Tim Farron has written observing that lots of Christians wrote in to MPs like him asking them to vote against the amendments to the Domestic Abuse bill that would have resulted in a sweeping liberalisation of the abortion law. His fear is that we will come to be seen as single issue campaigners and harsh moralistic ones at that.
As it happens, I have a lot of sympathy with Tim’s concern that the outlook of some Christian campaign groups has become narrow. It has long been the case that evangelical engagement in political matters is frowned upon, unless those matters are homosexuality and abortion. Indeed, my concern is that the political outlook has become narrower still and focused primarily on defending Christian’s civil rights on matters like freedom of speech and the right to assemble (see the current Christian Concern case against the Government on lockdown laws).
However, I don’t find his article convincing. Now, at this stage I must declare an interest. I rarely write to my MP about specific legislation but I did write to him about the Domestic Abuse bill. And yes, Tim is right, I wrote specifically about the two clauses relating to abortion. I did however preface my comments about the specific amendments with these words:
“First of all I think it is appalling that it has taken so long for this bill to pass through Parliament and become law. It would be saddening if the introduction of a controversial amendment which I do not believe links directly to the bill’s purpose was to result to result in further delays to the bill’s passage through the house.”
But, Tim is right, I probably wouldn’t have written to him about the Domestic Abuse law if it hadn’t been for those clauses. Here’s why, it’s not that I don’t think that domestic abuse is a low priority issue, in fact I have spent quite a bit of time over the past few years ensuring abuse victims have been supported, this has included encouraging a couple of women to set up a support group, linking at risk people up with shelters and charities, linking them up with their local MP and also helping them to find good legal support. So, this topic is high up my priority list because I see the damage that abuse causes.
However, when citizens write to their MPS, it tends to be a defensive measure. First of all, it is when they are concerned that a law will have a negative impact and secondly when that law is likely to be passed. Normally, we assume that the MPs we elected can be trusted to use that mandate. I would hope and expect that a law that seeks to protect women against abuse should pass easily through the House of Commons and command support from both sides of the chamber.
This is important because I want to choose wisely about when to write to my MP. There are hundreds of pieces of legislation and regulation being passed at any one time. I can’t know the detail of each one and I can’t write to my MP about every one or neither of us would get any work done!
Our care and passion about subjects whether it is homelessness, the environment, domestic abuse, working conditions or whatever is not measured by whether or not we write in strong terms to our representatives or even if we expressed and stood by strong views. Rather, it is demonstrated by how we live our lives day to day.
Now, here is the important bit. It is okay for us to disagree with Tim’s article but can we back up our argument with evidence. I think that we should be ready to speak up on this issue. However, if we have never spoked out against racism or stood up for the abused against the abuser and most of all have stayed silent about the Gospel then we would probably do well to hold our counsel on this topic too.