Okay—political post warning. For those who think Christians should not engage in the political process or write political commentary, I suppose you’d better pass on by. But equally for those looking for an unequivocal statement of support for a particular party or leader, again pass on by.
I think it’s important that we have opinions on political matters. And while I don’t often write about politics here on my blog, I have done so occasionally. For example, last December I expressed my strong concerns about the leadership ability of Gordon Brown, who is our current prime minister. Since then, even a member of his own party has claimed that Brown was put on earth to remind us all of how good Tony Blair was. There have also been no fewer than three sets of memoirs published that haven’t exactly portrayed him very well, and there have been a string of mistakes he has made which have been well catalogued in the British media.
What I want to highlight today is a serious blow to the very heart of our political system. It has always been the case that on matters of conscience, such as morality, our political parties do not have official policy. There is an unwritten agreement that members of Parliament and the Lords will always be given a free vote on such matters as abortion and embryo experimentation. This is based on the fundamental principle that the people of the UK do not elect parties, they elect individuals to serve them, and on moral questions those representatives are best placed to make those judgment calls. This has had a number of effects. It has not meant that we necessarily have more moral laws. What it does mean is that, unlike the U.S., where it seems such things are decided by unelected lawyers in the Supreme Court, if we want the law changed all we have to do is elect the right people.
Since the right people in the UK do not necessarily belong to particular political parties, it has also had the result that Christians are far less wedded to the Conservative party than their counterparts in the U.S. are to the Republicans. In fact, many Christians would have voted for Tony Blair, who was known as a man of some faith (which is perhaps relatively unusual in our politicians). Many Christians in the UK are, however, still rather detached from the political system, which is arguably as much a bad thing as being overly embroiled in it.
Gordon Brown risks awakening a sleeping bear in our nation for he has turned the status quo on its head. Despite howls of protest, even from some of his cabinet members (some of whom are Catholic), he is making a certain bill before the house currently into what is called a “whipped” bill for members of his party. The other parties are still allowing freedom of conscience.
Brown initially stated that his party would be forced to vote in favor of every provision in the act. Now, in true Brown style, he has climbed down, but only in a meaningless partial and tokenistic way. His members will be allowed to vote with their conscience on individual portions of the bill, but then if the portions are passed, when the bill as a whole comes before them they will be forced to vote in favor irrespective of their religious or ethical convictions. He is also being criticized for placing very short time limits on the debates over these vital issues.
This all sets a dangerous precedent, and is very worrying to Christians, especially considering the provisions being considered, which are as follows:
- The creation of animal/human hybrid embryos.
- Permission for IVF doctors to create “saviour siblings” chosen specifically to provide donor tissue to their sick older brother or sister.
- Removal of the requirement for IVF clinics to consider the need for a father figure when deciding whether to offer treatment.
- Removal of the requirement that doctors sign a form stating that an abortion is in the interest of a woman’s health.
- Reduction to the term limit for abortion from 24 weeks to 20, saving 2,948 of the 193,000 lives taken by abortion each year in the UK.
Please pray that there will be a miraculous turnaround and that somehow we might be delivered from these things becoming law (except perhaps the last one, which is, of course, a step in the right direction).