Editorial: Faith and politics
Thanks to the oddities of magazineland in summer, I’m writing this four weeks before you’re likely to read it. Each one of those weeks being a long time in politics, the risk of my saying something that has come to look foolishly misguided by the time you read it is pretty big. But still.
At the time of writing, Jeremy Corbyn is big news. The wheeze of Tory voters in July registering as Labour supporters in order to vote him in and make Labour unelectable is now looking like hubris. He is not only ahead in the leadership polls, but has changed the campaign from a personality contest into a new debate about what the Labour party is for. Inspiring and exciting a new generation of party members is hardly the same as winning the confidence of the nation, but the speed with which he has achieved the former has started to make the latter seem that bit more feasible.
The reason Corbyn has leapt from nowhere to Newsnight is hope. Not primarily the hope of members that he will win Labour the next election, but the hope that he will make the party stand for something – something other than the attempt to win elections by posing as a slightly nicer, slightly less competent, version of the Conservative party. That “something” will appall some readers of Reform, and inspire others. Corbyn’s vision will have its work cut out if it is to win over the party and much more work cut out if it is to unite it. But if it does so, and if it then wins over UK voters, that will be the work of hope – the stirring of a buried belief that things can be transformed.
It is what Tony Blair offered in 1997, and Margaret Thatcher in 1979. It’s also the reason why whoever said religion and politics don’t mix didn’t know what they were talking about. Hope is at the heart of faith, lighting its way from the abolition movement to foodbanks, and indeed from the exodus to the New Jerusalem. It is the central prayer of Christianity: “Your kingdom come”.
Hope is the great, glorious common ground between faith and politics. Faith without politics is self-help; politics without faith is crowd control. Where they work together there is hope, the hope that digs deep in us to find the power of transformation.
Hope can be deluded; it can be disappointed. Hope can be placed in the wrong people and things. But whenever hope lets us down, the one thing we need most is more of it. And wherever we find it, that’s where we need to go.
This is an extract from the September 2015 edition of Reform.