Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Beyond electioneering: some thoughts on politics in the UK

Some thoughts on the General Election campaign and some wider political concerns. It seems from the opinion polls that no single party is generating enough enthusiasm to win an outright majority.  Perhaps voters are worried by the the scale of proposed Tory cuts, which might explain why it doesn't look like they will win enough seats to form a majority Government. Saddled with the hugely unpopular Gordon Brown, Labour has lost its winning ways. Not to mention the Labour government's role in fomenting the credit crunch and the expenses scandal that erupted while Labour was in power. The Lib Dems capitalised well on Nick Clegg's performance in the Prime Ministerial debates, but some of the party's key policies lack credibility when held up to scrutiny. Certainly no landslide victory of the scale of Blair's 1997 "things can only get better" election is expected. The big question is whether the Lib Dems would prop up an ailing Labour administration in the event of a hung parliament and at what price in terms of Labour acceding to Lib Dem demands. We shall wait and see.

From a Christian point of view it seems that believers in the UK have stopped asking big questions about the role of the State. We tend simply  to focus on a narrow range of issues, namely support for heterosexual marriage, opposition to abortion and euthanasia, and freedom of religion. The Westminster 2010 Declaration and the Christian Institute's election briefing largely concentrate on these three concerns. While not denying the importance of  the issues highlighted, we also need to give thought to the role of the State in relation to the Church and the individual Christian. What are the limits of the Church's obedience to an increasingly secular and hostile State (Romans 13:1-7)? And at which point must we say to the authorities, "We ought to obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29)?  Our Puritan forebears were were not afraid to face such questions.

Given that Jesus is Lord over the whole of life, there are other ares that should concern Christian thinkers:

The over-dependence of our economy on the legalized gambling of the hedge funds and credit derivative markets of the City of London. We need to recover our country's industrial base so that more people are meaningfully employed in R&D and in the skilled manufacture of useful products.

Wise stewardship of the God-given resources of our planet with the development of environmentally friendly technologies and the encouragement of more waste recycling .

How the State can be a force for social justice through fair taxation, the redistribution of wealth, and the provision of high quality public services, while not undermining the importance of personal responsibility.

Given that "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely", any changes to the constitution must maintain a balance of powers so that the legislature in the form of the Commons and the House of Lords is still able to hold the executive to account and scrutinise and amend government legislation. The independence of the judiciary.

The roll back of the overly intrusive machinery of the State in the form of CCTV cameras, the DNA database and the introduction of biometric identity cards. The space between the citizen's private life and the State has been steadily narrowing, with the authorities ever more intervening to enforce good behaviour. This trend has coincided with  the widespread collapse Christian values in our society, aided by the Labour government's attempt to further secularise public life.

We should be a country that welcomes immigrants in reasonable numbers, but all citizens must remain subject to the same rule of law. The creeping Islamification of the UK should be guarded against.

Overseas military action should only be undertaken subject to the criterion of a just war. The government has a duty of care towards service men and women who should be afforded the best possible equipment when engaged in armed conflict.

That Christians should not acquiesce in the secularisation of our country, but bear witness to biblical values in public life.

I'm sure that there are more issues that believers  need to think about, but that's enough to be going on with.

1 comment:

horizons.plymouth said...

God bless you, it is great to read balanced Christian debate about things that matter. I take great heart that there are lots of people who are prepared to speak for Christian values and how they can be applied to everyday living and political systems.