One of the things about this blog is that, every so often, I get contacted by a Christian who is considering joining the Green Party. Usually, they ask me one of two things. Firstly, whether the party has an equivalent of Christians
on the Left in Labour, the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum, or the Conservative Christian Fellowship. Secondly, they want to know about my experiences in the party, and whether it welcomes Christians. As my e-mail reply to the last person who asked never got delivered, I thought I’d post about these issues here.
The answer to the first question is simple. At the moment there isn’t a Christian group within the party. I have thought about starting one, but don’t really have the capacity.
The answer to the second question has a bit more to it. A lot of the people who ask it have heard about the incident where a Green Party councillor called Christina Summers was removed from the Green group in Brighton and Hove because she spoke and voted against same-sex marriage because of her Christian faith. There was a lot more to the story than appeared in headlines, but I’m not going to go into it in this post.
My personal experience in the party has been good. I am not shy about my Christianity, and I have never had a problem with another member of the party over my faith. Whilst there are a handful of Dawkins-style “new atheists” in the party, that is true of all the mainstream UK parties, and I have never come across anybody like that in person.
Most party members who would describe themselves as Christians are theologically liberal, though I know at least half a dozen party members who are Evangelical Christians. They include a Green Party councillor (not Christina Summers) and a church leader. None of them have ever mentioned having problems within the party because of their faith.
So, basically, the party does welcome Christian members who broadly agree with what the party stands for (if you’re left-wing and think that environmental issues are important, that’s probably you). However, there are some issues (basically sexuality and life issues) where Christians are reasonably likely to have views that could cause conflict with the party. Generally speaking, other party members will not have a problem with you holding these views as long as you are careful about how you express them. Also, if you are ever in a position where you are speaking for the party (e.g. as a councillor), you will have to exercise a bit more care to ensure that nobody could mistake your view for the party’s view.
The party is pro-choice on abortion and in favour of euthanasia. There is a strong feminist current within the party, and a tendency to say that these issues are ones of individual responsibility. I’ve never had a problem explaining that I view the unborn child as a human being in his/her own right, or that I am extremely uncomfortable with the idea of euthanasia. As long as you are sensitive in the way that you convey pro-life views and don’t give people the impression that your views are party policy, no party member is going to have a problem with you. However, doing something considered incredibly insensitive – like joining a protest right outside an abortion clinic will cause problems.
The party has had a strong LGBTQI* group for a long time, and party policy has had a strong gay rights policy for just as long. This is, of course, at odds with a traditional Christian view of sexual morality, the nature of marriage, and – to some extent – at odds with faith groups expecting their leaders, employees, or members to uphold these morals. There are a lot of people within the party who think that Christians holding the traditional view that gay sex is a sin are necessarily homophobic, and that any opposition to same-sex marriage is incompatible with the concept of equality. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t express those views, but you just have to be very careful how you do it (more so than with life issues). In particular you need to be sensitive to the way LGBTQI people feel about these issues, and be aware of the hurt many of them have experienced at the hands of Christians bringing condemnation, rather than love. You also need to be aware that the difference between the view of most party members and the traditional Christian view has its roots in some pretty fundamental bits of worldview – the two views depend on very different understandings of identity, sexuality, love, and equality. Which means that many party members won’t understand how any thinking person could believe that gay sex is a sin, or that marriage should be restricted to opposite-sex couples.
*LGBTQI stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Queer, Intersex” – which is the current initialism of said group within the party.