Being a voice for the voiceless in politics

Two events in the last couple of weeks have got me thinking about the importance of politics. One was last week’s debate and vote in the House of Commons on extending airstrikes against ISIS in Syria. The other is the UN Climate Change Talks in Paris which conclude today. Two events which might seem unconnected, but two events which both brought home to me that our politicians have to make decisions which will impact millions of people both here in the UK and around the world.

Our politicians do exercise a lot of power. And not just in the big headline events like the ones above. They make decisions in all areas of life, from housing to education to health to welfare to business to crime, the list goes on. But should this be a reason for Christians to get involved in politics? We shouldn’t be seeking power for the sake of power. But if we think about this from another angle – who are our politicians exercising this power for – we can see the opportunity for making a difference.

In Proverbs 31:8, we are called to “speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” In a world where so many – Christians included – are obsessed with standing up for their own rights and for the rights of people like them, the idea that we might want to stand up for someone else is particularly striking.

The voiceless are around us in our society: those who are poor, weak, and vulnerable. Those who have been let down by the system. Our actions here in the UK also have a profound impact on those in other parts of the world. Whenever our government makes decisions about international aid, whether or not to intervene in corrupt regimes, as well as on environmental issues, it is directly impacting the voiceless around the world.

The Church has already grasped the need to help the victims of injustice; many Christians have done much to help the voiceless and the vulnerable locally and globally, through initiatives such as foodbanks and night-shelters, as well as fundraising for areas of need. This is all great work, which we as Christians should continue to be a part of as we seek to love our neighbours as ourselves.

However, it is not enough simply to try and patch up the problems in our society; we must also be part of the solution, helping to prevent these problems developing in the first place. Desmond Tutu once said that “as Christians, we need to not just be pulling the drowning bodies out of the river. We need to be going upstream to find out who is pushing them in.” This is harder and more laborious in many ways, and doesn’t always have the buzz of helping people first-hand, but it is vital work which Christians must be involved with.

We are able to have much more of an impact on changing policy and preventing problems in our society from ever occurring if we are involved in the political process, rather than just shouting about it from the outside. We see in the Bible that God was able to work through political figures such as Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Obadiah to bring about change from the inside.

Politics is not the ultimate panacea to injustice in our society, and there is definitely an important role for those on the outside of politics to campaign and work for change, but it is still one of the more strategic ways of making a difference in the lives of the voiceless in our society. It is through politics that laws can be changed, policy can be reworked, voices can be heard. Let us not just speak out for the voiceless from the outside, let us stand up for them from within the political system.