Christians in Politics at New Wine 2017

Christians in Politics have been extra busy during the summer as we have been running one of the seminar streams at New Wine – the Christian festival held annually at the Bath & West Showground in Shepton Mallett. 

The speakers have informed and challenged those present with biblical teaching, complemented by politicians providing contemporary insight into what it is like to be a Christian in politics today.

In due course, we will post video clips and summaries of the talks, but for now, here are some snippets and quotes to whet your appetite….

Christians need to be involved in political life and be ready to contend - but we must also cast a better vision of hope - we should not just oppose things’; ‘A focus on identity politics risks silencing views outside a narrowing bandwidth’.  Dr Dave Landrum, Director of Advocacy, Evangelical Alliance

Andy Flannagan, Director of Christians on the Left reminded us that Daniel’s story shows us there are ‘times to comply, but also times to defy’' and that Daniel was able to maintain integrity while working within a corrupt regime – far worse than anything we may face in the UK! Watch the video here

Sarah Latham, Director of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, spoke from the story of Esther and noted that God works through worldly political processes and so we too need to be in those messy political places.  Sarah encouraged and challenged us to be courageous like Esther, pointing out that if Christians behave just like everyone else in politics, 'what's the point'? Sarah concluded with a final challenge: ‘Are you feeling a call to politics for such a time as this?'

In ‘Power, Spin and the Good Samaritan’, Nick Spencer from Theos outlined how the parable of the Good Samaritan has been used by a wide variety of politicians to support their differing viewpoints. He suggested we should be less nervous about using ‘morally freighted language’ in public discourse.  Nick noted that neutrality ‘doesn’t inspire’ but that the Bible brings a richness and an anchor to political rhetoric.  If politicians who are not Christians still reach to scriptures for ideas, we too, should recognise they have power and have confidence to draw from their wisdom in public life.

Drawing from the example of Jesus, Andy Flannagan commented that we can't love our neighbour in a vacuum – ‘we need to be practical and that often means being political' but also observed that people sometimes say 'I don’t think I can go into politics because Jesus wasn't a politician’.  Andy wisely pointed out that neither was he an airline pilot, a chef or an accountant! We shouldn't restrict our career choices to carpentry…

When asked for advice on how to work well in politics, Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol replied: 'make sure you have excellent people around you'  and Michael Tomlinson MP, Stephen Timms MP, Jonny Reynolds MP and Baronness Sal Brinton all spoke of the encouragement Christian MPs have from regularly meeting together across party lines for prayer and fellowship.

There'll be much more to come when we get home for dry socks, electricty and reliable wi-fi!

We so enjoyed meeting festival goers at New Wine, including many people who have already begun to ‘Show Up’ in the world of politics and public life or are considering doing so – why not join them?

Pat Finlow, Events and Communications Manager, Christians in Politics, August 2017