Posted by Craig Borlase on 5 June 2015

It’s not much of a pickle, is it? In the Yes camp there are a whole bunch of reasons that support the idea of politicians being open about their faith: the need for honest witness, God’s love of justice, the fact that none of us need to keep our faith under wraps. In these days when Christians are the most persecuted religious group, how could any politician with a faith in Christ stay silent? 

And then there are the opposite arguments: Henry VIII. Emperor Constantine. House of Cards.

But if you know where to look there are plenty of examples of influential leaders refusing to stay quiet about their personal faith and the need for social change. The thing is, very few of them are politicians. 

A quick tour of the twentieth century reveals the church flexing its political muscles brilliantly. The Russian Orthodox Church was a prime example of quiet defiance in the face of the grotesque abuses of communism, while Poland’s long and wealthy heritage as a Catholic nation led to the election of Karol Wojtyla as Pope John Paul II who brought to the Vatican an awareness of the Church’s role within the drive for social change.

Despite the fact that The Dutch Reformed Church helped plan, implement and legitimise apartheid, by 1986 the tides were shifting. Theology made its way out from the whites-only gated communities and into the squalor of the townships, and apartheid’s time drew to a close. South and Central America followed similar paths, with social injustice challenged by the continuing developments within liberation theology. On the front lines was Oscar Romero, Archbishop of San Salvador in El Salvador and a vocal opponent of the human rights abuses carried out against both the poor and the Church during the country’s civil war. He paid with his life in 1980, assassinated while conducting mass, and at his funeral a week later mourners dodged bullets and bombs.

Fifteen years into the new millennium and the Church is facing some internal political struggles. But we’re also engaged in social action; food banks and Street Pastors are demonstrating God’s concern and compassion, while the current heads of the Anglican and Catholic churches appear to have brought a new level of boldness to speak out about injustice.

What’s all this got to do with worship? Things have changed so much over the last decade or two. We no longer talk about the reasons why worship and justice belong together. We know they do. 

Should politics and faith be connected? How can they not be? But if we’re waiting for politicians to be our pastors or hoping that they will be the ones who push for justice, we’re asking to be let down, aren’t we? 

So perhaps what we need is a little more confidence to stand up and engage in the issues that are troubling the communities we worship amongst.

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