All across the UK people are finding unity in a shared mission. Those who are running food banks, debt centres and all manner of creative projects are realizing that they can serve more effectively when they work together with other churches. This work is crucial. But there is a strategic temptation. Civil rights leader Martin Luther King once explained that as the church we enjoy playing the good Samaritan on life’s roadside. It gives us a sense of significance and an immediate buzz from having tangibly helped. But he went on to warn that we rarely take the time to do the harder work of going back to the Jericho road. Who is working out how to stop more people getting mugged? Could we improve the lighting, or increase the policing? Perhaps some more CCTV cameras are needed? The thing is that those are political decisions, often made around dull committee room tables poring over statistics and reports. Not as exciting as helping someone up close.
Through these grassroots projects, people are exposed to some of the huge needs in their neighbourhoods. They see the challenges for those on limited or no incomes. They see the difficulties of those whose family backgrounds work against self-belief or learning. These interactions leave people thinking – Why? Why is the playing field so skewed? What can we do that means that we aren’t coming back here every year to do the gardening, bring food, or restore the playground? Once you start asking these questions, you often come up with political answers. But one Christian will feel inspired to campaign for a living wage to be paid, while another may see the same situation and campaign for measures to strengthen family life, or free up entrepreneurs to start small businesses. It’s another reason we sometimes shy away from politics, because we want to avoid conflict with one another. But have we been playing it safe, shouting from the sidelines for too long? I believe we need to get on the pitch.
That is why Christians in Politics have created the SHOW UP campaign. In the run-up to a general election, it is all too easy to spend our time discussing who to vote for, allowing the church to retreat into the role of commentator and critiquer rather than participant. Could 2015 be a springboard so that in 2020, we aren’t just asking the questions at hustings, we are answering them? Because of the incredible community work we have mentioned, church members are often best placed to assess the needs of their communities. The question is will we keep those opinions to ourselves, or will we SHOW UP?
Please watch the campaign video and ask for it to be shown at your church gathering. The SHOW UP website – www.christiansinpolitics.org.uk/showup has a suite of resources for churches to enable deeper engagement – including Bible Studies, videos and articles demystifying politics. For those who want to go deeper, a book is also available called “Those Who Show Up” written by some bloke called Andy Flannagan with a foreword by Archbishop Justin Welby – http://muddypearl.com/books/those-who-show-up/
“I want to encourage you to show up in the public life in your town… As opportunities come up to influence the community where you live, do it in a way that demonstrates God’s love for all people, his passion for justice and his concern for the vulnerable. As the Church let our engagement in the political life of our town last longer than the elections, be more than gathering for hustings and asking the politicians where they stand on hot-button issues.”
Krish Kandiah, LST
We’d love to hear how you’re involved in politics, or maybe why you’re not? Leave a comment below!