Scottish Christian politics: is the party over?
The escalating assault on Christian values in 21st-century Britain from emboldened neo-secularist agendas, coupled with the extremely grave economic and social problems now facing us, is causing Christians to increasingly consider how disciples of Christ can exert greater influence in and on the world in which we live.
At the Scottish elections in 2007, more than a few were encouraged by the emergence of the Scottish Christian Party and the attendant prospect of enhanced engagement with the cut and thrust of the national and local political process.
Although the SCP was an ‘infant’ and struggled to take adult steps in very early life, many gave the party the benefit of the doubt. Even the fact that the Party’s leader was located ‘south of the border’ was not a huge deterrence to those who empathised with what was being attempted within Scotland.
What the SCP did manage to achieve in a very short timescale and with very limited resources was, many would say, commendable. OK, there were controversies around which Bible version to use and some of the more radical policies relating to how criminals should be dealt with, but none of the objections were insurmountable; and the general understanding was that policies which were being, of necessity, developed ‘on the hoof’ were fluid rather than set in stone.
Across the country, the Western Isles offered the best change of gaining a seat; and with a local, very able and well-respected candidate, a very encouraging response and result – albeit falling short of a win – was obtained.
With the election over, the hyper-activity necessarily dropped down a gear, but some of the embryonic mechanisms, discussions and necessary infrastructure-building have since received, and are still receiving – in the Highlands at least – considered and considerable input and effort.
However at a national level – and, we are now two years down the track – there does not appear to be much visible evidence of thought-through policies, public engagement, candidate selection or other solid preparations for the next election(s).
Meanwhile, persistent efforts by SCP enthusiasts and critics alike have consistently failed to elicit responses from the party, or prompt it into public debate. And unanswered phone calls and e-mails to the body, even to join its ranks, have created an impression that the SCP was a flash in the pan. Additionally, those SCP activists who, in 2007, refuted charges of carpet-bagging and opportunism are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain their earlier arguments. There have been also concerns expressed about an autocratic ethos which is apparently stifling development of the SCP at all levels of operation, influence and credibility.
To Party or not...
One of the perennial arguments surrounding Christian political engagement is whether it is better to work through the mainstream parties or, alternatively, to establish a distinct and discrete Christian entity. However this is a false dichotomy: these options are not mutually exclusive. Some (Christians) might be called into mainstream parties; others might feel the need to work within an exclusively Christian outfit. It can be ‘both and’ rather than ‘either/or’.
[And at the end of the day, each individual has to find God’s will for his or her life.]
But all of this goes far beyond the question of the viability of any one party – Christian or otherwise.
The facts remain. Another election is looming and our country is increasingly being dragged down –economically, socially and spiritually – by policies which are devoid of traditional values and moral principles. Meanwhile Christians are still permitted to run for office and still allowed a vote.
The question before us
So the question remains. How does the Christian community respond to the spiritual degeneration within our (democratic) country and the prevailing political process?
Some are of the view that Christian discipleship and secular politics should be kept entirely discrete from one another: that these areas of life represent two quite separate ‘kingdoms’.
Many others feel it would be an abrogation of our responsibilities under God and as citizens with a Christian faith, to fail to get involved.
Since the time of the last election at least one prominent SCP candidate has been encouraged by his community to stand again; but this time as an ‘independent’.
And, with the backing of local prayer and support allied to the substantial store of research and expertise within the Christian community nationally, this could be a viable alternative.
And aside from running for seats in parliament, there are (surely?) many opportunities for Christians at local level and within their respective communities, to engage with politicians and the policy process.
Without suggesting how God might lead in all of these things, the need to be salt and light is ever before us. So these questions do not to go away.
Cast your vote below.