Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Election, Christians and Politics


On my way to church this morning I passed a Baptist church notorious in the area for its posters. You know, "Traffic Delay? Time to pray!" that sort of thing. Today however it said Christian manifesto and underneath: And What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6.8)

I was impressed by that and pondered on it on and off during the morning. My beloved came home from her church with a copy of her diocesan newsletter. A heading stated USE YOUR CROSS and for one horrible moment I thought it was going to be an editorial on the issue of wearing religious jewellery. It was not. Bishop John was exhorting Christians to use their votes responsibly and explained what he was looking for in the political parties.

I shall be searching for signs of a concern for those most in need in our society. So in dealing with national debt I shall want the burden of cuts to fall on those of us with adequate resources, and not those who have inadequate housing, who are unemployed or who struggle with debt. They need protection. I shall be looking for safeguarding of foreign aid as we share our relative prosperity with countries facing famine or experiencing earthquakes. I shall be watching for a commitment to green policies to protect the environment. We also need evidence that we are a welcoming society, and hope candidates will adopt the "Sanctuary Pledge" which affirms our desire to help those driven out of their own countries by fear. I hope Christians will scour the election literature for these signs of hope - and then use their votes to support them.

And then I read the Sunday papers and it all went wrong. Here was a different sort of Christian aspiration: RISING TORY STAR PRAYED TO CURE GAY PEOPLE. Given that David Cameron had already deselected Philip Lardner, a primary school teacher, who was standing for the Tories in North Ayrshire and Arran for saying that homosexual conduct is not “normal” I wonder how long Philippa Stroud, who believes homosexuality is the result of demon possession, will last. Of course North Ayrshire and Arran is a lost cause for the Tories but Mrs. Stroud is likely to win for them in Sutton and Cheam. If Cameron is consistent she's history. We'll see. She is, after all, head of the Centre for Social Justice, a Conservative Think Tank which has done much to shape Tory policy.

Many Conservative backers - that is backers with checkbooks - belong to the Conservative Christian Fellowship. These are the sorts of people who insist on the teaching of creationism in schools. Another "Christian" organisation, the Christian Legal Centre, mentioned in the last post here, is linked with the American Alliance Defence Fund, funded by Erik Prinz, founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater.

Philippa Stroud is on record as saying how "massively important" it is for Christians to engage in politics because "we have a unique understanding of the value of human beings."

Well, that's absolutely true. Whose understanding, though, I wonder. Bishop John's of Philippa Stroud's?

Update: Philippa Stroud was beaten into second place by 200+ votes. Given that she was seen as something of a "cert" one can't help but wonder to what extent the adverse publicity about her conservative religious views played a role in her losing the seat.