Should there be a separation between Church and State? Should politics be discussed in the pulpit?
The event was designed to be a frank and open discussion exploring how we respond to the political climate of the day.
The event focused upon:
- What place does politics have in the Church?
- Should Christians vote?
- Should there be a separation between Church and state?
- Presentation by Robert Smith
- Questions & answers
- Table Talks
Robert is a Christian who was a successful businessman but is currently pursuing his new passion as a lawyer; he is a member of the Christian Legal Centre / Christian Concern and he is happily married with three children.
Christian Concern have been at the front line of a range of issues pertaining to faith in the public and political sphere. They work to infuse a biblical worldview into every aspect of society.
1. Why is it important for citizens to know about politics?
Politics has influence over every aspect of our lives. Government policy will determine the things that are taught to our children, the allocation of resources (health, defense, education etc) and of course the laws that are passed. If as Christians we do not engage then we cannot complain if we get a government we do not like. If we have a government we do not like, we cannot effectively oppose it unless we engage. Jesus himself engaged with the authorities and expressed his opposition. There is nothing unbiblical about engaging.
2. Have Christians lost the battle? What is the fight?
Christians have lost a number of battles, but the war is still there for the fight. God said to Elijah “Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (1 Kings 19:18) so we are not alone and there is work to be done.
The current fight seems to be on the whole basis of what constitutes family. The Bible is clear that it is one man and one woman, married, raising children. Society is expected to believe that gender is fluid, same-sex relationships are fine and parenting by those parents is fine. This contradiction of God’s design for humanity is damaging every aspect of life and the attack on these traditional institutions has implications for every area of society.
3. There are cults in the Parliament, should Christians be involved in them, like the Freemasonry, bearing in mind we have this devil in politics.
I can see no circumstances where joining an organization whose foundations are so apparently opposed to God can be justified.
4. You mentioned that you think that those freedoms will be gradually eroded and indeed we are seeing this happen before our eyes. What is the appropriate response to a sinking ship?
Try and repair the damage or try and escape the ship and save yourselves? Applying this to the church, should our focus be on a society that rejects us or trying our best to save ourselves?
I believe that although the ship may appear to be sinking, God will not allow it to sink. Accordingly, we need to be outward looking with our message and trust that God will do something with our faithfulness. Saving ourselves is not really an option. If we retreat into ‘holy huddles’ then we pose no threat to Satan and he may well leave us alone, but we will not be being faithful to our Lord.
5. How do we address the ideology of the separation between church and state which often resists political speech in churches and amongst Christians?
In our nation, there is no separation between church and state as the Church of England is the established church and our Queen swore allegiance to that church in her Coronation Oath. Although the reality may look quite different we should seek to maintain a link between state and church as there is a real danger about what may fill the void if the link is broken. Experience shows that secular states are not good at respecting the rights of Christians.
6. You mentioned that the debate on assisted suicide continues to recur because of the ongoing pressure from the lobbyists. Each political loss seems to suggest this too is a losing battle. The reactive strategy appears to be failing. What more we can do to proactively reaffirm standards?
The problem identified by the questioner is an ever-present one. The pressure comes from a secular lobbying group, we respond, the pressure group accuses the Christians or any of its other opponents as being ‘phobic’ and everyone becomes scared so we lose (this is a gross simplification for illustrative purposes only). Then the next lobby comes along and the story repeats. There is a tendency to give up once we’ve lost ground. The problem with this strategy is that as you lose more and more ground. What we need is a new strategy that puts us on the offensive and churches need to get behind it.
7. Why are preachers not speaking about politics in the bible?
My own experience from the church that I attend is that political issues are raised from the pulpit. Where you have a church that does not address these matters I would encourage the parishioners to ask the preacher to address the political agenda. This does not extend to telling anybody how they should vote, but it should certainly include raising awareness of the issues.
8. When faced with the stark reality of losing your job and risking the welfare of your children what is your advice? Sub-question: Do you think the lack of unity of Christian's is a deterrent. I.e. Christian's feel unable to be bold since they lack the support...
a) This is an extremely difficult question and often turn upon the facts of an individual case. If the matter in question is a really central issue to one’s faith and to continue in a job would compromise that faith I think resignation may be the answer. God is faithful and will provide. If the issue is of concern to the believer but does not completely compromise them, I would suggest remaining in the job until the position becomes untenable or the person finds another job.
b) A lack of clear and consistent biblical thought amongst Christians is a big problem. The Church of England contains so many people of a liberal persuasion, for whom biblical truth is subjective rather than objective, that it becomes very difficult to know what Christians believe. My prayer is that we should rally around the Bible and remain true to its teachings. If we do we will have a stronger church that speaks with a unified voice which God can use for great things.
9. What is the end game...What does a win look like?
I don’t think the endgame exists in this world. Christians will always face persecution. A win will be a revival in our land and a return to the Christian values than traditionally underpin our society.
10. With the prospect of Prince Charles becoming King and possibly becoming the defender of the faith(s). What impact will this have on the UK spiritual life?
Much has been said about Prince Charles’ intention to be the protector of ‘faiths’ rather than ‘the faith’. I don’t think this will really make much difference as he will be a constitutional monarchy with limited real power. Of greater concern would be the disestablishment of the church itself as this would do far more to pave the way for the secular agenda.