I am what can be described as a cradle Anglican – baptised at the age of six months, in St James Parish Church in Montego Bay by an ex-patriot priest. I have never left the church and have welcomed wholeheartedly a church that has encouraged us to take seriously what it means to 'Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, .... love thy neighbour as thyself.' Sunday school attendance was weekly; and there I had teachers who were not interested in teaching occasionally; they were there every week and it was not their interpretation of the Bible they taught us. No, they wanted us to learn the stories – both Old and New Testament.
I was particularly struck by the stories, the twist and turns; we did not have teachers who shielded us from the violent bits (eg Cain killing his brother, Abel or the crucifixion). It was all out there for us to take in. At a very early age, the fundamental lesson I learnt was that God was not just interested in some 'out of earth' "Hallelujah" experience. Instead, God was interested in how we lived; God was interested in whether we had food to eat; clothing to wear; God was interested in how the most vulnerable in society was looked after. It therefore became an imperative for me that if I was going to be 'a Christian', then I too had to similarly care about what God cared about, I too had to care for the most vulnerable in society. I also learnt that if God was the father of humanity, then I was part of a worldwide family and therefore I needed to be concerned about 'my brothers and sisters' beyond my front door or beyond my neighbourhood.
There is a particular OT story, told by Nathan the prophet to King David – how a rich man had taken the treasured sheep of a poor farmer to kill for a feast (the only sheep, brought up as a pet, within this poor man's family), when the rich man himself, had many more animals to choose from. King David was incensed when he heard about it and pronounced that the rich man should be punished. "You are that man", King David was told. It struck home quite clearly, that God really had a passion when it came for genuinely caring about others and especially the underdog. These stories of the great interest taken with regards to the lives of ordinary people, was for me, politics. And it is this kind of politics that I believe today, as Christians, we are failing to get right.
Christians today are somehow mistaken in the belief that just holding a set of political ideology or following a party line is all that is necessary. The ideology has become king and we have forgotten a key calling as followers of Christ, which is to attend to improving the lives of those most vulnerable in the world. It is true to say that there are those Christians who do not even get as far as engaging with an ideology. They start from the context that this physical world is only temporary, we are just passing through to the next world and that it is this next world that is of any importance. Holding this latter view also means that we are getting it wrong in relation to politics. I have seen nothing in the gospels which lead me to believe that I am to ignore the hardships that are in the present. What I learn from the gospels are strategies in coping with the things that I may not be able to change.
Whichever of the latter two positions we take, we ought to adhere to the instructions of our Lord to the disciples when he caught them fishing in the same place, '..... Cast your net on the other side.' As we approach national elections, this is a good time for us to reassess our political views and actions. Like the disciples we may just be rewarded with a great haul!
Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin will be speaking at Faith in Politics?, a day-long event organised by Christian Aid, The Children's Society and Greenbelt on Saturday February 28 at City Temple Church in London. Other speakers include Dr Rowan Williams, Giles Fraser and Rev Suzanne Matale.