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Honouring our dual citizenship

How does your faith influence your politics? Perhaps it leads you to support a particular party or, at the very least, to do your civic duty and vote in elections. For some Christians the answer is that politics has no place in how they live their faith, for a host of reasons.

These include the argument that politics and religion are a toxic combination and should be kept in separate compartments. They point to what the Islamic State is doing in Syria and Iraq in the name of their religion. The ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland were another example. They are shocking examples but how reasonable are they as grounds for opting out in a stable democracy?

Nor is the argument genuinely Christian. It is more of a secular humanist point of view. Christians who opt out of politics leave the major direction of our country to people who are ignorant of and indifferent to biblical Christian values. That is the route to making Britain a secular society.

Another objection to political involvement is that politics is a dirty business. The MPs expenses scandal is cited as an example. Politicians never give a straight answer to media questions and they are only interested in winning power, it is claimed. Specific policies and legislation such as the same Sex Marriage Act are cited as evidence of their bad influence. They rightly recognise that compromise is inevitable in politics and that is incompatible with their Christian worldview.

Many issues facing Government are complex and people disagree about them. Some want immigrant labour whilst others experience the effects of this on school class sizes and NHS waiting times. Some want a generous benefit system whilst others want to restrict public expenditure and encourage all who can do so to find a job. Dictators impose their will; democrats compromise.

A more persuasive objection to political involvement is that Christians have other priorities – evangelism, pastoring and teaching, for example. These are important responsibilities but they are not incompatible with prayer for our governors and voting once a year. This prayer should include how we vote so that God’s will is more likely to be done here as it is in heaven.

Britain is becoming increasingly secular and the evidence can be seen in some of the legislation before Parliament. Religious freedom is better respected here than in in some other countries but there is no room for complacency. This week MPs voted to legalise medical techniques that make possible designer babies despite opposition from the Churches. The 0.7% of GDP given in overseas aid also needs defending from those who say charity begins at home. Churches are doing excellent compassionate work in food banks, street pastors and debt counselling but we need to try to influence social policy so that these initiatives become less necessary.

So what are you and I going to do about all this? As citizens of the UK and the Kingdom of God we should be praying about what God would have us do with our dual citizenship.