In what is part of a growing trend of giving focused manifestos for particular groups, UKIP have produced UKIP’s Policies for Christians. I think that it’s important that we engage with this, so here is my attempt! As party politics is generally contentious, I should stress that these are only my own views.
I’m not sure what I think of any of these focused manifestos as a general principle, but as all the main parties have produced them, obviously they think that this is a good idea! I’m wary of any group (women, minority ethnic communities, etc) being treated as a bloc vote, and it’s probably worth stating that all the main parties have members and candidates who are committed Christians. Which reminds us that when it gets to the sort of issues debated at elections, Christians will have widely differing views…
However, as UKIP have produced this, I think it’s only fair that it’s properly considered.
There are some good things in here: UKIP plan to retain everyone’s freedom to worship, they think families are important, they are concerned about homelessness and want to strengthen the support that foodbanks give. They talk about fighting human trafficking, the importance of faith schools, teaching RE, and strengthening the welfare system. These are things that I think Christians (and many others) will welcome.
UKIP are not planning to change the Same Sex Marriage Act or the Abortion act, or introduce an assisted dying law, all of which (to underline the diversity of Christian opinion) will be welcomed by some Christians, while others will think that they have gone too far, or not far enough!
I’m not sure that there’s much evidence that “other parties have deliberately marginalised our nation’s faith” though, as Nigel Farage claims. David Cameron has spoken of his belief in the importance of Christianity and Ed Milliband has spoken at meetings of Christians on the Left.
Nigel Farage also talks about “encouraging self-reliance”.
This is definitely not a Christian value! Reliance on God and reliance on each other as part of the body of Christ, absolutely. So, for example in 1 Corinthians 12, Paul writes:
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. …
Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. … And so the body is not made up of one part but of many.
That’s pretty much the opposite of self-reliance, I think, with its focus on the individual, rather than the community.
The list of policies also states that: “Charity should begin at home”
How in any way is this Christian? This is one of those classic ‘what the Bible doesn’t say’ things that I’ve blogged about elsewhere. The parable of the Good Samaritan (to take one example) is about the precise opposite – it’s about someone from outside the community, from a despised minority in fact, caring for someone and being used as an example of how to live.
Also in the Overseas Aid section they write:
Our priorities for aid spending will be on emergency aid, fresh drinking water and sanitation programmes, healthcare and inoculations against preventable diseases.
This is good, but misses out what Christian charities, such as Christian Aid, argue is one of the most important issues, that of climate change. Christian Aid writes:
Millions of the world’s poorest people are feeling the impact of climate change right now. They are suffering first and worst from the consequences, and yet they are least to blame.
UKIP also talk about supporting Church repairs by reducing or removing VAT. I obviously welcome less bureaucracy, but the government does at the moment provide a grant scheme to get back VAT. Is UKIP planning to scrap this scheme? Because if not, there will be essentially no difference in the final bill, and if yes, then actually we’ll be paying 5% more than we are at the moment…
Obviously many of UKIP’s policies are about coming out of the EU. This isn’t particularly a Christian issue either way, and I’m sure that there will be Christians on both sides of the debate.
What is unclear to me is how this is a particularly ‘Christian’ list of policies. They don’t really show how most of these flow from Judaeo-Christian values. UKIP are anti-EU, socially conservative, and pro-free trade. Those aren’t particularly Christian values, but will be values shared by some Christians, and the policies in this manifesto flow far more clearly from those values than from any “Judaeo-Christian values”.
Fundamentally, this ‘Christian manifesto’ fails because UKIP don’t define what they mean by “Judaeo-Christian values” and don’t show how any of their policies are informed by Christian theological principles. This is something I tried to do in my talk on Sunday, on God’s transforming love. So, some of UKIP’s policies are therefore things that Christians can whole-heartedly support, some are things that I think Christians should struggle to support, and some are things that Christians will be divided on. Which, really, is probably the same for all the main parties…