Why should Scottish Christians be pro-independence?

Published 06 March 2014  |  
(PA)

Is there a Christian argument for Scottish Independence? Yes, if you believe MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch David Thompson.

As convener of the newly established group 'Christians for Independence', Mr Thomas is on a mission to convince churchgoers across Scotland that it is better for Scotland to break away from the UK. And not for economic reasons, as most of the debate has been focusing on, but spiritual ones.

"We would assert that the values of equality, fairness and justice associated with the gospel of Jesus Christ would be a firm foundation for a progressive Scotland," Mr Thompson claimed at the launch of his Faith in Scotland's Future campaign in Edinburgh last week.

The campaign, according to the group's website, aims to "promote interaction and discussion with individuals and groups of the Christian faith and other interested parties".

"Christians play a hugely significant and overwhelmingly positive role in contemporary Scotland," says Mr Thompson

"Over 50 per cent of Scots describe themselves as Christian.  It's also estimated that over 12 times as many people went to church this weekend than went to Scottish Premiership football."

He is optimistic but the trend points to an overall decline in the number of self-identifying Christians in Scotland, from 65.1 per cent in the 2001 census to 53.8 per cent in the 2011 census. 

There are gloomier statistics to be found elsewhere, with a 2012 survey by WhatScotlandThinks.org finding that only a third of Scots (32 per cent) identify themselves, while those describing themselves as having no religion reached 54 per cent in the same year.

Another poll commissioned by the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland last year found similarly that the number of Scots with no religion had increased, from 28 per cent in 2001 to 39 per cent in 2013.

Speaking to Christian Today about what independence would mean for the Church in Scotland, Mr Thompson said there would be little change in so far as relations between Church and state go.

"The situation post-independence will be exactly the same as it is now. The Church of Scotland will continue as the national Church," he said.

It's in the sphere of the Church's influence, however, that Mr Thompson feels the greatest incentive for independence lies. 

"Will Scottish Christians have more influence upon a Scottish state than we currently have upon the British state? Well, we could hardly have less," he says.

"Within the United Kingdom, church-going Scottish Christians are fewer than 1 per cent of the electorate. That means we can be ignored with impunity."

And ignored is how he feels the Church of Scotland is on occasion treated, particularly vis a vis its English neighbour.

"Oversights," he says, "are not infrequent."

"Simply by virtue of relative numerical strength and geographic proximity, Scotland's Christians will have greater hope of influencing a Scottish government than an administration based in London."

But it's not only about political clout, though. His support for an independent Scotland is rooted in a desire to see Christians be the most effective they can be in loving their neighbour. He feels their practical work would only be enhanced by independence.

"It is the firm proposition of Christians for Independence that a vote for self-governance in September's referendum gives Scottish Christians the best platform upon which to work collaboratively with others to build a more socially just society at home and abroad," he said.

Mr Thompson is not under any illusions about the challenges that lie ahead for the Church in Scotland, regardless of whether the nation is independent or part of the UK.

"Make no mistake. Whatever constitutional future we choose over the next few years, times could get pretty tough for Christians. All across the western world the march of militant secularism is increasingly threatening hard won religious liberties. We have to pray for the faith, hope and love to stand firm in the storm."

In the face of such concerns, he is adamant that independence is the firmest footing for a flourishing Scottish Church.

"If we Scottish Christians are choosing an optimal constitutional environment within which to stand our ground, fight our corner, survive or even prosper there is only one realistic option - independence."

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