Pursuing Christ in our Campaigning
This forms part of our series on faith in the public square which seeks to connect the gospel to politics, activism, community work, and wider social engagement. Here are Matt Bunday's thoughts on how the gospel drives his work. We hope this will be a help to you as you consider the impact of the gospel on your studies and politics.
(Trying) to forget about COVID momentarily, it’s this time of year we all reminisce, isn’t it? We look back on the past year and ask ourselves if we have worked hard enough or climbed that proverbial or literal mountain. I commented to a friend the other week, “if you met me four years ago you might not have recognised me”. Although used in a different context, the comment got me wondering, HOW has my life changed now that I am, at least trying to, live for God?
Four years ago, I had just joined the Labour Party because I wanted to ease my conscious about not doing enough during a number of seismically political events that had occurred which went against my values. I’ll leave you to work out what they are, but one of them will be remedied on the 20th of January after 4 nervous years and another one appeared to turn into the biggest game of ‘deal or no deal’ that the world has ever seen! My thinking was to just do some campaigning and write blogs so that I could carry on my career interests with a clear conscious.
Fast forward four years, I am a City Councillor and group secretary for a Labour-run council, I have stood for Parliament and I am studying a postgraduate degree in International Relations. So, what has changed… well I can think of one thing… my dependence on God.
A political friend of mine said to me 2 months before I was selected to fight the council seat in the ward that I grew up in - something that I considered a huge honour to do - that when God has your “yes”, He opens the door to amazing things happening in your life. I was at the Labour Party conference at the time that I had been nominated by my constituency to attend. My head hit the pillow on the Saturday night after a reception, and I felt God say, “if you want to go into Politics, you can, but I need your ‘yes’ now…” He got it from me that night and within 24 hours I found myself in an influential meeting to help decide a key Labour policy going forward. I nervously put my hand up at the right time when I felt empowered to contribute - it was only a small point that ultimately made a valid contribution to the meeting - but the divine message that I was meant to be ‘in the room’ and indeed that I had a contribution within politics to make was clear. Eight months later I won a target seat for Labour after an exciting campaign.
So, what has this all taught me?
In hindsight, there were just too many obstacles to achieve what I have done to date without God, as too many things could have gone wrong along the way; 'And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “this is the way, walk in it”' (Isaiah 30:21). When I have felt like giving up or standing down, God has carried me through each of the elections that I have played significant roles in whilst keeping me focused on achieving political progress in an often-inspiring way that honours Him.
So, what could this mean for you?
Modern entertainment and news media can have exciting ways of encouraging people to get involved when you think about it. From CNN’s “Go There” to the West Wing’s “decisions are made by those in the room”; We often don’t need much convincing to get involved in our own campaigns once we’ve identified them. My front line is politics, but yours may be completely different and everyone helps build the Kingdom in their own way. I’ve been shown a way that I can use my personality and experience, which God has developed in me, to fight for justice and to help to make the world a better place. What is he planning for you?
Whether it be political activism, volunteering for a charity, or just standing up to the workplace bully, we all have ways we can campaign. Political battles take many shapes and forms, so open your heart to God and let Him transform your interests and passions. Study the difference between baseless frustration and righteous anger so that you can understand your passions and look for guidance from others in developing your interests.
Is living for God easy? Absolutely, not… challenging things still test your faith, and this pandemic will leave its scars on everyone, but never assume that people don’t notice your godly manner or that the briefest conversation can have the biggest impact through the thoughts and actions that you inspire others to take. Keep your motivations pure, rise above the political bickering, and embrace your personality as a mandate from God to help make things better.
Remember that our previous experience and the pain that we all carry can be important in growing us and lean into Romans 8:18. I’ve had to learn the hard way when to make that particular objection, argument or principled stand. But God will give you the right words at the right time and I can personally vouch for this when thinking back to those earlier days in my career when I agreed to media interviews without really thinking beforehand what I might say!
So, who am I today? I am a Christian and a politician – I am a Labour Party member because of the values that they champion, I represent my wards, other Christians, and of course God. But who are you? If you give God your ‘yes’, then your faith and personal goals will align to create things that you never thought possible. Be patient during the quiet times and remember your values but be prepared to start your campaign when the time comes and be a part of the solution.
It’s OK to be slightly afraid - but more the fun type of fear like when you get onto a fairground ride. He never asks you to do things alone, but he does ask you to stand at the front, set the tone in the room, be the one to say something, and to protect others; 'Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves' (Philippians 2:3). But in doing so God will be working within you so that you can make change… and you won’t be disappointed in the outcome!