The future of Christianity in politics

By February 28, 2023Member's perspectives

Until recently, I believe I was with many people – at least in England – who were unaware of Kate Forbes. However, she has now became the poster lady for the front pages of Scottish tabloids for several days running, whilst social media is awash with articles about her views on social matters. It does seem rather amusing, but also saddening, that Ian Blackford is also a member of the same Evangelical Church in Scotland, but I have no memory of articles on this scale calling out Ian for being a bigoted homophobe.

Social issues have always been a matter of conscience, and not ones subject to whips or party lines. A party leader may or may not have an entrenched view, but their view is as relevant and impactive as a rather junior backbencher. We mustn’t forget that despite pressure and support from most of the Cabinet in 2012 – including the then Prime Minister David Cameron – most Conservative MPs voted against the legalisation of same-sex marriage, which was in tune with the views of the party grassroots.

It would be naïve of me to not expect someone who holds Bible-believing Christian views on same-sex marriage, abortion, and children outside of wedlock to be subject to scrutiny and question. Regardless of what some may say, the UK is no longer a Christian country as it once was, and I don’t expect the trend to change. However, the language being spouted against Kate on social media and television is of the same nature they are caricaturing her as – bigotry.

Freedom of religion, thought, speech, and expression is a protected characteristic under equality legislation as much as sexual orientation and gender reassignment. This legal reality is not showed in our press, however. The media consensus now is that we will tolerate a politician having a faith, if it does not interfere with the metropolitan liberal consensus of the day or question the social orthodoxy. In essence, allowing faithless religion, or the new-found phrase of ‘cultural Christianity’.

Ms Forbes said in an interview the other day that she would “defend to the hilt everybody’s right in a pluralistic and tolerant society to live and to love free of harassment and fear”, and she is right. She recognises the political consensus on social issues, but also recognises that she should have the absolute right to express that she has not fallen with the political headwind. I thought it was the case that we wanted politicians to tell the truth, and finally we have one who is. Kate could have easily lied, stated that she changed her view over the past few years, and – I believe, anyway – she would have won the leadership comfortably against her mediocre adversaries.

The slippery slope that started when Tim Farron was ousted as Leader of the Liberal Democrats over questions about his opinions on homosexuality and sex has now found its next victim. It is good, at least, to see some within the SNP defending their colleague. Joanna Cherry, who is herself lesbian and a rather staunch critic of Nicola Sturgeon’s gender reform legislation, is one of those. She puts it perfectly that she vehemently disagrees with Kate’s social views on marriage, but not only has she stated that she will not legislate or campaign on that basis but that it would not pass even if we wished it to.

The days when leaders of political parties can be Bible-believing Christians is now over. You may go to church, you may light a candle at Diwali, but that is all that is allowed in modern Britain. Any sort of religious belief on abortion or marriage automatically qualifies you as a bigot, a homophobe, and your career prospects are now limited to playing second fiddle. Those who now say that this country is heading down a dangerous road if people with religious belief cannot hold political office are a bit late to the programme. About ten years late.

It is lamentable that not only when her opponent, Humza Yousaf, also absented himself from the vote on same-sex marriage after negative reaction from his community to his “in principle” vote in the earlier stages, that we continue to derive someone who seeks to continue honest adherence to traditional values and not shape-shift into a social liberal over night to gain votes or seek an easier time.

We have a Hindu in Downing Street, a Buddhist in the Home Office, but the line has now been drawn that a Bible-believing Christian cannot live in Bute House. I do hope that Kate is able to salvage her campaign and return to discussing day-to-day issues that matter and are subject to change, not her personal faith. But I have to say, I am not optimistic.