(Julian indulges in a gentle political fantasy. He imagines what he would say if he were invited by a local comprehensive school to talk to teenagers about the Christian perspective on the general election.)
I have been invited into your school as your local vicar to give a Christian perspective on the General Election. This is quite a hard task because Jesus Christ said virtually nothing about politics. He did command his followers to pay taxes to the Roman authorities in charge of his country but otherwise made no comment on the hot political topics of his time. In fact, he emphatically told the Roman Governor on the day he was crucified, that is executed by being nailed to an upright wooden cross: ‘My kingship is not of this world’ (John 18v36 – RSV).
However, Jesus did teach his followers important things about what they should believe and how they should behave. And now, following his resurrection from the dead, he continues to teach his followers through the Christian holy book, the Bible.
So, what does the Bible teach about the Christian and politics?
There are at least three clear moral principles rooted in the Bible with a bearing on politics that Christians should agree on.
First, it is always wrong for the rich and the powerful to exploit the poor and the vulnerable. The biblical author James slammed rich landowners in the Christian churches he was writing to for underpaying their agricultural workers. ‘The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts,’ James declared (James 5v4). The God of the Bible hates the economic exploitation of the poor by the rich.
Christians in British politics in the 19th Century such as William Wilberforce and the Earl of Shaftesbury took a clear moral stand against the economic exploitation of the poor and the powerless by the super-rich, a significant proportion of whom were church-goers, and hugely improved living conditions for many people.
Secondly, the God-created institution of marriage between one man and one woman for life is vitally important in every nation. Countries where marriage is weak and large numbers of children are growing up without married parents are prone to serious social disorder and national failure leading to hardship and suffering.
Related to the issue of marriage, Christians should stand up for the Bible’s teaching that the only right context for the expression of sexual love is heterosexual marriage. Countries where sex outside marriage is widely practised are bound to be unstable.
Thirdly, the Bible teaches the moral responsibility of all governments to uphold the law and order necessary for stable civilisation.The biblical writer Paul in his letter to the church in 1st Century Rome wrote that the job of the governing authorities was to execute God’s justice against criminals. Paul wrote that in this duty the authorities, in his time the Roman imperial rulers, were ‘God’s servant to execute his wrath (his right moral anger) on the wrongdoer’ (Romans 13v4). On this basis, a strong Christian case can be made for the reintroduction of capital punishment for murderers in our country.
So, whilst Christians can disagree legitimately on many practical political issues because the Bible does not offer a definite view on them – for example whether utilities or rail networks should be publicly or privately owned (personally I back public ownership of these services) – the Bible is crystal clear on these three moral principles.
All Christians should uphold them in their approach to politics because their Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, upholds them.
(It is surely very doubtful whether the vicar would be invited back after this. But what is even more uncertain is whether he would avoid prosecution under a future British government.)