Nicola Elson reports on the Christian Union’s latest speaker.
To what extent should the Christian faith influence politics? Organised by the Christian Union, this Friday saw visiting speaker Gary Streeter, a Conservative MP from South West Devon with a devotion to the Christian faith, tackle this question.
Gary began the discussion with a brief overview of his life; how he once believed Christians to be weak for relying on a higher power, how he was converted to Christianity at the age of 30 after researching the religion and finding ‘unequivocal evidence’ on the existence of God and Jesus Christ, and how after a day of fasting and solitude he realised that he was being called by God into politics. He then continued to outline why the heart of Christianity and the heart of politics overlap with the same basic principles.
‘I think that it’s absolutely vital that men and women of faith and values engage in the public square. If you’re saying to me ‘should institutional Christianity, should political Christianity, be involved?’, I would say no. But is there a role for people who believe in a living God in politics? I would say a resounding yes. At the heart of our Christian faith is a gospel of love, in particular to love our neighbours as ourselves. What is the heart of politics? Making decisions about how we organise our society, and how we care for the most vulnerable in society. There is an immediate connection between these two things.’
However, when it comes to the objective of a Christian influence in the political sphere, Gary states that it is ‘messy’ and that there are no clear outcomes, just a collection of principles that can be applied to the heart of society. He outlined the three key aspects that an individual Christian can bring into politics:
Prayer – Christians are able to pray to a ‘real, living, active God’ to ask for guidance and for wisdom in a situation that they unsure in.
Compassion – at the heart of Christianity is the golden rule, ‘love thy neighbour’. Bringing the belief that every living person counts into politics means that each person, no matter their place in society, will be looked after.
Integrity – practising Christians have an integrity that makes them trustworthy, and the public can trust them to deliver the truth, and to look after their society.
Gary emphasised that being a Christian in politics is not about enforcing the religion upon the public, or making non-believers follow the Christian law, but it is instead about loving and serving people, being engaged with the public, and being there for people without judgment.
Once Gary had given his speech, the discussion was opened to the audience for them to ask him questions on his beliefs and his opinions on current political matters.
One student asked Gary about on his opinion, as a Christian, on the migration crisis. He stated that it is ‘the biggest issue facing the modern world’, and whilst he is not blaming them for their decision to move to a better place, we must be smarter with identification of the truly vulnerable. ‘The numbers are overwhelming, and if they all come here then we would lose the reason they wanted to come in the first place. We need to be compassionate, but we must be smart’.
The obvious EU debate arose, as one student asked his opinion on the upcoming referendum. As a conservative, Gary was very against leaving the Union. He stated that it would be a ‘daft thing to do’, as we would not be able to get a better offer on free trade if we went independent. He countered the argument of freedom and sovereignty by claiming that they no longer existed, the world was too dependent on other countries, and he expressed his strong opinion that the European Union has helped to preserve peace in Western Europe. ‘Without the EU the continent would see conflict, and without the support of other countries we would lose’.
The discussion concluded with Gary emphasising that God wants his people involved in every sector of society, and if you feel like He is calling you to a particular vocation then you should follow His will. And when it comes to Christianity in politics, whilst it is great to help people out of the river once they have been thrown in, it is much better to go further upstream and stop them being thrown in in the first place.