Faith and the Green Party DO mix

Posted on March 25, 2015 at 4:52 pm,

Yesterday, Gillan Scott (formerly of God and Politics UK, now blogging at Archbishop Cranmer) wrote a post with the provocative title “Green Party: Christians welcome, but only if you ignore your faith”. Whilst Gillan is usually even-handed, the post was a hatchet-job, basically claiming that the Green Party’s positions on abortion, euthanasia, and same-sex marriage make it impossible for a Christian to remain true to their faith and belong to or vote for the Greens. He ignores the fact that most of these views are very similar to those of other political parties, and doesn’t acknowledge that many Christians think that Green politics are the best fit for a Christian.

In response, I thought I’d explain some of the reasons I think that the Green Party is a good fit for Christians.

Firstly, the issue of creation care. In Genesis 1:29-30, God tells the first humans that he’s putting humanity in charge of the rest of creation. Christians have traditionally interpreted this as meaning that we have a duty of care to it, perhaps the most notable example being Francis of Assisi. Living, as we do, in an era where human technology is reshaping the global climate, we have to ensure that this duty is central to our political life. In the UK, the Green Party is the only political party that treats environmental issues with this level of importance.

Secondly, the issue of poverty. Anybody familiar with the Bible will know that it frequently talks about how God wants us to care for the poorest and most vulnerable in society. Right now, none of the other UK national parties treat this as a priority. Even Labour are talking about how they will be tougher on benefits claimants than the Tories. When austerity policies have seen record numbers of people turning to foodbanks, with a very large proportion of them saying that it is because of benefit changes, a Christian approach to the poor cannot allow us to side with the tabloid press who routinely demonise benefits claimants.

Finally, I’ll mention immigration. Whilst this issue is less fundamental to my theology, my politics, and my party’s politics than the other two, it’s one of the issues that the media and politicians are talking about a lot at the moment. Labour, the Tories, and UKIP are currently playing a game of one-upmanship to see who can talk the toughest about immigration. The problem is that being anti-immigrant is a fundamentally unChristian position. One of the groups that are disadvantaged in society both now and in Biblical times are the immigrants (or aliens, as many Bible translations say). And the Bible repeatedly tells us to about welcome the aliens. The New Testament says many times, and in many different ways, that the differences between nationalities and ethnicities are nothing compared to the unity Christians should have in Christ. As Colossians 3:11 says, “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” (ESV translation). Right now, as far as I can tell, the Greens are the only national party which are trying to say positive things about immigrants when the issue comes up.

So I’ve outlined three issues that are (or at least should be) massively important to British politics in 2015 where I think that the Green Party is more in line with a genuinely Christian approach than the other mainstream political parties. In all three cases, my faith leads me to support the Green Party approach above those of other parties. Given that all three are far more salient to today’s politics than abortion, same-sex marriage, or euthanasia, Gillan’s assertion that Christians should leave our faith at the door before joining or voting for the Green Party looks a little bit silly.

18 Comments

  1. Peter Bowyer
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    I think you rather missed the main point of Gillian’s article. Rather than being concerned mainly with the Green Party’s policies, her foremost criticism is about their attitude to those members who oppose certain policies on principle – using the example of same-sex marriage.

    I agree with your assertion that many Green Party policies will appeal to many Christians, me included. But along with that, in order to get my support as a member they would need to tolerate my dissent on some other policies. If Gillian’s recount of Christina Summers’ experience is anything to go by, this tolerance is in short supply.

  2. Chuck
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    I agree that some of the Green policies are very much in line with Christian principles. The ones you outline being particularly attractive in my view and provide a far better alternative to many of the other parties. However I think Gillan’s point is somewhat different in that he is talking about being a Christian within the Green Party – “Leave Your Faith at the Door” was not his invention, but that of the Green Party. I agree that abortion, same-sex marriage, and euthanasia are not high on the political agenda. However some or all will be very important issues to Christians. Therefore my question is If I were a Member of the Green Party and said, as matter of conscience as a Christian, I cannot support these policies what would the Green Party’s response be?

  3. Peter Bowyer
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    …and my apologies for reading ‘Gillian’ where I should have read ‘Gillan’ in my previous comment, and for subsequent gender confusion.

  4. Stephen Gray
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    Hi Peter and Chuck, thanks for commenting.

    In this post, I was aiming to provide the positive argument for why the Green Party is a good fit for Christians, rather than a direct rebuttal of Gillan’s post. As a party member since 2008, I have never had trouble expressing my views on any of these issues, as long as I am careful about how I do so. Others within the party have no problem with me being pro-life, or expressing a view that I’d prefer marriage to be an opposite-sex relationship.

