It became rather apparent during lockdown that once again, our country was being divided down fairly familiar lines. I’m not saying that there was an exact like for like, true in every case. However, generally speaking, it seemed possible to divide people into two camps.
The first camp was those who were concerned about Global Warming, pro Remain in the UK and hostile to Donald Trump in the US. This group tended towards caution on COVID-19 favouring earlier, stricter, longer lockdowns. They would be likely to see Germany and New Zealand as offering model examples for how to face a pandemic.
The other camp included many who voted for or even campaigned for Brexit, were highly sceptical about climate change and were more willing to give Donald Trump a chance. This group tended to be suspicious of lockdowns, believed that the pandemic was either overblown, a hoax or could be overcome through natural herd immunity. They have tended to offer up Sweden as the gold standard model for beating a pandemic.
Now, I am not going to rehearse the different arguments here. Rather, what I want to highlight is the way that our response to things is formulated by underlying presuppositions. Within society there are two strands and they tend to affect political ideology. On the one hand you have a more collectivist or communitarian approach and on the other, you see a greater emphasis on individualism and/or libertarianism. The first group are more likely to be supportive of state intervention. They are likely to ask “Did the State do enough/handle things competently?” The other group will be suspicious of state intervention and more likely to defy rules and regulations. They are likely to ask “should the State have been involved at all.”
Now, both of these ideologies are perfectly respectable positions with a long pedigree and there is no reason for a Christian not to hold either. That’s where the issue comes in for us. I have heard people say that the Gospel is political. If they mean that the Gospel challenges every power and authority, then you are spot on, it is political in that sense. However, what it is not, is tribal or party political.
This is why we need to look carefully at what we say as Christians. COVID-19 is one example among many but there are times when I think our response to matters of public theology is not shaped by theology, not shaped by what we understand Scripture to teach. Rather, our response is shaped by our political ideology.
Now, if there is nothing wrong with the two philosophies per se, then there is no problem with Christians hold to and speaking for either. The problem comes when one or both of the following happen.
- Christians claiming to take a stand on an issue in their capacity as church leaders are in fact, pushing their personal political ideology.
- Instead of evaluating our politics through the lens of Scripture, we start evaluating Scripture through the lens of our political ideology.
It is so important that everything we say and do is brought under the submission of Scripture. It should never be the other way round.