Faith and politics: what would Jesus do?
Catherine Waddams, economist and professor considers Jesus' response in the political arena.
He was clear about his mission – that all people should have life in all its fullness. But different parts of his teaching, and other parts of the Bible, emphasise different ‘political’ approaches – a more ‘left-wing’ approach based on social justice and compassion, or a more ‘right-wing’ focus on individual responsibility. Not much help in deciding which political party to join.
The referendum revealed both views and strength of feeling which surprised many. We need to listen to these views and address them, as well as more familiar approaches, quite apart from what sort of relationship with the EU and the rest of the world the country chooses.
Perhaps church people can relate to feelings of disenfranchisement through their own experiences. Though we have our faith in common, a church congregation often includes people with very different backgrounds and approaches, and election time may produce a rainbow of political allegiances.
People have a vested interest in their faith and in the place where they have worshipped, and often contributed their time, money, energy and ideas over many years. The church community may have supported us through difficult times of ill health, bereavement or personal crisis. When changes occur, for example, the appointment of a priest with a very different vision, or the formation of benefices out of previously independent parishes, church members can feel threatened, frightened or betrayed.
Respect for different views, understanding strength of feeling and providing pastoral support for all is crucial – how solutions are found is as important as identifying the solutions themselves.
Can we extend this process to our political engagement with the wider world, accepting the strength of feeling of those we disagree with, and respecting them? I am aware myself of how strongly I feel about some issues – but find it difficult to allow others the space to feel as strongly about their own views.
Jesus would certainly have recognised the strength of feeling both in religious and secular settings, including misrepresentation of others’ views and attitudes and the crude taunts which we have seen across the Brexit debate.
As we move into Lent and towards Holy Week, perhaps we will have a new appreciation of how those events may have felt for Jesus and his disciples. Feelings have certainly been running high in the last few months and recognising the strength of those feelings, and what generates them, is crucial for the future wellbeing of the nation.
While Jesus may give us little guidance on which is the ‘correct’ side of a debate, he provides a shining example of how to engage in the debate. He was certainly not afraid to challenge or be challenged, though he often chose his own timing, or slipped away from confrontations. But he set his face to Jerusalem, to the final confrontation and the ultimate sacrifice.
While he was passionate (for example in overturning tables in the Temple) and certainly was not afraid to say what he thought, he rarely lost his temper, and often saw apparently simple questions as much more complex than his questioners (for example on paying taxes).
So, let’s not ask what Jesus would have said, but rather how he would have said it. That might be a fine Lenten rule, both for our churches and our country.
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Tim Lenton meets some local Christians expressing their faith in the political arena.More
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Aylsham High School Festival of Faith
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When people in Norfolk ask the Revd Philip Harvey where he's from, he pauses. The pause accounts for the fact that he left Australia in 2002, then lived in Germany, Oman, Luxembourg and, since July 2017, in Sprowston (north Norwich) as curate. He shares his thoughts on the perspective this physical and spiritual journey has given him.More
People of faith in a time of uncertainty
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Bishop Alan's urges us to be counter-cultural.More