Blog Lizzie Francis – ‘Why the UK General Elections Changed my Mind’
It have definitely been an interesting few days in the UK! The results of the election last week have shed light on a number of matters, and just like with the Brexit vote, everyone has a different opinion and piece of wisdom to share. For me, it’s actually been an incredibly insightful time for reflection, and it’s really helped me to want to re-focus on the things that ought to matter. I spent this morning in conversation with a good friend, trying to reaffirm to him why my loyalties still remained with the Conservatives even after public opinion had waned significantly. It is a party I have supported for 10 years, and I still believed it was able to best accommodate Christian belief. Even after the disappointment with the same-sex couples Act a few years ago, I still was willing to hold fast to a party that accommodates more free Commons votes on moral issues; houses politicians who can unashamedly stand up for the unborn child and end of life dignity; and is willing to stand up for the importance of Sundays. This is in addition to the economic, social welfare, and government-model reasons why I am a Conservative.
However, through speaking to my friend last Saturday, I realised that this perspective was inherently flawed! I had been attempting to fit what I believed about the Bible and living out the Christian faith into a particular political party, even when this involved compromises. For, I thought it was surely better to be realistic and support a party that had a realistic chance of success, rather than nothing at all. The problem with this, though, is that as with all those other political ‘experts’ who make loads of noise, all opinions about policy/ legislation/ people changes multiple times when a new twist and turn happens in the political sphere, and I had only let myself become caught up in justifying what was being debated in the Commons from a ‘here and now’ knowledge of events.
Why was I not starting first and foremost with the Bible and then assessing everything else in light of that? What are the most important things that should not be compromised at any cost, that we as Christians seek to always advocate, regardless of the ever changing and unstable national and global situations we face?
- The ability to be able to worship God. As the first commandment, Jesus says “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength”. Any restrictions on us being able to personally worship and be devoted to God are contrary to His will. Surely we should be alert to any motions to restrict our rights to individually and collectively praise God.
- The ability to share the gospel. Jesus commands us to preach the gospel and make disciples, and the early Christians living out this priority was the reason that the church was able to spread so effectively. Any infringement upon our right to speak to others about the faith and hope we have in Christ will hinder the gospel being spread. However, we have sadly seen this right be diminished or silenced in various countries, and in recent years, under many circumstances in the UK.
In addition to these two core freedoms that we must always seek, regardless of the costs, are the other Biblical foundations for a Godly society – family units made up of one father, one mother, and their right to raise their children in knowledge and fear of the Lord; the protection of the most vulnerable in society and those who cannot speak for themselves (importantly including the unborn); and the freedom to live out Christian values in a way that is not compromised by prevailing tradition or evolving culture/ evolving ‘rights/ entitlements’ rhetoric.
A notably feature of this UK election has been the way by which individual and public opinion has changed so much over the previous weeks. But then again, surely that’s to be expected! My mind has changed so much about a variety of different issues recently, and it will continue to do so the more information I read/ hear. How are we as Christians ever supposed to engage with anyone else in meaningful debate and advance the Kingdom when we can’t even agree in our own minds to commit to political parties/ policies/ certain members of Parliament or leaders?!
Suppose if we as Christians started from seeking to advance and protect the two principles above as priorities above all else, could we actually proactively engage with each other about how best to achieve those goals? Perhaps we would view policies more in light of how they protect or infringe upon those values instead of how they respond to the current crisis? (This includes difficult decisions about what should be done regarding the ever-increasing terror threat). Perhaps we could all mutually benefit from appreciating other party’s stances on various issues instead of automatically being opposed to them ‘just because they’re not our own’? (The arrangement the Conservative party is making with the DUP from Northern Ireland has highlighted that Christians in the Conservative party could actually be encouraged as politicians through the example of another party that is more willing to stand by Biblical values than its own). Perhaps we might even be willing to break out of presuming that there are only mainstream ‘second best’ parties to support, and be brave enough even to pray for a new party that is based on the foundations of what we believe and long to see for society from a Biblical perspective?
Although my personal vote is still with the Conservatives, this election has helped me think much wider and to come back to the tenets of what I believe, and why. I know that thinking about politics and society is always going to be an evolving discipline since there are many ways to interpret Biblical mandates and many ways to think pragmatically about how to ensure Biblical morals are lived out in society, but the encouragement is that in trying to remain focused on the fundamental things listed above, we will be less likely to be swayed by ideas of the present day that will inevitably come and go. Just like what Theresa May and many others before her illustrate, all things political will remain temporary and moth-prone. Since the youth vote in the UK was a main contributing factor in our recent election, and this same youth vote has been seen in multiple other European countries to shake up the political status quo in recent years, perhaps now is also the time to encourage and assist young Christian politicians from a variety of parties to wrestle with how the kingdom can be truly lived out in politics. We’ve all got so, so much to learn! ECPYouth may really be utilised as a tool for God’s glory…for such a time as this.
Lizzie Francis, ECPYouth Secretary (UK)