[I took a short break from writing to pen this yesterday. Being angry, I left it overnight to ‘stew’ a bit. It still needs to be said.]
So now we’re being asked to pray for the machinations of a political party that has garnered the voting support of committed evangelicals, many of whom I know personally are single-issue voters, based on the idea that our prayers ‘for their actions’ are what God wants us to do because they’re the ‘good guys’ in all this? We’re all meant to pray for the ‘bad guys’ too, which I agree with, but that requires a bit of discernment, and also means the prayer format should then be the same (i.e. non-partisan).
Thinking that certain politicians are ever ‘on our side’ is baloney! As ever, they’re politicians first! We in Northern Ireland all know that the inability of our Local Assembly to take their seats and do the job of administering legislation has gone on far too long. The two main parties blame each other, knowing that their respective voters will listen to ‘their side’ of the story and pin all the blame on the other. I think that’s a given. The very fact that most of them reading this will instantly react, crying out that it’s entirely the fault of the others (or as we say, “them’uns”) proves my point. News just in: your party (whichever one it is) isn’t perfect!
Laying all that aside, we now have this ‘single issue’ coming to the fore. Many of my good friends, brothers and sisters in my faith, have voted for the DUP based solely, or chiefly, on their stance ‘against abortion on demand’. I myself am Pro-Life; I just don’t believe that the battle against abortion on demand can be done or won politically. If, however, you don’t believe in the separation of church and state, like I do passionately, and wish to see this actually done by political means, hear this: you are being played like a fiddle!
This was not an issue as long as the Assembly was up and running; it was held back by the different checks and balances as placed in the Good Friday Agreement, by devices like the ‘petition of concern’. Evangelical Unionists have easily stopped it entering NI, and have even had the support of many on the Nationalist side who are devout Catholics and take the same stance. It is the lack of a functioning Assembly that has created this situation. Now, if I were in charge of the DUP, and truly believed in the rightness of stopping this ‘imposition’ of an unjust law on the people of NI, I would move heaven and hell to do that. If, as the DUP claim, it’s only the silly demands of Sinn Féin for their Irish Language Act that is the problem, then I would extend the olive branch, tell them they can “have their silly Act” [note the quotes], and get the Assembly going again, since it would be for the greater good of the Pro-Life cause. I would be adopting the teaching of my Lord Jesus; “If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you…” (Matt. 5:41,42), and not the mantra of Arlene Foster; “everyone knows you don’t feed a crocodile!”
After all, it is a key tenet of their platform, and a major tool to garner votes, is it not? By simply not doing this, I see the actions of the party and not their words, as an indicator of their principles and intentions. Saying no to Sinn Féin is more important than saying no to abortion! So if your priorities are the other way around, you’ve voted for the wrong party!
I do know how the different tribes like to demarcate their territory. When I was about 21, I went to a local Socialist Workers’ Party meeting with two young catholic women, where we were told that we could NOT be socialists if we were Pro-Life! In other words, please don’t complicate our politics; just vote for us and never dissent on any issue. So it is with the modern DUP; they want you to continue your support, and they’ll try to tell you how they’re really fighting for your principles, but politics is unfortunately not that simple (actually), so you just have to trust that they’re doing their best.
No! They’re not! They could have solved this in one fell swoop. It just would have meant ‘giving in’ to Sinn Féin, and losing a bit of pride. I thought pride was a sin! Now they are making demands about repealing the ‘abortion clause’ (Section 9 of the NI Executive Formation Act 2019) before they’ll restore the Assembly, yet they could have avoided this all along. If it is not repealed, they can tell their voters that the fault lies elsewhere, all over again. I’m not falling for it. I stopped voting for that party a long time ago. Abortion wasn’t the issue when the Assembly stopped, but now they’re making political mileage out of it. This is practically tactic #1 for the Religious Right!
You may well believe that the DUP are a party of principles, but in playing the political game that they decided to enter, they have become corrupted by worldly values, much like the Religious Right across the world. The interview that Baroness Eileen Paisley gave Eamonn Mallie was an eye-opener! She made it clear what she thought of the party that her late husband founded!
I’m currently reading a great book by Keith Giles: ‘Jesus Untangled’, which addresses how the modern church (chiefly American, but it applies universally) is entangled with politics to its detriment. The church was never involved in political struggles until Constantine bastardised the Christian faith, and we have never recovered from that. I pray that Jesus’ church will break free from these political ties and only spread the gospel. I pray for righteousness to prevail in every aspect of our society, not just abortion, and for understanding and balance in all things. I don’t even pray for the ‘success’ of parties that I vote for; I keep that separate from my faith, which is too precious to mix with anything else.
Grace be with you