I don't care about politics. I'm just not interested. Those politicians – they're all the same. They haven't a clue about what's going on out here in the real world. Politics does nothing for me. Why should I give them my vote? They don't care about me.
I have heard these sort of statements regularly over the last 10 years. In fact I have some sympathy for these views. Given what we pick up about politics from the media, I don't blame people. But when somebody says "I don't care about politics", I have to ask the question in return, "But do you care about your neighbourhood?"
To be honest, if your answer to that question is no, then you are probably reading the wrong article. I won't have the space here to convince you that your neighbours or your neighbourhood may be worth caring about. Grab your remote control, lie back on the sofa and enjoy your life. But if your answer to that question is "Yes", then let me put it to you that you do care about politics. You perhaps just don't know it yet.
Jesus said, "Love your neighbour as yourself". So we need to love others in the way that we love ourselves. But how do we love ourselves? We love ourselves by a huge variety of mental, physical and spiritual attitudes and practices that keep the show of life on the road. We feed ourselves. We buy clothes for ourselves. We communicate with others. We establish our official place in society through things like the NHS and national insurance numbers. We find jobs and somewhere to live. We organise diaries. We find love. We connect with God. It is worth stopping to remember that for some among us even these basic things may not be true.
Loving our neighbour "as ourselves" must therefore mean caring about all these aspects of other peoples' lives too. It doesn't get much more complicated than that. Our efforts to sort our lives out are not solely spiritual, so why should we shrink our efforts for others to that arena?
I genuinely used to hear church leaders say, "The government is there to cover the practical. I'll just cover the spiritual." This dualistic theology has sadly had a long-term impact on our thinking. Happily things are changing, but the legacy still lurks. It led the Church to build a separate sub-culture, leaving politics to the politicians as if they were a different breed of human, limiting our influence on society. The Church's voice seemed to be based on old privilege rather than our present engagement. We regret that now.
More encouraging news is that many Christians have been inspired in recent weeks by the SHOW UP campaign and are asking "How can we get involved?" So Christians on the Left is providing an ideal opportunity through The People's Hustings on Wednesday, March 18 at 6:40pm in Methodist Central Hall, Westminster.
This will be a hustings with a difference. The MPs and other candidates will be listening rather than talking. If you have been thinking, "I could do better than this lot", then this is your chance to prove it and put your money where your mouth is. Members of the public will get three minutes to make a speech on the question, "What is the biggest issue facing Britain in 2015, and how should we address it?" Details for application are below.
Our prayer is that events like The People's Hustings will start to blur the edges between 'normal life' and political life. You simply cannot divorce the personal from the social, economic, cultural and political environments within which we live and move and have our being. They have a huge influence on us and to address personal needs without addressing the context in which a life sits makes little sense and can actually lead to a lot of frustration.
There is a 78-year-old lady on our block called Marie. The life she lives is replicated all over the UK. Visualise an elderly person who you know well and ask yourself these questions, inserting your friend's name.
Do you care that Marie's bins are collected? Do you care that her local hospital is well supplied with the drugs she needs? Do you care that her bedroom is damp? Do you care that a GP can see her in her home? Do you care that she is safe from the scam artists who would attempt to snatch her hard-fought-for savings? Do you care about her noisy neighbours? Do you care about her ability to use public transport?
If you care about even one of these things, you care about politics. You care about politics because you care about people. Speak up, SHOW UP and make your voice heard.
Andy Flannagan is a London-based, Irish singer-songwriter who was previously a hospital doctor. He is also the Director of Christians on the Left. This piece contains extracts from Andy's new book Those Who Show Up.