I was invited to join a prayer circle; the idea being that a group of us would contract to pray regularly for people whose needs become evident to us. Examples were given of the sort of personal situations that would be prayer–worthy. But then there were also suggestions of what might be inappropriate for prayer. At the bottom of that little list there was the advice that ‘party politics’ might not be suitable. I can see that perhaps there might be a problem here; like committed Conservatives being invited to pray for a Labour government. Tactically that could be difficult. But the theology of such advice is very suspect. Is God not interested in how the world is run?
I don’t find it at all difficult to pray for a Labour government. Politics is one of the things I find I can’t give up or stop being bothered about as I get older, and there are no politics without parties, albeit none of them perfect. The experience of coalition government – new for this country but familiar to Germany – is becoming more tense as the general election in 2015 looms on the horizon.
Polly Toynbee in The Guardian today says it going to be the most poisonous, socially damaging election for years. Two of many issues point to this.
One is the whole complicated business of immigration. The tabloid newspapers are going crazy as Romania and Bulgaria join the European Union, and warn of a vast wave of people flowing into this country. There are hints – though no formal policy yet – that the government has plans to drastically limit the number coming here. But the Deputy Prime Minister is very angry about a policy which has not been agreed by the Coalition, and which he believes would damage the economy. ‘We need immigrants’, he says.
Another tabloid favourite is welfare reform, about which the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and other senior members of the cabinet continue to claim is a way of dealing with what they call ‘entrenched dependency’.
They are determined to make more cuts and totally ignore the fact that they will affect especially vulnerable people. Ministers are much given to quoting the huge welfare bill, more than the cost of the National Health Service and Schools, but neglect to point out that a substantial percentage of that sum (£135.7bn) provides for pensions and perks for the elderly. And the brute fact is that pensioners are more likely to vote than people who are lost in poverty .
Surely these are matters for enlightenment, examination, protest. And prayer.