a christmas theology of political power

9 12 2014

The Christmas story is a sledgehammer to the politics of domination and self-protection. The Chancellor’s Christmas Budget Autumn Statement, along with A Theology of the Autumn Statement, got me thinking about this.

There is a theology that lies behind everything we do. Everything we do stands on the foundation of what we believe about God, and what we believe God believes about us. So in politics, where different beliefs about God or not-God or many gods permeates through each MP, the policies that they choose to support cannot help but be affected by their theology. And by implication, they represent us, so their theology represents ours. 

I believe there is a dangerous narrative running through our politics and media that deeply challenges a Christian theology. A narrative of power, of blame, of self-protection and short-term thinking. Christian theology – and more importantly, Christians – are flawed and broken and get it wrong, so forgive me some optimism in what follows:

  1. Christian theology shows that God does not prioritise those with money and power. God chose foreigners of a different religion and the lowest earners to be the first to see the incarnate Son of God. This is a familiar story but matters. Christian theology must not prioritise those on ‘our side’ with money and power. King Herod was so cross and felt so threatened by this that he killed babies. Christian theology should be threatening to those with money and power.  
      
  2. Christian theology shows God does not just blame everyone else. Not the previous government, or poor people who receive benefits, or immigrants, or anything other than our own people. Rarely do we hear ‘we’ have messed up, people like me, the wealthy, white, middle/upper classes, those who needed a bank bail-out. Christian theology begins and ends with repentance, with humility. God did not simply blame humans for mucking up his world, but became incarnate to be part of the solution, not the bully-king but the servant-king. Christian theology confidently says we mucked up and we spend our lives being the solution. 
  3. Christian theology shows us that God’s priority is not self-protection. A tiny newborn baby human is one of the weakest living things. The Christmas story practically screams self-giving and sacrificial generosity at us. We have assumed, in our society, a culture of entitlement, and so we expend masses of time/energy/money defending that entitlement, protecting our wealth. God gave away his power, gave away his story to the weakest of humans and the most insignificant of human families. Christian theology holds lightly and gives generously. 
  4. Christian theology shows long-term thinking. I guess if God could make a baby he could make a grown-up. He chose not to. He chose the long game. A long set-up, a community growing, a lifestyle change, not a quick-fix. Our politics demands short-term solutions to a long-term problem. 

When I hear of more cuts to the welfare budget, I wonder what theology lies behind that? When I hear positive employment figures trotted out, but businesses do not pay a wage you can live on, what theology lies behind that? When the only profitable rail network is nationally-owned, but sold to the private sector again, what theology lies behind that? When years of struggle for employment rights is extinguished with zero-hours contracts, what theology lies behind that?

The Christmas story is a sledgehammer to the politics of domination and self-protection. Let’s not lose that.

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6 responses

9 12 2014
Ian

Great reflection..

9 12 2014
webstercamino

Reblogged this on webstercamino and commented:
I have been following Kevin’s blog for Some time now and greatly appreciate the depth and thoughtfulness of his reflections. I would share it on Facebook but can’t figure out how to do it. Can anyone help with that?

9 12 2014
Kevin

Thank you, I appreciate this – re Facebook, you should be able to just copy & paste the link into the status bar.

9 12 2014
fireflyby

Really interesting reflection Kev. It would do the world good to do a little more challenging . Unfortunately, our politicians don’t seem to share the values put down here…

10 12 2014
c2drl

I agree whole heartedly. However, surely this begs the question, where is the Church (you and I and other christians) in national and international politics. We seem to have retreated into our ghetto (talking about women bishops and gay marriage) and left the self appointed ruling classes to get on with it. We write blogs and tweet them but their main readership is other Christians.

I am heartened when I hear the Pope saying some things in this arena, but I hear little else. We have bishops in parliament, but do they really speak out and provide leadership. When did one of them do something positive for the poor on the national political stage? One statement by the Archbishop in the last month isn’t enough.

Would we follow if they did lead? I suspect we would get into our select groups and pick their theology apart, instead of listening to the Spirit of God. Maybe I am looking in the wrong place but I ache to see Christians arguing the case in the public square, not as individuals but as a body inspired by the Spirit of God.

10 12 2014
Kevin

I agree it looks like that but it’s more complicated,.. There are many Christians within national politics (conservative Christian fellowship, christians on the left etc), but how much they are able to override party politics for personal convictions I don’t know.

Also, christians are at the forefront of actively challenging the negatives, and often doing it without being heard… The classic is Foodbanks, often heard about now, but rarely as a Christian thing.

And then there’s what the media choose to report, which is the subjects you mention, and little else. Go to Archbishop of Canterbury’s website for press releases & statements, see also CPAG, Children’s Society, Ekklesia, Church Urban Fund…

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