We hold the future
Voices from across the political spectrum agree that Christian political engagement is an urgent need for Europe.
‘Beyond Individualism’, a conference organised by Christian Concern in association with the European Christian Political Movement (ECPM) and the Christian Peoples Alliance, took place in London on November 26 and brought Christians together from across Europe in order to provide a Christian response to Europe’s problems.
The phrase ‘Broken Britain’ now frequently appears in the press as a description of the current state of our nation, but the social and economic ills to which it refers are not unique to Britain. They are also being experienced throughout the continent of Europe and people are crying out for answers.
The conference arose out of the conviction that these problems are ultimately an expression of Europe’s spiritual condition; it is no coincidence that Europe is the only continent on earth where the number of Christians is reportedly decreasing. Europe has abandoned its Christian heritage and there is now a growing realisation across the political spectrum that ‘we have never been in greater need of the gifts that the Christian tradition brings’, as Lord Glasman, father of the ‘Blue Labour’ movement, put it during his conference speech.
Lord Glasman’s view was shared by his Conservative counterpart, Phillip Blond, author of Red Tory and an architect of David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’. Other speakers included Os Guinness and Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who said: ‘If the European malaise is to be addressed, there must be a Christian-led moral and spiritual renewal affecting our political, business and social life’.
This challenge to make a stand has been issued before by the evangelical theologian, J.I. Packer, in his classic book Knowing God. In it, he refers to the exploits of those in the Bible, such as Daniel, who stood firm in the midst of godless societies. He writes: ‘This shows us that the action taken by those who know God is their reaction to the anti-God trends which they see operating around them. While their God is being defied or disregarded, they cannot rest; they feel they must do something; the dishonour done to God’s name goads them into action’.
It now seems that a growing group of European Christians are taking this call seriously. Christian voices have long been marginalised in the public discourse, to the extent that any ‘religious’ viewpoint is branded ‘extreme’ and ‘irrational’, while secular (i.e. godless) views are seen as ‘rational’, ‘reasonable’ and ‘evidence based’. Christian opinion is therefore treated with deep suspicion and dismissal. To change the terms of the debate, Andrea Williams, Chief Executive of Christian Concern, used her speech to exhort Christians to be more, rather than less, explicit about the source of our values: the person of Jesus Christ. She said: ‘If we fail to speak of him, we are simply promoting moralism, which will produce either self-righteous Pharisees or hopeless Prodigals. If we fail to speak of Jesus Christ, we are robbing people of the source of salvation. We are robbing nations of the Vine who makes them fruitful’.
Good news for nations
We live in a time when we have been blessed with excellent personal evangelistic resources such as Christianity Explored and Two Ways to Live. However, we are not so well equipped to explain how the gospel is good news for nations, as well as individuals. This conference indicated that there is a movement of European Christians dedicated to putting the Lordship of Christ back at the centre of national life and our political systems.
The Evangelical Alliance’s Director of Advocacy, Dave Landrum, quoted a Guardian editor who said that there is currently such a dearth of ideas in politics that the next new idea is likely to dominate the political landscape for decades to come. The current crises in Europe provide a unique opportunity for Christians to set forth the hope of the gospel and the wisdom of God’s commands. If Europe is to recover, Christians must speak of these things not just to individuals, but also at the local and national level. Letters to local newspapers, radio phone-ins, becoming a school governor or local councillor or meeting your MP are just some of the simple but effective ways to get involved.
The challenge to Christians in the UK and across Europe is: will we take this opportunity to speak for Jesus for the good of our nations and for the good of our continent? By God’s grace there seems to be an awakening across the political spectrum that now is the time for Christians to speak clearly and boldly of the place of Christ in European politics.
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