Below is an article that I wrote for the ‘Credo’ column in the Newark Advertiser. It appeared in the 24 February 2017 edition.
We are living in interesting times, at least as far as politics is concerned.
In this country we are still coming to terms with what Brexit means (although the Prime Minister assures us it means Brexit). Just this week we had it confirmed that one of the things that happened just after the referendum was a large increase in hate crime, and Nottinghamshire had the second biggest rise in the country.
In the United States the new president is certainly making an impact in his first few weeks in charge. Every day seems to bring another story – be it an Executive Order, a court case, a resignation or an allegation of media bias
I have heard it said, including by Christians, that because the outcomes of the various votes have been democratically arrived at that means that the consequences are beyond criticism. There seems to be a mood in the air that if you’ve lost you should just shut up and let the winners get on with it. In particular politicians always seem to complain if the church gets involved in political debate (unless it’s on their side).
Jesus was once asked a question about whether taxes should be paid to the Romans. He asked to look a coin which bore the image of Caesar: this led to his well-known advice ‘give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’. Some people have interpreted this to support their views that religion and politics shouldn’t be mixed up. I don’t think this is what Jesus intended at all.
It is of course vital that we have governments for good order, and nearly everyone in the West thinks that democracy is the best way of achieving this. We have to live within the rules of society otherwise we would have anarchy. However this doesn’t mean that we just have to go along with everything that happens as a result of an election outcome, particularly if it contradicts our understanding of our faith.
So when people of other nationalities who live with us are abused, insulted or told to go home it is right that Christians, however they voted in the referendum, speak out and say that is unacceptable. When people are discriminated against on the grounds of their religion, whatever that religion is, Christians should protest. (After all in some countries it’s the Christians that are being discriminated against.) Because when Jesus said ‘give to God what is God’s’ he wasn’t looking at the image on a coin. He was recognising that every single one of us is made in the image of God – ‘what is God’s’ is everyone. And therefore we must, above all, treat every single human being with the respect they deserve as one of God’s people.
If we are to bring about God’s kingdom on Earth, which is what Jesus taught us to pray for, we must always stand up against injustice. And that means religion and politics can’t be kept apart.
Mark Taylor – Deacon of London Road Congregational Church, Newark