The three supposedly unmentionable subjects of conversation in polite society used to be religion, sex and politics. Some of us may still sigh for those days, even in monasteries, for we are not immune to what is going on around us, nor should we be. In recent weeks, we have heard a great deal of politics. First, there was the Scottish Referendum, which sent political commentators scuttling in all directions and panicked the denizens of Westminster; then there were the party conferences, with David Cameron allegedly producing the best speech, if not the best policies, of the three main political parties; and now we have all and sundry picking over the rise and rise of UKIP and devising strategies designed to harness the power of the UKIP sympathizer for their own party.
As someone with no party political allegiance, may I point out what seems to me a dangerous flaw in all this supposedly strategic thinking? Whatever those who vote for UKIP may be thinking, it is surely dangerous for any other party to allow its own policy to be dictated by UKIP’s agenda. Nigel Farage has the popular touch and has correctly identified some of the major concerns of many British people, but his proposed solutions may not be the right ones, either ethically or politically. We all know how easy it is for those not in power to make promises they cannot fulfil when they are. It is just as easy for those wanting power to feel they must adapt their policy to what they perceive to be popular, and perhaps make the most enormous mistakes into the bargain. The pros and cons of current British immigration policy, for example, cannot be reduced to a few emotive headlines. Politics and ethics are linked, for both are concerned with how we live.
I myself don’t think any political party has a monopoly of what is right, which is why I am uneasy when some people equate being Christian with holding specific political views. I am, however, even more uneasy when Christians suspend their Christianity to espouse political doctrines that are radically unfair or unjust or will imperil future generations. We know when the next General Election will be held. During the months ahead we shall need to think carefully about the choices we shall make. You won’t be surprised that I think we should also pray about them — starting now.