This week, as part of my job with Christians in Politics (CiPol), I attended the weekly worship service in the beautiful 700-year-old chapel of St Mary Undercroft in Westminster. Following the service, I stayed in Westminster to have lunch and catch up with a group of friends who work in Parliament. As we were having lunch, the ominous division bells began ringing, the sign that a vote was about to happen. As the various MPs and their entourages began rushing past us, we began discussing the day's key votes about the upcoming election.
Strangely, there was a more hopeful tone to our conversation, as opposed to the generally dour tone of discussion around politics and Brexit. The source of that hope was not the election itself, but rather the seemingly pedantic debate over the date in which it is being scheduled for.
While politicians constantly theatrically throw around rhetoric and word play to mask their true intentions around votes, it is clear that the date of the election is heavily connected to whether students will still be at university or at home for the Christmas break.
This gives me hope as it demonstrates how politicians from across the spectrum are becoming increasingly aware of the impact that voting by young people has on elections. It gives me hope because this demonstrates a wider trend in increasing political and social engagement from young people in the UK over the last few years.
We need only to look back as far as the last general election in 2017 to see the growing impact of young people at the polls. One of the most defining features of the shock result was the turnout of young voters who turned the tide. The proportion of 18- to 34-year-olds voting increased from 41% to 56%, a dramatic increase to say the least.
We have also recently seen young people are no longer content to see their future being thrown away by those in power and authority as they took to the streets across the country in their hundreds of thousands to protest climate change and our government's role in contributing to it.
Students and young people have demonstrated their deomcractic and civil power in the last few years and the debate over the date of this election demonstrates the growing awareness of that in Westminster.
While it is wonderful in and of itself to see the growing trend in political activeness in young people, here at Christians in Politics we are specifically interested in whether there has been a similar trend in young Christians. We shamelessly profess that our vision is to have Christians up and down the country stepping into politics from across the spectrum, but with loyalty to our God before any political tribe.
This vision is exactly the same for our young people. We crave the sight of young passionate Christians working together in government, locally and nationally to bring about God's Kingdom in our United Kingdom.
And so I turn to a recent event that I attended that was hosted by our friends at Just Love, a Christian charity seeking to release and inspire Christian students to fulfil their Biblical call to social justice. The event, hosted in a church was for Just Love alumni living in London and interested or involved in politics.
I was attending both as a Just Love alumnus and as an intern for CiPol supporting Andy Flannagan, CiPol's executive director, who was the guest speaker. It was a remarkable scene, over 30 young people less than five years out of university working at the heart of politics.
Within the group there were parliamentary assistants working in the Houses of Lords and Commons, people working in the Brexit departments of the government and of individual parties, civil servants, community organisers, lobbyists and even Google. Here before me was the vision of Christians in Politics being lived out as young Christians were coming together from across political and social divides to pray with and encourage one another, all with a vision of Kingdom before Tribe.
This was just one snapshot of the thousands of young Christians up and down the country entering politics in an increasingly divisive and tribal environment that is crying out for Christ followers to take the lead and bring about political reconciliation and cooperation.
For far too long Christians have stood by the side commentating about politics and more often than not contributing to the polarising and distancing of political parties. But these two instances encourage me that not only are young people becoming more involved in politics and defining elections, but more importantly, there are Christians pursuing God's Kingdom in the very heart of politics. The narrative of late in UK politics has been one of despair and hopelessness but in these young Christians I see a shining beam of hope.
For those young Christians looking to engage more widely in politics, we at Christians in Politics want to partner with and support you in that journey. Contact myself at [email protected] to join our Young Christians in Politics (YCIP) Facebook group, local groups both for younger people and general CiPol groups or to hear about events we run for young people around the country. All of this as well as our various videos and resources can also be found at christiansinpolitics.org.uk.