The last few months have seen some huge political decisions being made: whether to extend airstrikes against ISIS, the response to the refugee crisis, the UK’s commitments in the UN Climate Change Talks, or the reaction to the flooding seen over the Christmas period.
These are political decisions which impact the lives of millions of people, both here in the UK and around the world. Is this enough of a reason for Christians to get involved in politics?
Christians shouldn’t be seeking power for the sake of power. But we should think from another angle: who our politicians are exercising this power for?
From this perspective, we should see politics as an opportunity for making a difference.
Many today, Christians included, are obsessed with standing up for their own rights and for the rights of people like them. The idea of standing up for someone else challenges the self-interest that so many associate with politics.
Speaking up for the voiceless
In Proverbs 31:8, it says:
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.”
Many are left voiceless in our society: those who are poor, weak and vulnerable. Those who have been let down by the system.
And we have to remember that the UK’s actions 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 done much to help the victims of injustice, both locally and globally, through initiatives such as foodbanks and night-shelters, as well as through relief and development work. These are practical expressions of the command to love our neighbours as ourselves.
Preventing the problems
However, it is not enough simply to try and patch up the problems in our society. We must also help to prevent these problems developing in the first place. Desmond Tutu once said:
“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 often harder and more laborious. We will forsake the feel-good factor of seeing transformation first-hand, but it is vital work. We are able to have much more of an impact on preventing problems in our society from occurring if we are involved in the political process. We can be involved and go beyond just shouting from the sidelines.
There is so much political figures in the Bible – people such as Joseph, Daniel, Esther and Obadiah who brought about change from the inside. Joseph’s political role allowed him to save the Egyptian people, and his own family, from famine. Esther used her influence with Xerxes to save the Jewish people from genocide.
Following their example, Christians have been inspired to be a voice for the voiceless in the realm of politics. William Wilberforce was motivated by his Christian faith to work tirelessly for the abolition of the slave trade.
There are many ways in which we can join in. We can pray for those in power to govern wisely, we can write to our MP about issues which concern us, and we ourselves can get involved in the political system, by joining a party and seeking to work for change from within. The Christians in Politics website is a good place to start.
Politics is not the ultimate panacea to injustice in our society, and there is an important role for those on the outside of mainstream politics to campaign for change. But being involved in the system 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 speak out for the voiceless from within the political system and help make a difference in a world so scarred by injustice.
Alison Hill has just completed an internship with Christians in Politics. This article was first published in the Church of England Newspaper
5 thoughts on “Being a voice for the voiceless in politics – by Alison Hill”
I agree completely and that is why I am standing in the local elections here in Southend to give a voice to the voiceless particularly those with mental health issues and the homeless. Interestingly enough 3 years the then Conservative leader of the council met with church leaders and other members of love Southend and said that in his opinion the role of the church was to challenge the council and to be the voice for all those who had none. He was a non Christian. It has been something that has challenged me ever since.
I agree with Alison up to 95%, but that last 5% difference IMO is deeply significant. The idea that our ways of getting involved should end with participation in one of the existing structures that has overseen the silencing of so many of those that are now voiceless. I have huge respect for all Christians involved in the existing Political Parties, but I also believe that these Parties are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The initiatives taken by Christians in Politics exclude those of us without a Party that we have confidence in. I tried on a number of occasions to persuade CiP to expand its work to those of us who classify ourselves as Independents. The problem appears to be that the main parties run CiP and the wealthiest of these parties has made it clear they have no desire to expand the work to include people like me. In effect they want to expand the voicelessness, not diminish it. I am deeply upset that this is the case, but there appears to be no way in, apart from through a Party Political door.
I agree to the tune of 95%, unfortunately the balance of 5% is in a very significant area. The assumption that in order to find our voice and help others to find theirs, we must associate ourselves with an existing political party is for me deeply flawed. I have enormous respect for many of those who are members of these parties. However the lack of voice that many experience is as a result of the parties and their stranglehold on society. I have experienced standing against the parties when I was a candidate for PCC in Sussex. It is clear to me that whilst the Parties will always be an important feature in our public life, that their exclusive dominance is part of the reason that so many are disenfranchised. Sadly despite a number of attempts to persuade Christians in Politics to include people like me in their thinking, has been entirely frustrated. They are as dominated by the Parties as our Parliament is, and have no willingness to change.
Hi Alison, I really enjoyed reading this blog and I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiment behind it. One thing I have some question is the idea of ‘being a voice to the voiceless’. It’s a phrase that makes me a little uncomfortable. If someone is struggling to speak out then speaking on their behalf doesn’t so much give them a voice as you a message. The risk here is that we then become the centre of attention and considered the ‘experts’ as opposed to those with the lived experience. Rather than being a voice for others I would encourage us all to make sure there is space for those with lives experience to share their wisdom. All the best, Andrew
My question (question string?) would be:
Should our starting point be to find out who is pushing people in? Or should we start by running to the aid of those who are drowning, and only from our place in the dirt with the broken look (and maybe venture) upstream to engage with / challenge those doing the pushing?