A non-partisan's look at the Show Up Weekend

Ruth Clements (@rutheclements86), who is an Education Officer for Parliament, writes about her thoughts on the recent Show Up Weekend.

I was apprehensive about the Christians in Politics weekend, less about the contentious subjects of politics and God – in fact I was anticipating these discussions being more acceptable than in everyday society – but because I was going on my own. On arrival I discovered that coffee was plentiful, and discussion even more so. Inviting yourself to sit with people was a perfectly acceptable course of action and I made many new friends and connections over the weekend.

A large section of the political spectrum was represented, but by the nature of my job, I am non-partisan in order to represent Parliament and the importance of the different roles in our democracy. This was no small challenge amongst passionately party political people. But throughout the weekend there evolved a healthy respect, interest and community ethos; a relationship already encouragingly evident between MPs and Christian forum leaders of different parties, under the banner of Christians in Politics.

On the first evening Krish Kandiah, who heads up London School of Theology, observed that Christianity is sometimes regarded as a worrying ideology, that those who are Christians in politics are looking to a theocracy, and that their faith will infiltrate their politics. Well yes, their faith will influence their ideas and decisions. No viewpoint is neutral - even secularism - and so Christians bring their beliefs to the boardrooms, committee rooms and chambers. But an overarching theme of the weekend was that while politics is important, each person’s primary concern is to do what God wants us to do. This doesn’t mean creating a theocracy, but in seeking out God’s way, and how to achieve that for the good of all society.

As Gary Streeter MP wisely commented, we all have faith in God and a desire to make him known but different ideas of the best way to achieve this. This makes cross-party friendships much easier to achieve, when you bear that in mind. Within Parliament itself, there are examples of different party members uniting and working together on common causes, such as in APPGs (All Party Parliamentary Groups).

Being non-partisan does make it more challenging to be politically involved, however the weekend catered for every level of involvement with workshops on party politics, media engagement and effective campaigning. Gareth Davies, from CARE, and Danny Webster, from the Evangelical Alliance, led a session which encouraged me to look at the causes I’m particularly passionate about, and reminded me that charitable involvement and educating others is a valuable political involvement too. The different spheres of influence I might have, coupled with my areas of interest, are unique to me and therefore of value too. Using the words of Martin Luther King, Danny challenged us to become the thermostats transforming society, rather than simply thermometers who measure the temperature.

The Christians in Politics weekend had a fantastic combination of discussion opportunities, talks and relaxation. I particularly enjoyed having two key and potentially divisive elements in common with other attendees. As I left the weekend, I came away knowing more about God and having been challenged on my political assumptions. The overwhelming feelings of the weekend were friendliness, political passion and faith, however there was a brilliantly balanced combination of faith and politics - I didn’t leave exhausted of either. Instead I left encouraged by the number of politically engaged Christians from across our nation, and impassioned and excited about where the combination of faith and politics could lead.