The primacy of relationships in politics
Perhaps one of the most simple and yet fundamental insights of Christians in Politics is that the success of our political life depends on the vitality of our relationships.
Why is this? First, because we all need support. As Andy Flannagan in Those Who Show Up argues, many of the problems that confront those in politics – particularly workaholism, loneliness and burnout – can partially be explained by the breakdown of relationships. It is when we try to do things alone and make others fit into our vision that we become alienated from those around us and tire out.
By contrast, when we have others to encourage, support and pray for us, we will be more likely to attend to our welfare and keep going when things get tough. We will become more able to forge a compelling vision with others.
Second, because relationships are also necessary for us to be challenged. When we have strong relationships, we can be honest with people – often leading to disagreements - while still maintaining good relations with them.
The Gospel presents us with striking and perhaps surprising models of what loving relationships look like. Healthy relationships are by no means ones of placid harmony. Rather, Christ often agitates, unsettles and challenges his disciples and the crowds to whom he preaches. He often expresses anger about unrighteousness, such as when he clears the Temple in John 2:13-22.
Under the pretence of harmony, relationships can easily and unintentionally become sites of power-play and dominance – so sometimes it is appropriate to argue and challenge rather than conform.
In sum, then, relationships are important both because they console, but also because they enable us to be challenged.
Christians in Politics and Christian groups within the political parties exist to help us do both. The Conservative Christian Fellowship, Christians on the Left and Liberal Democrat Christian Forum all provide spaces such as prayer gatherings, training sessions and discussion groups in which relationships grow and can be nurtured.
What is more, CiPol’s upcoming Show Up North conference happening on 12 November in Manchester will be a great opportunity for Christians to support and encourage one another. But it will also provide a space for vigorous debate in which we can challenge one another. Places are limited – do click on the link here to book your place.