The Christian Case for Nationalism

Neil MacLeod 20 Nov 20

We are committed to applying our faith to our political engagement and this does not stop when it comes to our political and party allegiances. As we have reflected on elsewhere, all political ideologies correctly hold to some Biblical truths and all political ideologies fail to recognise other Gospel realities. We cannot therefore add to the Gospel and demand allegiance to one party or cause, for we cannot bind what the Bible does not bind. Our interaction with parties, policies, and voting is more often than not a wisdom call. One which should be influenced and shaped by our faith but not one we can attribute salvation status to. As Christians then we are free to choose our party and free to choose who to vote for. 

We asked some Christian politicians and party members to help us think through the UK political parties and how their faith influenced/influences their party involvement. The following blog by Neil Macleod explores why as a Christian he is a Scottish Nationalist. The views expressed in the blog belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of UCCF. 

It is our prayer at the Politics Network that this series is an encouragement and model for you as you think through how your faith informs your political engagement.

"As we face this coming election, you face the most important political decision of your life to date. How will you vote, where ought you to draw your information, and what difference will that vote make? 

I am going to suggest to you that you should vote, and that vote should be for a party which supports Scottish independence. Now that I’ve said it, some of you might be tempted to stop reading. Not another Scottish nationalist whining on. You might say that you are proudly British, and you would never vote to see an independent Scotland. Equally you might say 1) nationalism is dangerous and 2) used by politicians to bring out the worst in people. You might say that 3) the economics just don’t stack up. I agree. All three of these points apply to the Union, which has basked in British nationalism, where the Brexit debate has revealed a divisive and ugly discourse, and where the very economic fabric of Britain is torn apart in service of leaving the European Union.  

Before I go on, let me say the Bible does not tell us precisely how to vote. There are no arguments to be found within Scripture that tell us that Scotland should be independent. Rather we each have to be persuaded in our own mind (Rom 14:5). No church should tell people how to vote, and there is no Scriptural authority to do so. Everything here amounts to my personal opinion, and does not reflect the views of where I worship or the denomination I am a member of.  

But while the Bible doesn’t say exactly who we should vote for, it does tell us what to look for. Proverbs 14:34 says, ‘righteousness exalts a nation’. All nations need righteousness, need righteous leaders and need a people praying for righteousness. There is no greater need in our society today than people who pray for leaders and nations. 

Other commentators, wiser than me, have observed that the United Kingdom is a country which was built on three propositions: British identity, Protestantism and commerce. British identity, centred around the Empire, has collapsed. The legacy of Empire, principally seen through slavery, is a shameful episode in the shared histories of the nations of Britain. Protestantism, which was one of the central features of the Treaty of Union, has become for too many people a sectarianism of a diminishing tribal groups. The final survivor is Commerce, which now dominates every part of our society – which argues to be exceptional in a pandemic, which has turned education into a transaction, and reduces almost every decision down to an economic value.  

The idea of a United Kingdom is dead. The Parliament in London is dominated by one large country which ensures that the three devolved administrations have to accept what it says. Voters in Scotland know only too well that however they cast their votes, they are entirely irrelevant to the outcome of UK national voting. Between 1955 and 2015, Scotland voted Labour consistently. By 2015 Scotland had a government it didn’t vote for 38 years out of 68.  

I believe Scotland should get the government it votes for. By contrast our larger neighbour, England, gets the government it votes for every time. When Scotland voted against Brexit, our vote was overruled by our southern cousins, despite promises made in the Independence Referendum of 2014. Back then we were told that if we voted Yes we would be kicked out of the European Union. People duly voted No, and two years later the promises of 2014 were not worth the paper they were written on.  

I believe in Independence because it is democratic. The people of a nation should get the government they vote for, with the policies and priorities they wish to see enacted. I believe in Independence because it allows Christians to have a louder voice. That means engagement and effort on the part of the Christian community to speak to our political representatives, to build relationships, to pray for them. The way Holyrood works allows that type of meaningful engagement, through the Petitions Committee and the accessibility of our political representatives.   

I believe in Independence because it offers the chance to forge a new way of doing politics. Issues like feeding hungry kids during school holidays are a non-issue here. It’s self-evident that it’s the right thing to do. But the adversarial nature of Westminster and the current direction of the UK Government appears to be a long way from our politics north of the border. Being independent allows us to spend on our priorities, on the NHS, education, housing, and not weapons of mass destruction or vanity projects like HS2. 

I am sick and tired of blaming others for the problems which blight Scotland. It is time that we took responsibility for ourselves. Time that we, the people of Scotland, decided to address the issues in our society. I cannot think of a single better reason for independence. For Scotland to join the family of nations across Europe and throughout the world. To stand tall, and offer a different way of doing things. And I really want you to join with me and many others in forging that future together in an independent Scotland.  

In writing to you, I have deliberately not suggested that you should vote for a particular political party, rather I have been advocating for independence. The SNP for many will be the obvious choice, though other independence parties are available! You may be wary of voting SNP perhaps because of other policies the party advocates. Do however remember that within the SNP there are many fine Christians gently seeking to live by their faith, to speak of their Saviour and influence positively. Please do pray for them, and Christians’ in other political parties.  

I hope I have persuaded you that you should be voting for Scottish independence-supporting parties. But even if I haven’t, I do still hope you will vote. It’s important because Jesus, when asked about paying taxes, said ‘Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s’ (Matt 22:21). To me that suggests we should engage with the state. The Apostle Paul wrote that we are subject to the governing authorities (Rom 13:1-7), and that we are to pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Tim 2:1-2) so we can live quiet and dignified lives.   

Some of us may be called to become politicians, others to be politically active, but we are all to engage in the democratic process – because if we are going to make a difference, as believers and as churches, we need to be engaged."

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