We've been in Manchester with our Christians in Politics friends meeting, equipping and inspiring a whole bunch of Christians to live out their faith in politics. Andrew Burrell reflects on what went on!
In his 2012 book, ‘The Righteous Mind’, psychologist Jonathan Haidt bemoans the bitterness of US political partisanship and the deep levels of mistrust between supporters of the two main parties. Politics, religion and morality are all team sports, he says: rational arguments are there only to justify our intuitive commitment to the team we belong to. Now more than ever, you could easily accept his conclusion. As Brexit and President-Elect Trump reveal the fundamental dividing lines in society, and people increasingly turn to social media for news comment that will mostly echo their own views back to them, the ability to work together for the common good feels increasingly distant.
At Show Up North in Manchester two weeks ago, Christians gathered together from across the country, knowing that our shared faith, worked out across party lines, can be part of the solution.
Sarah Dickson and Gareth Wallace reminded us from Psalm 133: “how good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!” From across the pond, former White House staffer Michael Wear taught us how faith is a firmer foundation for our politics than ideology. It allows us to be civil in debate, listening respectfully to the reasons why others differ in opinion from us.
Dave Landrum from the Evangelical Alliance told us the reasons why Christians shouldn’t get involved in politics! Party loyalty and selfish ambition can be easily prioritised before seeking God’s kingdom. Instead, he called on us to engage in politics with servant leadership, recognising Christ’s lordship.
Yet our success within the political realm will depend on the quality of our relationships. Haidt is right to say that politics is a team sport, and will involve disagreement along party lines. But it doesn’t have to imply an ‘us versus them’ culture.
Christians in Politics instead encourages us to ‘find a clan’: a handful of friends that will support, encourage, challenge and pray for us. The Christian groups within each party can help us do this, so in the afternoon, LDCF members met to share fellowship and ideas, discussing what brought us to the party as Christians, and where we disagreed.
My favourite aspect of the day was meeting people across all parties who shared my heart for reforming structures that obstruct justice. I met a diverse range of people from those working in party HQs through to local activists and those simply interested in politics who wanted to explore becoming more involved.
I hope that some of these people may be able to form part of the clan that will keep me grounded in God should I decide to venture further into politics. Praise God that in him, Christians have a unity that transcends political and denominational divides. Let’s use this as our model for bringing the country together.
Andrew Burrell joined the Lib Dems in April. He works in Westminster for John Pugh MP.