Today I simply want to post some brief thoughts on the historic events of yesterday, and some of the illustrative power they have in terms of the Gospel and God's work. After that normal service will resume, with little direct mention of politicians or policy.
Tuesday 11th May 2010 will undoubtedly be remembered in history as a day when many moulds were broken. On his excellent political blog Nick Robinson records some of the historic elements of David Cameron coming to power, including the fact that he is the youngest Prime Minister in 200 years. The most compelling factoid, however, has to be the coalition which now exists between the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats - a partnership which few could have foreseen or credited. Undoubtedly this new alliance will prompt much praise and many criticisms, and time will tell whether it proves to be a viable means of governance, but it does give rise to a lot of ideological issues, not least when thought through in terms of how Christians operate, and co-operate.
As I listened compulsively to Radio 4 yesterday, a number of thoughts arose in my mind as to what parallels can be drawn between the process of forming this new government, and how Christians can relate to one another meaningfully. Out of this, one main thought emerged for me, and has become a point of prayer this morning: the need to see our need of each other.
A few months ago the pundits were raining plaudits on David Cameron as the man to lead the Conservative Party to a decisive victory in the May election. Many were foreseeing the sunshine bathed images of David Cameron greeting the grasping hands of an adoring public, delivering them from the dull thud politics of Gordon Brown. Events last Thursday proved to be very different indeed. While the Conservatives certainly won the election, no party could lay claim to a clear majority. A sense of mutual dependency quickly set in, and last night's new government stands as a testimony to people who harbour serious differences realising that in an unstable political climate, coalition is crucial.
There are surely lessons in this for us as Christians. I am not here thinking about ecumenism, nor of the Manhattan declaration and its successors - in terms of standing with people whose theology is utterly divided from one another on the 'big' moral issues. Rather I am thinking of the need for evangelicals to see the need for coalition, co-operation and mutual prayer in our current context.
This is, thankfully, already happening. The Together for the Gospel intiative in the USA, as well as organisations like the Proclamation Trust inviting speakers from the other end of their theological spectrum to minister at the EMA next month, are healthy signs that as believers we have recognised the fact that we really need each other.
Coalition is no easy thing, however. It has a tendency to throw up tensions and absurdities which simply are not experienced when we are isolationist or excessively separatist. Major figures will come under fire for alleged compromise, and others outside of the partnership will find it easy to throw stones. This will undoubtedly happen with the Lib-Con coalition in coming days, and it has been the regrettable experience of key evangelical figures also. John MacArthur, for instance, faced a maelstrom of criticism for his alliance with Reformed Charismatics like C. J. Mahaney. Tolerance of being misunderstood, misrepresented and even openly maligned is one of the inherent dangers of stepping outside of one's circle to further the good of the Gospel more broadly.
There are of course times when such coalition raises credible questions, which should be addressed with grace on the part of those asking, and openness on the part of those answering. A recent example of this has been John Piper's invitation to Rick Warren to minister at an upcoming Desiring God conference. I'd rather sit on the fence with this one than come down heavily on either side - especially given the invective, criticism, and hostility that Piper has faced as a result. Whether or not a Piper-Warren coalition is advisable or even possible is one thing, seasoning our words about it with salt is quite another.
Written large across the current British political scene are three words which must strike a chord with many among the electorate: 'the national interest'. There is a sense in which both Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have had to set aside their differences, compromise on policy and face external/internal criticism because they believe that the welfare of a nation in crisis is paramount. As believers it is easy to see the coming storm that awaits the church in the United Kingdom. Moral currency in our country has faced a multiple dip recession across many decades, and the hostility confronting gospel proclamation is becoming increasingly confident, vocal and militant. How tragic if we failed to realise that at the root of good gospel partnership is not merely 'the national interest' but the 'eternal interest' of the moral life of our nation and the souls of its citizens.
Coalition is a conundrum, but a good conundrum in my estimation. Perhaps - unusually - there are lessons for our churches to learn from the political world, which could make a massive difference in our churches, our publications, and our witness to a world which is not waiting to hear our message.
Photo credit: The Prime Minister's Office