Today I went to a hustings meeting to meet and hear the views of local political candidates in the run up to the UK election. I’m not particularly politically minded, and not because I don’t trust politicians and think they’re all in it for themselves. Actually, I admire a lot of politicians for the hope they have to make society better and the conviction that this is worth working hard for. I think this is a good dream.
But, like a lot of people, I suspect that there is no longer a lot of difference between the parties and that it makes little difference who is in power. Is any party going to have the guts to make difficult decisions and changes that will be unpopular in the short term but crucial in the long term if it means they are likely to lose popularity (and therefore probably power)? Why are parties always discrediting the others and trying to make themselves look better by putting others down? When individuals do this generally we know it’s because they’re insecure.
My other reason for maintaining some distance from politics is my uneasiness at fusing religion with politics. I would say I am a Jesus-follower, although my journey of faith is far from smooth and I have doubts at least every other day to be brutally honest (I’m sure there’ll be more to come on that!) Still, I believe Jesus was onto something and I have an insatiable drive to keep pursuing him and questioning. It astounds me that Jesus never passed comment about the Governent of his day or tried to persuade his followers to lobby leaders or pressure them into passing certain laws or abolishing others. He never demonstrated outside the abortion clinics of his day for example or tried to put pressure on Roman governors to introduce fairer, less violent laws. Instead of advocating a power-over approach, coercing people into behaving a certain way, he spoke frequently about (and demonstrated) power-under. He encouraged people to change the world by radically loving and serving it themselves, not expecting Governments to do it for them. Jesus’ message seems to me to have been political because its outworking would change the world, but in a totally different way to governments, slowly but surely and from within (like a mustard seed, hence this blog’s title!) I know this seems naive, unrealisitc, simplistic and possibly ineffective (or not effective quickly enough!) But I think that is our human way of viewing things because we find it hard to leave the outcome to God. And I believe the means of achieveing something, even a better world, are just as important as the ends to God, if not more so. Shane Claibourne has written about this brilliantly in his 2 books ‘The Irresistable Revolution’ and ‘Jesus for President’. Also, Greg Boyd (a very down to earth American pastor) did a great series of teachings on this idea at his church in 2004. The series is called ‘The Myth of a Christian Nation’ and can be found under ‘sermon resources’ at http://www.whchurch.org. It came out of his intense frustration at being constantly harrassed by political parties to persuade his congregation to vote a certain way in the Aerican elections, as if there was only one God-ordained, God-sanctioned way to vote. As if God was on the side of some parties and not others.
However, despite my misgivings about politics, I am grateful that people, fellow-women, fought and died for me to be free to have my say. I also believe that the Government can make life a lot fairer, more just and peaceful for many people. Thus it is possible to serve people and the community by working in and through Government, though power-over can never transform people’s hearts. Therefore I want to vote and as things stand I have no clue who to vote for, even after the hustings. If anything, after tonight’s meeting, I am more aware of how ignorant I am about a lot of important topics.
I also had this realisation today while talking to a good friend who is PA to Lord Sainsbury. Lord Sainsbury is currently stuck in Tanzania because of the volcanic ash cloud! He is there to help find ways to make Tanzania’s cotton industry far more profitable and efficient. My friend was making the point that Tanzanians (and many people from other African nations) need to be able to sell their produce abroad to make a profit and it is this money that will gradually help African nations go through the process of mechanisation and development, which the First World has gone through. Therefore, whilst we might think that it is better and more sustainable/more environmentally friendly for us here to buy all our goods from local sources, this may in fact be harming developing countries. He has come to this conclusion from first hand experience. Once again, it highlights how everything is so interconnected and solutions are never simple.
I would like to be more knowledgeable about this world! I don’t know how to realistically achieve this aim alongside all of life’s other demmands. But next blog I’ll try and think through some of the questions asked (and answers given) at tonight’s hustings.