Religion and Politics – a Christian perspective

Fringe event at Alba party conference, Inverness, 13th May 2023

Talk by Dave Thompson

Religion and Politics  –  a Christian Perspective

To set the context for what I am about to say on “A Christian Perspective of Religion and Politics”, I thought I would first let you know a wee bit about myself and Christians for Independence (CFI). I am a Church of Scotland Elder and a lifelong Independence supporter, having joined the SNP in 1965.

In that time I have been involved with many Indy organisations and was an SNP MSP from 2007 to 2016. In 2009 I helped found CFI which has members from a range of denominations and is a very broad kirk, which does not have a set position on matters, such as conscience, which are left up to our individual members.

What holds CFI together is a belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died on a cross to pay the price for our sin and give us everlasting life. Sin, of course, simply means disobedience of God.

Christianity, and faith in general, was in the news recently with the SNP leadership candidates, especially Kate Forbes, being pressed on issues of conscience. Matters of conscience are normally moral issues and such issues should never be whipped by political parties to force their elected representatives to vote for the party line.

Moral issues are matters such as assisted suicide, equal marriage, abortion and the death penalty. Such matters should always be afforded a free vote as it ensures that no leader or party can impose their will on their members, Councillors, MPs and MSPs and, thereby, the country, against the will of the majority.

Matters of Conscience are, therefore, at the heart of any Christian perspective on religion and politics but that begs a very serious question.   Can a Christian, or any other person of faith separate their faith from their day to day judgements?

Well, what we are determines what we think, and what we think determines what we do and that applies to everyone. However, this is not to say that people of faith should seek to impose their views on others. Indeed, the opposite is true, we should not.

The way we Christians can reconcile such matters of conscience from wider matters is through the democratic process, as we Christians are democrats, and fundamentally accept that the majority consensus should determine matters in a democracy, and that the rule of law is foundational to such democracy. A democracy that is fast disappearing in the UK.

There is a huge difference between applying faith on yourself and imposing it on others. Christians should practise what they believe as long as they only practise it on themselves and accept that others may choose not to believe in the saving grace of Jesus Christ.

Christians do, of course, want to let folk know of that saving grace and believe strongly in having the religious freedom to do that.

That is why CFI supports incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in a Scottish Constitution, to guarantee fundamental freedoms . Among those fundamental freedoms are “Freedom of thought, conscience and religion; Freedom of expression; and Freedom of assembly and association”.

Of course, opponents of Christianity want to stop us from spreading the good news of the Gospel and will often quote passages from the Old Testament out of context to ‘prove’ how daft we Christians are, ignoring the fact that the coming of Jesus changed everything and that the Gospel of the love of Jesus fulfilled the law of the Old Testament.

For example, in the old testament we have the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God. Commandments such as ‘Honour your father and your mother’ or ‘You shall not murder’ or ‘You shall not steal’.

However, Jesus made love His top priority and when asked what the greatest commandment in the law was, he replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and love your neighbour as yourself.” Jesus loved and, therefore, completely fulfilled the law, so imagine what a wonderful world we would live in if we all loved as Jesus did.

This is the kind of Scotland that CFI wants, one based on love. Love demands that we minister to all who are in need, seeing our ministry as being to Jesus himself, and His Gospel words make this clear:

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord when was it we saw you hungry and gave you food or thirsty and gave you something to drink?…….’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” [Matthew 25:35-40].

CFI wants Scotland to be a world where the hungry are fed, where the thirsty are filled, where strangers and asylum seekers are welcomed, where the naked are clothed, where the sick are cared for, where justice prevails and where creation is protected.

In this context the possibilities of an Independent Scotland, making its own decisions, need to be proclaimed. Decisions based on Love, Hope and Peace. Decisions based on Hospitality, Compassion and Social Justice. Decisions based on Wisdom, Integrity and the Stewardship of Creation.

It is CFI’s firm belief that by making such decisions itself, an independent Scotland will not only be a nation ‘more comfortable in her own skin’ but also a better neighbour to England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

We hope and pray that Scotland’s independence will come soon and that Scotland will also turn to God as we forge a new, independent, path for ourselves in the world.