Today is polling day for local elections here in the UK, in London and in many other areas, but not here in Chelmsford. So the discussion I am having here is primarily about the UK political scene. But the same principles apply in other democratic countries, and so I recommend this post, and the ones I link to here, to all my readers.
A few days ago Gillan Scott caused some controversy by posting an Interview with Malcolm Martin, Christian Peoples Alliance candidate for the London Assembly. In response to this debate, including to some of my own tweets, he asked the question Are Christian political parties really a good idea? Meanwhile Danny Webster responded to the same controversy with Why I don’t think Christian political parties are the best option. Both Gillan and Danny have been posting other good material on faith and politics over the last few days.
I can basically agree with what both Danny and Gillan have written about Christian political parties. I don’t want to condemn those who choose to join or support them, especially in the UK context where votes for them are more likely to be wasted ones than to usher in a theocracy. There is nevertheless a real chance that the CPA candidate will be elected for one of the proportional top-up seats in the London Assembly – and if so that is likely to be because of the party’s stance against gay marriage, an issue which is divisive even in London’s churches.
Gillan makes a good distinction between parties like CPA which “puts faith at the heart of its politics” and those which promote “a whole raft of biblical principles such as the basic human rights of every individual, social justice and the importance of marriage”, but not a specific faith. Neither Gillan nor I object to the latter – but are they really Christian? However, he has some serious reservations about the former:
If a party stands up and says that it represents the Christian faith, then the implication is that all Christians should agree with its policies. As we all know though, Christians don’t agree on a lot of things and party politics is one of them. The added danger is that such a party will be perceived as working towards a theocracy where the government subjects its people to what they believe is God’s will and of course because it’s God’s will it can’t be questioned. Where this is taking place in the world in countries such as Iran, theocracy inevitably leads to oppression.
I’m not saying that theocracy is the CPA’s aim. But they do want to promote faith in God and put him at the heart of politics. …
There’s nothing I can find in the Bible about Christianity gaining political power. Israel in the Old Testament was a theocracy, but it was never intended to spread beyond the Jews who lived under the Mosaic law. Instead in Romans Paul talks about us submitting to the authorities, not usurping them.
Indeed. It is parties like this which, if they become more than fringe groups like CPA, are seen as promoting theocracy, and are rightly condemned as teaching some kind of “dominionism”.
Gillan concludes as follows:
I would suggest that there are two ways God’s values will become prevalent in our society. One is through revival, which I long to see, but will only come through prayer and not politics. The other is by Christians working their way into positions of power and influence where they can live out kingdom values. That includes politics. There are some fantastic Christian MPs and political activists who are doing just that. They are working through the existing frameworks to influence what happens in government and in our nation. They haven’t chosen to go up against the existing structures, but work in them and through them and I admire them for that. Realistically, they will have more effect and do far more good than by looking to do something exclusively Christian and will gain the support of many more people, Christian or otherwise, in the process.
I completely agree. This approach is not “dominionism” and will not lead to a theocracy. But it will help to bring our society to work more according to the principles of the kingdom of God.