Friday, April 23, 2010

Faith & Politics

I know that with a General Election campaign in full swing that you might well have had your fill of politics. But I'm not going to get into party political point scoring in this article. Neither do I propose to give you the benefit of my opinion on how we might reduce the national debt while continuing to fund essential public services or anything like that. Such matters are best left to the supposed experts.

However, this might be a good time to reflect on the role of faith-inspired values in public life. I sent a questionnaire to each of the main candidates for the South West Wiltshire constituency. The first question was, "Do you believe that Christian values have a beneficial role to play in contemporary society?" With varying degrees of equivocation, the candidates agreed that Christian values still have a place our society.

But some would say that faith-based values should be excluded from the public square. They want Britain to be a more secular country where faith has little impact on the life of our nation. That would be a great shame as many of the great moral and social advances in our land were inspired by Christians who were active in the world of politics. Britain led the world in abolishing the slave trade largely due to the efforts of William Wilberforce. Lord Shafesbury worked tirelessly to improve the working conditions of the masses who toiled away in the "dark Satanic mills" of the Industrial Revolution. Today Christians speak in favour of marriage as the bedrock of society. We insist that human life should be valued and respected from womb to tomb. Believers have been vocal in support of a fair deal for the poor and underprivileged. Faith-based values still have an important role to play in public life.

Whoever wins the General Election will have a huge job on their hands in attempting to fix broken Britain. And let's be fair, politicians can only do so much. Politics is simply "the art of the possible". God alone can change the human heart so that we turn away from the selfishness destructiveness of sin and embrace the way of goodness and truth. As Jesus said, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26).  

By the way, the Christian Institute's excellent Election briefing paper is now available for download here

* Written for News & Views, West Lavingon parish magazine. 

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