A cross in the box
I was shouting at the television. And no, it was not because my beloved Liverpool was failing to play its usual top class standard of premiership football. It was not even that I had failed to record the last episode of Heroes. What I was watching was even more galling. It was a man touting for support for the British National Party by explaining that as a Christian, he hated homosexuals and immigrants, denied the Holocaust and climate-change, and believed in white supremacy.
Nick Griffin’s shocking appearance on BBC’s Question Time tallied 8 million viewers, many of whom, like me, were incensed enough to shout back at the television as everything in us was desperate to contradict his unchristian attitude to the world.
Funnily enough, all my shouting fell on deaf ears. Well, almost. My sleeping kids and elderly neighbours stirred a little, but Griffin looked me right in the eye and just kept talking. What could I possibly do to challenge this dangerous heretic? I needed to think outside the box.
As it happened, I had recently been on a journey of discovery with politics. I used to be one of those Christians shy of getting involved. Perhaps it was the misconception that engaging with politics should be separated from daily life, from the call to evangelism, or from faith itself. Perhaps it was the corruption in the system, the apathy in the society or the scepticism in the church. However it was getting to know Christian MPs that completely changed my perspective. Suddenly I met people who were really putting their faith into practice and making a difference. I realised that the only prayer Jesus ever taught us was to pray for a new government – “Your Kingdom come”. Jesus’ death was under sentence of political agitation. Jesus’ teaching called us to be salt and light. Even the persecution of the early church was provoked by its political challenge of ‘Jesus is Lord’.
And so I collected the wisdom of these politicians into a book called “Just Politics”. Contributors included MPs, party leaders, church leaders, songwriters, respected thinkers and ordinary UK Christians. I received hundreds of stories of young people stepping up to the mark and making a difference. From issues of unfair trade, to trafficking, from street children to street pastors, the overwhelming message that came over was that engaging with politics is far more than voting. It is speaking out for the poor and marginalised we encounter on our streets and in our communities and on our television sets. It is refusing to sit back and do nothing when violence escalates, crime rates soar, hospital waiting lists jam and children starve.
Just Politics contains excellent practical advice about how to get started. And I was about to try some of it out. As my voice grew hoarser, I picked up my computer and began to twitter. I started a Facebook group called “Nick Griffin does not speak for Christians” which attracted 4000 people in a matter of days. I even dared to mention politics from the pulpit.
As the election comes closer, we have the ability to begin to reform the government – the ones whose decisions can bring justice, compassion, hope and life. Like me, will you watch the electioneering from your sofa and just get cross at the box? Or will you stand up, put a cross in the box of your ballot paper, and make your voice heard? But politics is more than just voting – I challenge you to start to think outside the box.