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How can Christians respond to political chaos?

Problems in our politics are not resolved by us stepping away from the fray. You don’t fix a problem by being a spectator.

FEATURES AUTOR 255/Danny_Webster 21 DE OCTUBRE DE 2022 16:06 h
The subway station of Westminster. / Photo: [link]Inspira[/link], CC0

Liz Truss is leaving Downing Street as the shortest serving occupant behind that black door; her leadership campaign lasted longer than her premiership.

We witnessed the ignominy of a lettuce on a live stream outlasting her. This followed the departure of her chancellor, purportedly for no greater reason than implementing the economic agenda she had run her campaign on and wanted to introduce.

His successor not only gutted that plan, but seized political authority in a manner that had politicians from all sides of the aisle speculating about her whereabouts. One of her previous leadership rivals, who is now in the frame to run again, answered in parliament that Truss was not hiding under a desk. All this in turn followed extreme turbulence in the market, costly Bank of England interventions and the likelihood that interest rates will jump further in coming months.

I think it is possible to say the following without slipping into party political commentary: Liz Truss’s position was unsustainable. She did not have the confidence of her MPs to govern – not least evidenced by the farcical scenes and accusations of bullying and manhandling over a vote that may or may not have been viewed as a vote of confidence in the government. So, at 1.30pm on Thursday 20 October, 44 days after becoming prime minister, Truss stepped out of Downing Street and announced she was done.

For the past few years, I have been convinced of the need for Christians to be ​‘a non-anxious presence’, to use the term popularised by Mark Sayers, in a world of complexity, chaos and confusion. This is not to say that we should not be concerned about the minutiae of what is happening in front of us, but neither should we become overly preoccupied by them.

At least since the Brexit vote in 2016, UK politics has been on a rollercoaster – and it is dizzy and disorientating. We need peace in our politics, and we need to be witnesses to Christ’s peace. In this uncertainty, how should Christians act? What does it mean to be a non-anxious presence – which could run the risk of becoming Christianese for ​‘calm down’?


3 traps to avoid

I think there are three traps for us to avoid. For those such as myself who love political intrigue, there is the risk that it becomes a spectator sport, scrolling Twitter for the latest development: who’s backing who, will Boris make the ballot, can anyone stop a straight Rishi v Boris showdown?

Second, for those less enchanted by politics, the risk is that all of this just perpetuates the idea that this is a plague on all their houses. The degradation of politics happens when we view it all through the lens of the worst, and how the worst is publicly portrayed. It might be in our nature to hone in on the negative, but I think we have a responsibility to look deeper.

It has become a slightly trite social media formulation to offer ​‘thoughts and prayers’ whenever anything bad happens. Sometimes Christians can slip into a similar trend when not wanting to get too deeply enmeshed in politics, so the third trap is that we just call for prayer for our leaders, then move on and forget to consider what else we could do to make a difference.

So, what should we do?


Pray for our leaders

We must pray for our leaders – this is a foundational biblical tenet: whether we agree with them or not, we should pray for them. We should pray for wisdom, we should pray that they govern in pursuit of justice, and we should pray for them personally. I cannot imagine the pressure Liz Truss in particular has been under for the last few weeks – people can and will hurl insults and suggest she deserves it – but I honestly think that is unbecoming of Christians wanting to see goodness, justice and mercy in public life. What we want to see is evidenced by how we act – if we want to see more compassionate politics, we should act with compassion to those we disagree with.

I am praying for all involved in government, for all those running to become the next prime minister, from the most visible, to those working behind the scenes on economic plans, to those seeking to influence the political agenda.

And I’m praying for peace. Peace, like prayer, isn’t a passive thing. It’s not a default, when-all-else-fails, plea. It is the passionate pursuit of how things should be. The deeper biblical concept of ​‘shalom’ is a holistic peace, that reaches into every corner of our life – it is the way of the Kingdom.


Engage in politics

We can avoid using prayer as a way of opting out, by doing more than praying. Prayer does not remove the need for action – as we pray for God’s will to be done, we are often called to be witnesses to God’s goodness, with a part to play in seeing His Kingdom come to earth. To quote an overused adage, politics is too important to be left to the politicians.

Our political culture seems to be driven by division and crippled by a lack of leadership, values and vision. This is a problem we should be alert to; political debate is too often focused on short term headlines and a desire to be seen to do something. But the problems in our politics are not resolved by us stepping away from the fray. You don’t fix a problem by being a spectator. This isn’t to underestimate the challenge of being an effective witness to Christ and an ambassador of His Kingdom in our politics, but to underline the need.

The problems in our politics are not resolved by us stepping away from the fray.

Os Guinness talks about doing the Lord’s work in the Lord’s way – which means we don’t resort to the tactics and methods of those who do not follow the King. A key part of our counter-cultural approach to politics should be how we treat those we disagree with; we should be peacemakers. Beneath the media circus of politics are deep friendships across party lines, and many people committed to service and working for the good of all.

It is vital that we work to support and equip Christians to engage in politics, to speak up, and to follow Jesus into the political arena. That’s easier to say than to do – in fact, equipping Christians to be faithful disciples while working in public life is a crucial task before us. If you haven’t come across the Evangelical Alliance’s Public Leader programme, now’s a good time to find out more.


Act in our communities

But the task is not just for those who are in positions of leadership and influence. One of the widely-held assumptions of our current context is that all problems require political solutions. Many do, but many are better resolved through the patchwork of families, communities, churches and charities as well as businesses, public services and institutions in our nations.

This means we see many of the challenges before us as opportunities to be ambassadors for Christ, as bringers of peace, as we follow the Prince of peace. This winter will see households facing awful choices with costs rising, wages flatlining and uncertainty about what will come next. In communities across the UK, churches are already beacons of hope, providing essential support and vital care. I want to emphasise, churches cannot replace what only the state can do, but nor can they be removed from the equation altogether. There are some tasks far better suited to local and voluntary solutions, compassion extended through love for our neighbour. In the coming weeks, we at the EAUK will be highlighting how churches and Christian ministries are offering hope to communities across the UK.

Part of being a non-anxious presence is knowing that we carry the peace of Christ in us as we speak and walk through our lives. And that the power with which Christ has transformed us is the same power that can bring transformation to the world around us.


Daniel Webster, head of advocacy of the Evangelical Alliance United Kingdom (EAUK). This article was first published on the EAUK's website and re-published with permission.




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