Who is God's choice to stand in the gap?
The recent introduction of Sunday sailings to Lewis has brought the issue of Christian input to public and political affairs into sharper focus, and affiliation and candidate selection are vital and unanswered questions.
The perceived need to establish some new form of representation in the Western Isles was expressed yesterday when journalist John Macleod wrote about his dismay regarding the Sunday sailings to Lewis, and his view that the Lord’s Day Observance Society’s should have had a stronger response to this development. And now Macleod is inviting any interested activists to be in touch with him.
As far as a Christian input to the political process is concerned, this was brought into sharp focus when Stornoway man Murdo Murray stood as a Scottish Christian Party candidate for the Highlands and Islands in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. Whilst Murray did not ultimately win a seat he obtained a most encouraging level of support in the process; and since then since then discussions have continued regarding the manner in which Christians should, and are able to input to public and political life in a democratic society.
Two big questions
Part of these discussions surrounded the issues of whether a future candidate should stand with a particular party (Christian or otherwise) or as an independent. And notwithstanding that important point, how a suitable candidate would be selected.
It is regarding the latter – for the mainly-presbyterian Western Isles – that things can be difficult. Presbyterianism is essentially collegiate in its decision-making, and an essential part of any such process is the divine unction of the Holy Spirit. This is the way it should be (Acts 15:22,25,28).
As far as candidate selection is concerned there is a parallel of sorts with the peculiar process involved in a local church congregation ‘calling’ a minister. In the mystical human-divine interaction that should take place, it needs the Spirit to affirm His choice to both the individual minister and the congregation before coming to a firm decision.
However if this principle was applied to a situation whereby a Christian candidate was being sought to stand for public office, the simile breaks down. Whilst two parts of the process would remain the same, one component would be lacking. The essential ingredients of the Holy Spirit speaking into the life of the individual would still apply. But what does not presently exist is any formal grouping which would be the equivalent of a local congregation, and which would – under the same Holy Spirit – ratify the ‘call’.
To party or not?
With regard to party affiliation it would be fairly safe to say that each and every one of the mainstream parties is a ‘mixed bag’ regarding what Christians would find acceptable, and the former have all – to one degree or another – been discredited by the recent scandals surrounding MP’s expenses. In this context the climate might favour aspiring politicians standing as independents. This option – while there are significant down-sides – would free the individual from the eternal dilemma of whether ultimate loyalty is collective and to the party, or individually and personally to God.
Of course a much bigger question surrounds the extent to which – indeed if at all – God would want to work through the essentially-secular political system. But if a Christian were to feel called to stand (as an independent or not) the question still remains: how is the candidate selection process to be handled? If this issue is not addressed then the whole process is effectively stymied. And, in a country which is desperate for conviction-based, wholesome leadership that would be a pity indeed.