Seven MPs resigned from the labour party yesterday and I felt glad. It felt like breath of fresh air for me because like them, I don’t I feel like I don’t belong in the party politics of 2019.
My parents never told us who they voted for, but the CND marches, support for the miners and general disparagement of privatisation didn’t leave much to the imagination. So red (and occasionally green) was always where I felt I belonged politically. My parents did however tell me where they stood regards God – stories of Jesus and of their own faith – but they left it up to me to make my own mind up about that too.
I became a Christian when I was 13, but was not until I was at theological college in my mid twenties that I began to think more seriously about Christian politics. This has crystallised with the help of Jim Wallis, C.A.R.E., The Jubilee Centre, The Evangelical Alliance and others to a kind of Christian Relationism. I’m pretty sure that I know what the bible says is important: human relationships, freedom, justice and good stewardship of resources. In recent years I have found myself more socially conservative than the Tories (on relationship issues), more liberal than the Lib Dems (on freedom of belief and expression), struggling to see realism in the new green and SNP visions of the future and alienated from Labour (on Brexit, anti-Semitism, Corbynism etc). I’m disillusioned with the whole system in which profit is always the bottom line and party tribalism seems to be trump the national interest. Which is why my ears pricked at these resignations.
One of my favourite stories in the bible is the parable of the Shrewd Manager. The manager realises he is going to get fired and cuts his masters debts, ingratiating himself with the debtors and painting his master in a generous light. When he gets fired, the master has to grudgingly commend him for his shrewd handling of the situation. Jesus goes on to say ‘use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone you’ll be welcomed into eternal dwellings.’ (Luke 16:9) The point is not that Christians should cheat their employers – there are plenty of commandments and stories in the bible that show God does not approve of that. The point is that if you’re a follower of Jesus, you graft for a different gaffer, you belong in a different kingdom – not round here. Use whatever is at your disposal to invest there.
The Christians I know are activists, stuck into making a difference to society through all sorts of voluntary community, development and advocacy work in their spare time. This voluntary work can be really fulfilling, but it can also feel like you are swimming against the tide of a world where people and relationships are deemed less important than profit and party politics. The same Christians work in industry, for statutory bodies and in the finance and service sectors. Faith generally makes for loyal, honest and hard-working employees; but there are times when Christian values clash with company procedures and Christians take a stand and/or feel marginalised. Holding a different set of values and investing in a different kingdom can feel alienating.
Maybe this voicing of political alienation by seven ex labour MPs is the dawn of a new politics in the UK or maybe this will come to nothing. Whatever happens, I’m going to keep using such economic and political influence as I do have to invest in God’s kingdom, where I feel and know I belong… And it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who does not feel they belong in the party politics of the UK in 2019.