Thursday, February 28, 2008


Over the past twenty years, the profile of Christian organisations operating in the parliamentary political arena has increased considerably. But the nature and character of this engagement is something that needs much more examination. My colleague and friend Jonathan Bartley has charted some of it in his book Faith and Politics After Christendom (Paternoster, 2005), which looks at both 'positive' and 'negative' responses from churches and church-related groups to the gradual erosion of a 'natural alliance' between the authority of organised religion and the authority of national governance. Ekklesia's viewpoint is that loss of conventional power and influence for the churches as institutions can and should give way to alternative Christian practices, possibilities and political positions - ones which connect us with the needs and concerns of those pushed to the edges, rather than a 'functionalist' ethos predisposed towards propping up the existing order. In February's Third Way magazine, I have a Westminster Column reflecting (both seriously and light-heartedly) on tensions at the recent Channel 4 Political Awards. The version of this piece just published on Ekklesia, Gongs, grins and faith in politics, goes on to ask what these arguments about the plying of influence within and around 'the system' have to say about lobbying and advocacy ‘after Christendom’ - after the era in which the church can or should count on preferential treatment by the powers-that-be. There is much more to be said about this. What would be helpful, perhaps, would be some profiles of 'alternative approaches' to doing politics Christianly, further theological reflection, plus a post-Christendom code of ethics for advocacy and engagement. Watch this space.

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