How does Christian faith apply to decisions about the way our society is organised?
An upcoming on-line forum, Faith and Politics: Do they relate?, aims to encourage open reflection and conversation about this issue.
Hosted jointly by UME and Uniting, the forum will take place on Wednesday September 15th from 7.00pm -8.30pm.
It’s timely for our church to reflect on these questions in the lead up to a Federal election, a form of political involvement in which all of us, aged 18 and above, participate. But we know this is not an easy topic and its one that different people have different views about.
For starters, even defining what politics means can be tricky. Some definitions are narrow, others are much broader. And we recognise that ‘politics’ can be a loaded term, one that evokes strong emotions and divergent views.
Some church members may believe that faith and politics don’t belong together at all.
In his book, Promise and Hope: A theology of the Christian Life, Gordon Dicker notes that Christian faith has sometimes been presented as if it were an entirely private affair, simply a matter of the individual and his or her faith in God. He describes this as a serious misunderstanding. Not least, he writes, because the neighbours who Jesus tells us to love as ourselves, come to us not just as individuals, but as groups, communities, and nations.
But many Christians do want to apply their faith to the whole of their lives, including social and political matters and believe it is appropriate to do so. As then Bishop, Desmond Tutu, a champion of reconciliation in apartheid riven South Africa observed, “I am puzzled about which Bible people are reading when they suggest religion and politics don’t mix.”
This forum won’t be debating, despite the sub-title, that our faith has social and political implications. We’ll assume it does. But how our faith applies is another question.
We know that there are many influences on both our views about politics and our beliefs about what constitutes genuine Christian values. These include our families and upbringing, our culture, education, church community and life experiences, to name just a few. One of the aims of the forum is for all of us to be more aware of how our personal history shapes our views and the assumptions we inevitably bring to our thinking and decisions in this area. We hope this will encourage a greater acceptance that other equally sincere people will sometimes come to different conclusions than us, on matters we care about.
What will happen at the Faith and Politics forum?
The Faith and Politics forum will be MC’ d by Rev Kath Merrifield. It will begin with the life experience of three different church members. We’ll hear about their views about politics, what shaped them and their thoughts on the process of voting. There will be opportunity for all participants to share their experiences, ideas and questions on the issues raised. We will have the benefit of Rev Dr Peter Walker’s and Rev Bec Lindsay’s theological reflections on all of this, including identifying some principles to help guide us. All those who register will receive a short paper prepared by Rev Dr Chris Walker that outlines factors that have shaped the Uniting Church’s approach to social responsibility, which will help orient our conversation at the forum. We are grateful for all our contributor’s willingness to be involved.
We trust that the forum encourages both a deeper awareness of, and some guidance in how we navigate, this important area of faith and life. We hope many Uniting Church members will join us on September 15.
You can register for the Faith and Politics: Do they relate forum here.
The Zoom link will then be sent to you.
If you have any questions about the forum, or would like to know more, please contact Jon O’Brien on 0477 725 528 or at email@example.com
Ofa Foiakau is the Field Officer (Central/West), and Youth/High School ministry leader as a part of the PULSE team.