Julia Capps has written a brave article in the Conservative Christian Fellowship’s magazine The Difference (sadly not available on line) commenting on the dysfunctional nature of relationships between the various Christian lobby groups involved in pro-life issues. In ‘Divided we fall’ she gives an honest account of how many relationships suffered in the heat of battle through disagreements over how best to influence political debate. Here are a couple of excerpts:
‘The lobbyists who maintain relationships with politicians are those who voice their disagreements but are prepared to submit to the politicians’ authority when it comes to strategy’
‘The fault partly lies with those who work in Parliament who have not explained to the Church what they do and why it’s important. As a result, Christians seeking to engage have been drawn to groups who hold extreme positions that polarise opinion, garner bad press and put other people off engaging in the process.’
As she suggests, the need to provide headlines to a support base often overrides the necessity to work together. To be able to state ‘We’ve achieved this’ (in our own name) is seen as so much more valuable than ‘Together we got the job done’ (requiring more patience, and yes, the dirty word of compromise). But surely, as those who are inspired by Jesus’ words on the unity of believers, we recognise the absolute witnessing requirement of a united approach? I was involved in the campaign on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill of 2008 and I experienced some of the cold atmospheres in committee rooms. As someone working closely with supporters, I , too, am looking for good stories to report back to demonstrate that their investment has been worthwhile (and please can we have some more?). It is not good when the most strident voices simply go-it-alone for it has implications for all of us- lobbyists especially. If parliamentarians lose faith in Christian lobbying, then how can we expect them to believe that the Christian faith is anything other than a strategic trojan horse?
As a Conservative who worked for a Labour MP, Julia Capps is well positioned to make this assessment. She draws on the relationship of Mordecai and Esther as a model for influencing policy that achieves its’ goal (the protection of the Jews). And so we must learn the lessons. Often we accuse parliamentarians of simply playing politics over issues; it is an indictment on us all if Christian lobbyists are the worst exponent of political hardball.