When policy and lifestyle meet

Andy-Flan-.jpgI have become more and more convinced that transformation only happens when folks with a passion for certain policies also flesh them out in their lifestyles. Our nation has seen too much of those who espouse certain policies but whose lifestyles look no different to anyone elses. There are also plenty of us who studiously try to model a different way of living that springs from a different set of values, yet step back from arguing to see those values fleshed out in public policy. Both sides of the coin are required. 

As Christians on the Left, we are in a unique and potentially prophetic position, speaking and acting in a way that goes against the consumerist, individualist grain of our society. Never has this been needed more, as society's ability to even imagine a different way is shrinking fast. People need to see what community based on co-operation rather than competition could look like.

The UK is crying out for this sort of integrity in politics and in our politicians. I introduce sitting members of parliament to our future candidates and after just a few minutes they are blown away. They hear stories of youthwork and social work in tough estates. They hear about communities finding a voice through community organising. They learn about debt counselling projects that are bringing internal and external transformation. Their refrain after meeting these inspiring people who are engaged in their communities is, “These are the sort of candidates we need. This is what the next generation of politicians has to look like.” They can see that these believers are already serving and that being a parliamentarian or councillor would just be the next natural step. They can see clearly that they did not get into this work for their own glory.

One example of where policy often doesn’t meet lifestyle is in economics. Over the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion and debate about the ethics of capitalism. However our campaigning must not just be about speaking. It must be about action. We must continue to challenge ourselves and others to 'put your money where your mouth is'.

So even though we are stepping into this new campaigning season with confidence, based on the fruit of our campaigns for a Financial Transaction Tax and the separation of retail and casino banking, we need to challenge ourselves. What were once considered fringe interests are now mainstream thinking, and this would not have happened without the many letters and emails written by our members over the years. But where is our money invested?

We need to see that how and where we invest our money says as much about our values as possibly any other area of our lives. After all Jesus said in Luke 12:34 that “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Where we put our money reveals our true priorities.


Why do we believe that when we give money to charity it is OUR money building water wells in say, Rwanda, but when we invest in stocks and shares, it is not OUR money that may be exploiting natural resources or workers in that same country, or causing environmental pollution? Being separated by a few links in the chain does not remove us from responsibility.

This highlights the other aspect of “where our mouths are” - that financial transactions are meant to be built on relationships. The very word credit after all is derived from the Latin word credo, implying a belief and trust between lender and borrower, buyer and seller, shareholder and corporate impact. Sadly however this crucial relational aspect has been slowly but surely driven out of financial transactions as the subprime mortgage crisis, and the dominance of automated trading all too painfully demonstrate. 

So are we working with, or starting credit unions? Are we investing ethically with our mortgages and other accounts? Are we supporting other ways of keeping money local, like local currencies? 

This will not be an easy road, but it is one we must walk. Not just for the sake of the world, but for the One who calls us to reflect his image to the world. He is the God who did not allow his ‘policy positions’ to remain as only conceptual ideas. In his incarnation, they were fleshed out tangibly for all the world to see.

May we humbly follow.

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