As a leader within a church which believes Social Justice and Social Action to be at the heart of our faith I am often challenged that ‘religion should not be political’. For some people, faith is considered to be a personal thing, something concerned with their own relationship with the Divine, not something to be shared with others or imposed upon others. I get that, and for those that don’t push ‘religion’ onto others I am profoundly grateful!
But I also think that something which affects our hearts and minds in the way that faith does will also, at best, have a real effect on our lives, and should influence us and our place in the world for the better. My own experience has been that my faith has made a difference to me, in making me more aware of those in need and my calling to help and speak out for them, in the way I seek to treat other people (though I don’t claim to get that right all the time, or indeed very often), in the things I say and do.
I agree that faith groups shouldn’t be involved directly in party politics, and am entirely in favour of the separation of church and state - but the political world has a huge influence on our society and we should take heed of our calling to be involved. I am challenged by these words from the Christian Scriptures: ”‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’” This is the declaration with which Jesus began his work, reading from the book of the Prophet Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible, and seems to say that when God’s Spirit is at work, then world-changing stuff should be going on.
Or perhaps the words of the Virgin Mary might challenge us “God has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts. God has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty.” These (and many other) passages point towards a faith that is down to earth, concerned with justice, and even revolutionary. They aren’t aligned with one political philosophy or another, but challenging any system where there is injustice, and where one group of people grow wealthy at the expense of others.
I am convinced that faith is not just about a distanced or distracted ‘spirituality’ but is a spiritual path which forms the basis for right living. For the followers of Jesus, it is about not just concerning ourselves with prayer, but with our attitudes towards and treatment of the poor, our willingness to stand up to systems which oppress and imprison, to take care of the sick and to visit those who are trapped.
For any person of faith, spirituality forms that foundation which encourages us to act with charity, service, love, and humility. It is a challenge to look beyond ourselves and to make a positive difference not just for ourselves but for others. Though our faith may come from a deep and very personal place, it does not stop there, but draws us out of ourselves into the struggle, and the delight, of being there, and being with, others.
Alastair McCollum is Rector of St. John the Divine Anglican Church in Victoria. He has a passion for the Gospel, motorbikes and bike culture, worship, philosophy, theology, guitars, single malt whisky, real ale, cinema and all things French. You can find Alastair at the church website: www.stjohnthedivine.bc.caand on his blog: fracme.blogspot.ca
You can read more articles from out interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE