What’s the story?
British Prime Minister Theresa May has called a surprise General Election – set for 8th June – despite her party only having been re-elected in 2015.
It was the news that took everyone by surprise. Just two years on from the last General Election, British PM Theresa May has called the country to the polls again. The 2017 General Election will take place on Thursday 8th June, with another Conservative win looking extremely likely.
Mrs May says that although unconventional, the “reluctant decision” to call a snap election was based on the need to “unify” Westminster. Since last Summer’s referendum vote to leave the European Union, debate around how Britain should execute its so-called ‘Brexit’ has been fierce and unrelenting, and without calling that referendum into question May sees another public vote as a way to confirm her mandate to lead the country in its future negotiations with Europe.
Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn publicly welcomed the decision, calling it “a chance to vote for a Government that will put [the country’s] needs first.” However, Mr Corbyn himself is subject to an ongoing tussle within the Labour party, with many members and MPs still known to oppose his leadership. Commentators have suggested that Corbyn’s public persona – as a principled man who is too left-wing to unify broad Labour support – somewhat plays into Conservative hands.
Tim Farron, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and like Mrs May a committed Christian, is attempting to carve out ground for his party as one which will oppose the kind of ‘hard Brexit’ which might see the UK torn from Europe without an established economic deal in place. In the early weeks of the contest, he’s been the subject to journalistic interrogation around his Christian beliefs, and particularly his view on whether gay sex was a ‘sin.’ Eventually he stated that he believed it wasn’t.
This kind of drama is sure to continue over the coming weeks, with another key area of contention being the possibility of live TV debates between the leaders. So far Mrs May has opposed the idea of continuing the recent tradition of US-style debates, but as public pressure mounts she may be forced to change her stance. Whatever happens, there’s no doubt that this will be characterised as one of the strangest elections in modern British history.
What have others been saying?
The BBC are running an excellent live blog which is being updated with latest events from the election campaign on a continual basis.
Harry Farley on Christian Today asks why faith is seen as a disadvantage in British politics, whereas in the US it’s the other way around.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York sent a joint letter to churches across the UK, highlighting the importance of faith in British life, and calling on Britons to remember Britain’s Christian heritage as they place their votes.
#1 – CHRISTIANS AND POLITICS
The Bible has much to say about our relationship with politics and those appointed to lead over us. We are told to respect the authority of our rulers (Romans 13: 1-3), and submit ourselves even to those we don’t agree with so that “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2: 13-16). We should remember that God is in ultimate authority, and is to be honoured first and above earthly rulers (Isaiah 33:22), and therefore our respect for government should never over-ride our service of God. For example, we are called to “seek justice. Defend the oppressed...” (Isaiah 1:17), and if our political leaders do not show an interest in this, it’s our duty of service to God to step up and do so in spite of them.
#2 – PRAYING FOR LEADERS
It’s perhaps the most obvious thing to say about Christian engagement with politics, but we are compelled to pray for our leaders – “for Kings and all those in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). Sometimes that can feel very difficult, especially when we fundamentally disagree not only with the policies of our leaders, but with their very appointment to that position. However, Paul writes more in that well-known verse; he suggests that the motivation for our prayers should be “that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all Godliness and holiness.” In other words, as the Archbishops of Canterbury and York pointed out in their letter, we should pray that our leaders govern in such a way that the Christian faith is enabled to thrive and grow.
Points for prayer
- Pray for a fair and honest election, not characterised by backbiting or deceit, but by clear arguments and a motivation to achieve the greater good.
- Pray for politicians who are fearful of losing their jobs as a result of the election, that they would have peace and be able to execute their duties well.
- Pray for the Christian voice in this election to be clear, strong and gracious, and not side-lined by certain media agendas, or hi-jacked by extremists.
- Pray that God’s will would be done in this election.
Martin Saunders is Youthscape’s Deputy Chief Executive. A former editor of Youthwork magazine and the founding Editor of sister-title Childrenswork, Martin is a popular speaker and the author of various books including ‘Youth Work From Scratch’. He lives in Reigate, Surrey with his wife Jo and their four children.