society in a way that ensures a practical way of justice for all is laid out in Deuteronomy. When God’s people are trafficked to a foreign land we have windows into how they should live in a strange context. We are provided with hundred of pithy maxims that come from the Royal Court of Solomon (Proverbs).

In anticipation of any criticism that faith and politics is solely located in the Old Testament, readers of the Bible have come to terms, like others before them, that the stories of Jesus and his earliest disciples are fraught with political tensions and scenarios that are highly instructive. Add to this some of the direct instructions given for how followers of Jesus should now view and interact with the politics of their day.

In a time when many of us feel at the end of ourselves with respect to UK politics, by coming afresh to what the Bible has to say about shaping this world we can no longer let our feelings be in the driver’s seat. Interacting with faith, love and hope with the politics of the day is the only response God’s people must have after rereading the Bible.

Faith and politics? It’s non-negotiable.

By Dr Stuart Weir, National Director of CARE for Scotland

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