    As for what happened with Christina Summers, there is a LOT more to what happened than Gillan’s post would suggest. The most simplistic version of events that isn’t terribly misleading is as follows:

    During her selection as a council candidate, she made a pledge to support equality for gays & lesbians. The LGBTIQ group in Brighton & Hove Green Party understood that to mean that she had pledged to support same-sex marriage. She took a different understanding.

    When she spoke and voted against same-sex marriage in a council debate, some of the LGBTIQ group lodged an official complaint about her. Instead of trying to find a way to reconcile with that group, Christina took an adversarial approach, as did her accusers. From that point on, it was pretty much impossible for the situation to end well.

    She was suspended as a Green Party Councillor, but not expelled from the party. The judgement of the tribunal. The final judgement after appeal contained the following two paragraphs:

    “We wish to reiterate that the Green Group of Councillors made Councillor Summers an independent councillor not because of her views on same-sex marriage but because of a whole series of incidents which our inquiry panel investigated.”

    “We respect everyone’s right to religious freedom of expression but that was not the matter under consideration.”

    I don’t know very much about the previous history, but I do know that at least some of it had nothing to do with the issue of same-sex marriage.

    As for the party’s tolerance of dissent, we have never operated a formal whipping system. Green Councillors, AMs, MEPs, Peers, and MPs are free to dissent from party policy in their roles as long as it is made clear that they are doing so, and that they ensure that they state what the party’s policy actually is.

    And on these specific issues, every mainstream political party takes a pro-choice stance on abortion, and is in favour of same-sex marriage (UKIP’s stance on same-sex marriage is the weakest, being merely that they wouldn’t change the law on marriage). That leaves euthanasia as the only one of these issues where there is a measurable difference between the Greens and anybody else – and nobody is going to kick up a fuss about somebody being opposed to that, as long as they aren’t stupidly insensitive in the way they express their views.

  5. AGreenie
    Posted March 26, 2015 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    What makes me laugh is the sheer hypocrisy of the website.

    So a party which rightly wants faith left at the door is singled out for scathing criticism while the Party-of-prayer, which the Website supports, has the highest proportions of dodgy millionaire donors and ministers, policies that consistently rewards the rich at the expense of the poor – the last 5 years have seen the biggest transfer of wealth to the 1% ever – based on the false economics of austerity as a response to a crisis created by the likes of Tax avoiding bankers at least one of whom is a minister of the Church of England.

    I’s strongly suggest that Christ himself would rather choose the “faithless” Greens over hypocritical Tories. I’d also suggest the writer of the article take a serious look at Jesus’s hilarious story of the Prodigal son which was told at the expense of the Pharisees (which is why it’s funny) because they (like the Tories – church going or not) were lovers of status and money – they talked the talk but would’t cross the road except to dodge tax.

  6. Chuck
    Posted March 27, 2015 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

    Stephen, thank you for expanding on your comments, I find that very helpful. You are of course right about other parties views on marriage, abortion etc which for me just makes the decision on who to vote for harder for me. I am by nature a Labour supporter, but I find now that I have no natural home. For me this 2015 election is as much about damage limitation as positive policy, which I feel is a very sad position to be in.

    Dear A Greenie, I think we all would have to be very careful suggesting that Jesus would favour one political party over another. We cannot know the mind of God and one thing the Bible teaches me about Jesus, he seldom did what the people expected.

  7. Stephen Gray
    Posted March 27, 2015 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

    Chuck, if you find that you disagree with none of the parties on an issue that is important to you, I think you have three options.

    Option 1 is to ignore that issue when deciding who to vote for. Nothing’s going to change on it, so you might as well take other factors into account.

    Option 2 is to spoil your ballot paper in protest.

    Option 3 is to stand yourself, either as an independent or as a candidate for some tiny no-hope party that agrees with you (I think it’s now too late to register a new party in time to get it on the ballot paper).

    You say that you are a natural Labour supporter. I know a lot of people in the Greens who used to be Labour through-and-through, but become disillusioned, and then found a new political home in the Greens. That may or may not be right for you, but it is at least worth considering.

    And I agree with your response to A Greenie. Whilst I like to think that my politics are broadly in line with what’s in the Bible, I’m very wary of claiming my politics to be God’s. There are almost certainly political issues where my thinking is out of line with scripture, and every political party has some policies that are problematic for Christians.

  8. Chuck
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Wise words. I do not want to spoil my paper and standing as a candidate is not an option so I think more research and prayer are the way forward.

