Thought for the week, 2 July; Religion and politics

How far should religious figures be involved in politics? The father of Theresa May was a vicar; he would not allow his daughter to display election posters in the vicarage as he thought these might act as barriers between him and his parishioners. At the other end of the spectrum was Bruce Kent, the former chair of CND who has just died He served as army officer during his national service in the 1950s and then was ordained a priest in the Roman Catholic church. He could have achieved high ecclesiastical office, but he set it aside for his commitment to what he understood to be the Gospel of Christ; in particularly, a passionate belief that possession of nuclear weapons was a moral evil. He worked tirelessly for nuclear disarmament. Eventually he resigned from the priesthood, convinced that his calling as a Christian meant he could not in conscience abide by the strictures of the church. Bruce Kent had no time for those who though religion and politics could not mix; for him, his faith had to be lived out in the political world. In vicar-speak, he believed he was called to speak with the prophetic voice, just as in Old Testament times, the prophets spoke truth to the corrupt rulers of Israel and Judah. 

Whilst I incline to the views of Theresa May’s late father on trying not to impose my own views on others, I always fully supported Kent’s right as a Christian to become involved in politics, although I did not share his analysis. I am glad today that Christians are still prepared to enter the political fray and argue for policies or parties based on their Christian convictions, even when I disagree with them. What I do ask is that they do so with humility, however strong their own convictions. I have always been impressed by the attitude of a Quaker, who I once heard praying.  Quakers are famously pacifists, I was in no doubt he stood on nuclear weapons, but he finished his prayer by asking for humility, in case he was wrong and those who disagreed with him were right. Perhaps this is an attitude many politicians could learn from.