Christians must start to affect politics from the inside

Political parties aren't perfect but joining them can still be biblical, argues Elizabeth Berridge, Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship.

Is your church perfect? No of course not, but you joined it. Is the business you work for perfect? No yet you work for it? Is the sports club or gym you belong to perfect? No yet you joined it? Are you the only person on the planet with perfect family relationships? No but you remain committed to them.

Why is it that we will join institutions that are imperfect, but when it comes to political parties we demand a level of purity and perfection before we will join them? As a Christian working in politics I come across this double standard all too often and our political process is poorer as a result.

Even a cursory glance at the Bible shows us that this attitude is incorrect. Daniel did not say ‘Babylon is too dirty, I fear I would have to compromise so I cannot go in there.’

Esther entered the palace at Susa after the King had thrown out his first wife. She was not heard to complain ‘look at the way he treats women, it might pollute me in there.’

In the New Testament the clear mandate to be ‘salt’ and ‘light’ in the world does not have any hidden terms and conditions giving us an exemption for political parties. So quite clearly, joining mainstream political parties, (not the BNP) is part of Christians’ role as disciples and being ‘in the world but not of the world’.

Although there are a rising number of Christians working in politics who are asking for Christians to join political parties, I suspect as a community we will not cross this final frontier of involvement until church leaders call and release their congregations to serve in this way.

When was the last time you heard or read of a church leader doing so? There have been a number of books written for this election but none covers, adequately in my view, the clear distinction between the inside and outside of our political structures and the need to be involved in both.

It has been great to see, of late, the increasing number of Christians involved in campaigns and lobby groups. This activity means writing to your MP, signing a petition or perhaps attending a rally.

You only have to look at the rise of environmental issues to see how protest on the outside can influence the priorities for politicians. However, it is interesting to note that this movement led to the establishment of a political party which now has a number of local councillors and perhaps its first MP in 2010. They got involved as decision makers on the inside of the system.

Christians somehow seem to be content with the involvement that is outside of the system; putting your concerns to those who make the decisions but who often have secular liberal worldviews. Christians need to progress from this activity, important as it is, to getting involved in all the parties and being prepared to step up to the mark, and make the decisions that affect our local communities and our nation.

This is a long term, generational project that will cost us as a community, it will be sacrificial, we will often be misunderstood and attacked, and many will fail before some succeed. Sounds biblical to me…

Elizabeth Berridge is the Executive Director of the Conservative Christian Fellowship which is based in Conservative Campaign HQ and is a trustee of Kainos, a Christian Charity that works in prisons.

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