Why politics and faith go hand in hand..

Westminster Abbey and Big BenPeople who say that religion and politics should be kept apart are just showing their ignorance.

Theology and politics are inextricably bound together. You can’t separate one from the other. What we believe about God and the world around us shapes what we believe is right or wrong, This in turn shapes the way we organise society. Politics grow from ethics and ethics are formed by faith.

Communism needs faith

A Romanian Baptist Pastor, Josif Ton, once observed that Marxism failed as a political system because it embraced Atheism. He asserted that Communism needs people of faith to make it work – as it did in the early days of the Christian church and as it  continues to work to this day in the various religious orders that embrace a common life. The logical outcome of Atheism is that each person is free to exploit others – the survival of the fittest. Atheism leads naturally to capitalism. If Communism had embraced a Christian foundation, the history of the 20th century might have been very different.

Democracy needs Evangelical Christianity

The Feudal Totalitarianism of the Middle ages crumbled because it was undermined by Christianity, particularly in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. Evangelical  (Bible based) Christianity asserts that everyone is equal before God, equally able to read, understand and interpret the Bible and that each person needs to make an individual, personal commitment to Jesus Christ as their Lord. The logical political outcome of this belief is democracy and democracy has indeed blossomed in nations that embraced an Evangelical Christian faith: The United Kingdom, the United States of America, Switzerland, the Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries among others.

Democracy of course has an older history in Ancient Greece where, perhaps, the ecclesia that governed Greek city states reflected the assembly of the gods. But democracy is also the natural political expression of  Protestant Christianity. The same evangelical faith in the equality of men before God has also adopted Capitalism  as its economic expression – the freedom of each person to trade.

Atheism is undermining democracy and capitalism

Today creeping atheism is undermining both capitalism and democracy, leading to abuses of power in our markets and banks and to corruption in politics. Corruption and abuse of power can only happen in people who do not feel themselves accountable to any authority higher than themselves. Some bankers and politicians have acted more like Greek gods and goddesses than Christian servants of mankind. The Christian faith that was once the bedrock of European and American society has been marginalised.

Islam and democracy

At the same time, an alternative theocracy is presenting itself on the world scene in the shape of Islam, especially in its radical forms. Islam is unashamedly theocratic, seeing no distinction between theology and politics at all. This theocracy however, has an authoritarian, rather than a democratic face. It offers a return to the feudalism of the Middle Ages, to a justice which is unyielding and without compassion and to a society where Imams wield power and ordinary people have to submit.

The Arab Spring calls for an Islamic reformation

The all-too brief Arab Spring represented a thirst for democracy among many young Arabs, both secular and Muslim. But they are still a minority within the Islamic nations and Western politicians have wrongly assumed that they can sell democracy to the Arab world without the Evangelical Christianity it is based on. In Egypt the Muslim Brotherhood have seen democracy only as a temporary stepping stone to a new autocracy, a way to obtain the power to re-establish it. In all their dealings with Islam, Western leaders have been naïve in supporting those from a Muslim background who are opposing one totalitarian rule only to bring in another.

The answers are evangeistic, not political or military

For the Arab Spring to blossom into full summer, Islam would have to go through a reformation of its own like that which Christianity experienced in the 15th century and to discover for itself the concept of tolerance that took root among Free Church figures like Thomas Helwys.

Similarly, if we want to see a more stable and secure economy and politicians with integrity, the answer lies in a growth of Evangelical faith.

In both cases, the solutions are not economic, political or military. They are evangelistic. Put your bombs and aircraft away, national leaders and send in the theologians and preachers!