Sunday, May 9, 2010

So, the election is past. The role of Christians in the electoral process

On the Sunday Programme this morning (Radio 4) I heard one of the invited guests assert that the principle of proportional Representation is a moral issue and one the churches should champion. He noted that the churches had been very organised in encouraging people to get out and vote - rightly so - but was disappointed that they seem to have fallen silent on the issue of P.R.

Given that the synod of the C of E is elected by a form of P.R. - a fact hitherto unknown to me - he wondered why there wasn't a greater lead from its Bishops.

I wonder that too now. Is it a moral issue for Christians and if not, should it be?

As regards to the vexed question of the heady mix of religion and politics (see post of May 2nd) I have noted the rise of the Conservative/Fundamentalist wing of Christianity in this election and it disturbs me.

Many Conservative backers - that is backers with checkbooks - belong to the Conservative Christian Fellowship. Amongst its membership appear to be the sorts of Christians who insist on the teaching of creationism in schools, who are anti women's ministry, anti abortion rights and homophobic. Another "Christian" organisation, the Christian Legal Centre, mentioned in my post of April 30th, is linked with the American Alliance Defence Fund, funded by Erik Prinz, founder of the controversial private security firm Blackwater.

When I googled the Conservative Christian Fellowship I found these mission statements:

The Conservative Christian Fellowship is a membership organisation of Christians who support the Conservatives. Our members range from those who just vote Conservative and want to pray and encourage decision makers to MPs, Councillors and Peers. The CCF has members all over the UK and is an interdenominational fellowship.

The CCF contributes to the life and thinking of the Conservative Party and seeks to build a strong, relational bridge between the party and the Christian community. The CCF facilitates meetings between the Christian community and the party on various policy areas such as education, international development, home affairs and community cohesion.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with such aspirations, but given that Philippa Stroud who believes that homosexuality is caused by demon possession, is listed as a member, I was disappointed not to find exactly what the CCF actually means by the "Christian Community" nor, perhaps more to the point, what it understands as Christian doctrine, or perhaps even more importantly, whose understanding of "Christian doctrine" it is espousing.

I found this link interesting

Is this what the Conservative party is becoming? Has the party really changed as David Cameron asserts? Have we as a society actually questioned that assertion? To me it seems as if the Conservative party is looking more and more like the Republican Party and that doesn't really resonate here: the cultures - both religious and political - are too different. If the Conservative Party continues like this, and if voters find these attitudes not to their taste in a Britain which is more liberal at its grassroots than Conservatism is reflecting, it will surely be marginalised out of existence.

I am not arguing that candidates with such views should not stand (unless there is an issue of party discipline where someone is going against party policy - that is a matter for the individual parties). This is a democracy but I would like to see more transparency about the lobby groups and other organisations candidates support or are involved with. How can a voter make an educated choice between candidates if there are hidden agendas? I would not knowing vote for any candidate who exhibited attitudes which I find distasteful, regardless of any party loyalty I might hold, and that is my democratic right. That right is compromised if candidates who will seek to influence government policy as a result of their own agendas - particularly if those agendas are not overt within, or stand against, party policy - are not made to declare their interests.

Of course there are voters who would vote for a goat if it had a blue, red or gold rosette on it regardless, which is why the issue also needs to be a matter of party discipline. Any party should be weeding out people with such illiberal views.