A Theonomic Election

Added about 5 years ago by Andrew Lightbown

GUEST BLOG: Andrew Lightbown, editor of Theonomics and a curate in the Church of England, who formerly worked in the world of investment management, gives a Christian perspective on the forthcoming General Election.

The political process for the Christian perhaps begins not with policy but with imagination.

We need to ask and imagine what heavenly values we truly desire to experience here on earth; after all, in the Lord’s Prayer, our plea is “thy kingdom come . . . on earth as in heaven”. I will be looking for three values in a prospective parliamentary candidate: humility, justice and inclusion. These can be measured against an absolute metric: proposed cash investment.

We then need to ask what the costs might be of securing these values. The final question relates to payment: are we, as Christians, prepared to make the necessary down-payment? For Christians, the moral obligation of those blessed with an abundance of material assets compared to the materially-impoverished is a – sometimes uncomfortable – biblical norm.

At the end of the Eucharistic Prayer, Christians will often join together to say the Prayer of Humble Access. It begins with the words, “we do not presume”. This thought piece equally does not presume to suggest how you might vote, but instead seeks to provide a values-based “Theonomic” framework for assessing the claims made by candidates and parties.

Let’s start with humility, a value, or virtue, seldom equated with politics and economics!

Humility

One of the greatest mistakes humans make – socially, economically, politically and theologically – is to assume that that the best value projects are the ones which provide the greatest value to people just like ourselves. This mistake is based on the fertile fallacy that others want to be just like us. This is the attitude of hubris, or pride, and is the opposite of humility. A humble politician transcends self-referential valuation, recognising that, in the words of the Virgin Mary, the proud are caught in “the imagination of their hearts” (Luke 1:51).

The humble politician also recognises that irrespective of their (presumably elevated) economic, political and social status, they have benefited from others “less elevated”. Bishop Alan Wilson and Rosie Harper make this point with real impact in Theonomics by posing the following hypothesis:

A banker is no more a wealth-creator than the nurse who saves his life in casualty, and no less.

I suspect that a realistic and humble politician is one who thinks systematically, whilst being radically disabused of the myth of the self-made man. We all depend on each other for the common-good. African theology (and philosophy) has a word for this: Ubuntu. Desmond Tutu defines Ubuntu as “I am because we are”.

Let’s listen out for how frequently our aspiring political representatives mention the common-good and, their enthusiasm for bringing the spirit of ubuntu to these shores.

Truly imaginative politicians (and theologians) therefore recognise both the potential, and inter-dependency, of each and every human being, whilst also acknowledging the sad, or sinful, reality that those who live at the margins, or on the periphery – usually through no choice of their own – are often neglected nd deprived of the investment capital necessary for transformation, to the long-term detriment of all. Neglect is therefore not mere misfortune, but rather symptomatic of injustice and exclusion.

Injustice, exclusion and neglect are consequences of what the Bible refers to as partiality or favouritism, which are both contrary to God’s standards. As St Peter reflected, “God shows no partiality” (Acts 10:34).

Justice & Inclusivity

By contrast, justice and inclusivity demand that real and potential value is perceived in the disabled, the mentally ill, those who are geographically distanced from the so-called economic centres, and so on. Society should invest in people as well as in businesses and ideas, so we should be asking our parliamentary candidates about their investment priorities.

A just Theonomic policy is animated by one hard metric, cash investment, and characterised by a demonstrable move towards inclusivity. Inclusivity can be further divided into two parts: participation and recognition. Participation means the ability to enjoy the same societal benefits available to others, and recognition implies the right to help shape policy for the betterment of all.

Of course, justice and inclusivity don’t just occur because cash is directed towards a particular group of people or geographic region, but I would argue that, Theonomically-speaking, justice and inclusion can never take place in the absence of material investment. The theologian’s concerns should include the Godly and just use of material assets. 

I have used the word investment deliberately to acknowledge the facts that substantial societal transformation frequently comes not from the centre, but from the periphery, and that each and every person is worthy of investment, not just subsidy; the theological rationale for this being that we are all made in the image of God.

A wise financier once said:

Cash is king, and everything else is just guesswork or noise.

I agree with the sentiment behind that statement, and would therefore suggest:

Cash tends to gravitate towards the types of people, projects and geographical areas politicians most value.


My choice on 7 May 2015 will, therefore, be informed by the three values outlined above. I will be hoping to discover some imaginative responses to the issues facing our country, and a commitment to the common good. I will be looking for conviction politicians who acknowledge that short-term costs will need to be paid, but in time these costs will actually turn out to be the very best of investments.

Most parliamentary candidates are not in the game of seeking theological validation but, for the Christian, theological principles must surely be the lens through which we judge the intentions of others; after all, our most heartfelt prayer includes the phrase “thy kingdom come on earth as in heaven.” 

Let’s leave the last word to Jesus, citing the launch of his own manifesto:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.

Luke 4:18-19

It’s not a bad set of priorities, is it?

Do you agree or disagree with Andrew? Share your thoughts with him on Twitter via @Andy_Lightbown.

Theonomics: Reconnecting Economics with Virtue and Integrity is available from Sacristy Press for £9.99.


Please note: Sacristy Press does not necessarily share or endorse the views of the guest contributors to this blog.

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