  9. Peter Bowyer
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    There is a fourth option, of course – study which policies from which parties you definitely disagree with, pick the worst candidate, and use your vote tactically to ensure any one of the other candidates wins.

    Yes, I know it’s cynical. And it’s why the Greens don’t have more MPs, and why they probably won’t have many more this time either. But until there’s a better system, it may be the only way to avoid getting a government you totally disagree with.

  10. Chuck
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Peter, history suggests that whoever I vote for the Tory will get in where I live. I take your point about tactical voting, but I would rather vote for a party I felt had at least some good ideas, rather than vote for party I didn’t like, just because they aren’t quite as bad as the favourite.

  11. Peter Bowyer
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Chuck

    I’m in more of a quandary. My constituency has been Tory for the last 2 terms, but Labour before that. The Tory MP was almost beaten by Labour last time, and this year’s candidate stands a good chance.

    But part of the constituency is also Green territory – one ward has returned Green councillors for three elections in a row. The Green parliamentary candidate is the Greens’ party leader on the council and a very popular councillor.

    So I have a very real problem. The Green candidate is unlikely to win the seat, but does stand a chance of splitting the left-leaning vote sufficiently to allow the Tory to scrape back in.

    If I vote purely on policies, I’d vote Green. But should I do that, and risk helping the Tories back into power?

  12. Chuck
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    I understand your dilemma and would hesitate to advise you. My only thought is tactical voting hides the true feelings of the electorate.

  13. AGreenie
    Posted March 28, 2015 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    Dear Chuck and others,

    admission: I tend to exaggerate when I reply to blogs. It’s a weakness. forgive

    I’m not saying Jesus would choose the Green party over the Conservative party. What I meant is that Jesus always passionately defended the “faithless” – usually everyone outside the elites – against those who, for reasons of status and power, hypocritically condemned them. As I see it, this was classically (and characteristically) demonstrated by the writer of the article; picking on a supposed weakness to condemn those the writer regards as failing or having lower or no Christian values, just as the pharisee did to the lower orders of their day. If a Labour or Liberal (or even a Green) had written that article I’d be saying the same, he was after all condemning an immoral, irreligious or unethical stance (by the Greens in this case), while characteristically ignoring deep seated immorality among his own class. God passionately hated this! and as followers of Christ we are entitled – even commanded – to be equally passionate against injustice wherever it appears. If what I’ve said is an extreme view then sorry but hopefully this clarifies things..a little..a small amount..a tiny, tiny bit?

    On tactical voting; I’m as torn as some here, the prospect of another 5 years of Tory (or lesser so, Labour) rule is almost unimaginably bad news. Yet this, of all elections could be a defining one to finally end the one party, two flavours neoliberalism we’ve had to endure for too long.

    I’ll be voting Green

  14. Adam
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    In case anyone is under any misunderstanding that the Green Party actually has a slogan ‘Leave your faith at the door’, I should point out that the photo at the top is photoshopped (the original is at http://www.warringtonguardian.co.uk/news/11845142.Green_Party_announces_Warrington_North_candidate_following__unrecognisable__recognition/).

  15. Adam
    Posted March 30, 2015 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Clarification – I meant at the top of the Archbishop Cranmer blog that you are responding to.

  16. Carolyn Phillips
    Posted May 8, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this post and the others here. I’ve followed the Greens both locally and nationally on Facebook for several months whilst I decided who to vote for (ie whether or not to vote tactically) and in the end voted Green in national and local elections (have done do in local for years). After the result I am considering joining the party came across this blog on a Google search. It is very encouraging to read. Would be nice if there was a link on the Green Party website as there is to other sub groups.

  17. Stephen Gray
    Posted May 8, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

    Hi Carolyn,

    We are in the process of forming a new Christian group within the Green Party. However, because everybody within the group has been rather stretched because of the election campaign, it’s still only halfway to having official status. Things should speed up soon (or at least after we’ve all had a chance to recover from the election). The new group will most likely have a link on the party website alongside other subgroups.

  18. Posted May 11, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    You do seem to be missing the point that the reason the guy believes the Greens can’t be Christian is because of the Greens’ allowance of means to abort pregnancies, assisted suicide, and same-sex marriage. The Bible however doesn’t address such issues, especially not in the way we’ve interpreted them. Many texts have been misread either due to mistaking certain lettering for something else, having mistranslated certain words, the definition of the words altered over the years, and deliberate redefinition of certain words to fit in with what the church leaders thought sounded better and gave them power over the people, after all early church leaders were in a very high position of power and one of their greatest tools for keeping people under their thumb was the fear of condemnation for not keeping in line or questioning God’s teachings.

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