There is a magazine in Scotland that covers all things politics, but is little known outside of the Holyrood bubble. It is written by political nerds for political nerds and for most involved in politics and public affairs in Scotland it is a must read every week. Its journalists are embedded into the life of the Parliament, picking up stories and having good relationships with MSPs, a favourite column is Holyrood pets where the various animal menagerie of MSP companions have their own feature.
But this week Holyrood Magazine, edited by the fearsome Mandy Rhodes, turns its gaze on the issue of religion and politics. It is a fascinating series of articles that considers the relationship between faith and our political institutions and also the views of MSPs on religion.
This week saw three articles from journalist Margaret Taylor who has been in and around Scotland talking to people from all faiths about how they do, and how they don’t, get involved in politics. You can read them here: https://www.holyrood.com/inside-politics.htm
The role and place of faith in politics has been in the news over the last 6 to 9 months and has mainly been focused on one (or two) individuals who have been brave enough to come forward and speak openly about their faith and how it interrelates with their politics. It has not been easy, and it has not been without hurt, pain and injury to those involved. It took great personal strength and bravery, and we should be thankful for these individuals. They have often felt like they are leading the charge alone.
A survey of MSPs by Holyrood Magazine asked them about their views on how faith and politics interact. The views were diverse, as you would expect. Some MSPs feeling that the role of faith communities was a core voice in their decision making, while others wanted faith groups to stay in their lane and not get involved in the legislative process.
During the SNP leadership contest organisations active in faith in the public square such as ourselves were nervous about speaking out, mainly because they were worried they would make it worse or say the wrong thing that would further enflame the situation. On reflection this was probably the wrong decision, it left people on the front line feeling isolated and perhaps unsupported. There was no robust defence from the third sector in the debate – maybe we should have been braver, more outspoken. Compare and contrast with the Association of Scottish Mosques who spoke out in a robust and forthright way. (https://www.heraldscotland.com/politics/23347287.muslim-leaders-praise-forbes-snub-yousaf-snp-contest-statement/)
Would it have helped or hindered, I honestly don’t know, but we should take time to reflect on whether this was the right decision to take and speak to those on the front line about how we can support them better.
There is also a question as to how Christians in the wider Scottish society, who don’t read Holyrood Magazine, feel about speaking out.
- Do they feel able to get involved in politics,
- are they fearful of the ire and abuse that they might receive if they talk about how their Christian faith impacts their political views,
- do they feel able to take a counter cultural, biblical worldview stance on issues facing our society today?
- Are they able to articulate what that would mean on issues that we are facing in our society and politics today?
- What is the biblical perspective on big issues such as the environment, housing, social care and asylum, all big issues being discussed at the moment.
- Where are those of faith in those arguments?
I have been challenged over the last couple of weeks about how do we empower and support each other to be brave, to step into the arena and be prepared to be much more vocal in support of those who are at the forefront of this debate.
It is hard to be in this space of politics. It has its own rules and its own ways of working, it isn’t for everyone, and sometimes it is better left to the professionals. But we cannot allow those who take the lead to feel unsupported or isolated. I am sure I am not alone here in thinking about the verse Exodus 17:12 “When Moses’ arms grew tired, Aaron and Hur brought a stone for him to sit on, while they stood beside him and held up his arms, holding them steady until the sun went down.”
So what would it take for “the church” and Christians to feel brave enough to get involved, is it education, information, strength in numbers, all of the above? Does it need someone to take the lead and the flak and to be supported, and how best can we do that? How can we be a strong voice in Parliament on key issues and be respected and listened to?
Over the next couple of months Logos Scotland will be developing a series of policy papers, looking at some of the key issues being discussed in Scottish society that as Christians we can speak into. We have a voice but we need to be credible, well researched, know what we are talking about and be useful to Parliament, Government, the media and society. If you are interested in getting involved or inputting into this process then do get in touch, we would love to hear your views on some of these topics. The intention is to have a bank of information that we can then draw on to respond to issues as they come up and shape policy in the future. Please get in touch if you would like to know more or feel that you have expertise to contribute. email@example.com
- The Environment
- Health policy
- The Economy
- Poverty and the Cost of Living Crisis
- Mental health