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‘Where is the Church’s righteous anger in this election season?’

01 May 2015

Get engaged with politics, get angry - and then get voting, urges Eva McIntyre

WHEN my MP called me "a Communist" (at least partly in jest), it immediately made me think of the words of the Brazilian Archbishop Dom Helder Camara: "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why the poor have no food, they call me a Communist."

The Church of England has a tendency to tiptoe around politics, preferring the approach of diplomacy over face-to-face confrontation. When we do speak out against a government, we are met with full attack mode, which usually starts

by telling us to keep out of politics, while simultaneously keeping Bishops in the House of Lords.

I understand that some of the Bishops in the House of Lords don't vote in elections, because they see their role in terms of political neutrality. As a woman, I struggle with that approach, knowing that women died so that I could have a vote.

And the word "neutral" is too uncomfortably close to "neutered" for my liking.

The recent controversy over the Bishops' pastoral letter baffled me. The letter felt like written instructions for a very complicated dance that circled round every issue but landed on too few of them. And, after all that diplomacy, there was still a cartoon of the bishops singing "The Red Flag", and the Greens were joyfully claiming a victory.

The Magnificat is sometimes called the Christian manifesto: "He has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away" (Luke 2.52-53). These are hardly neutral words.

I struggle with the reality that we are more fixated on money and buildings than on the teaching of Jesus; that we can campaign about foodbanks but accept millions for cathedral roofs from a Government which made the decisions that caused the poverty and hunger. There is a place for righteous anger in the Church but we seem to have let the fire go out.

We are called to be prophets, prepared to risk everything in the fight for justice, and on behalf of the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society.

As the General Election approaches, we need to get angry, vocal, and prophetic. This is not an optional event that we can allow to pass by as we concentrate on choosing hymns for Sunday services; we need to be reading our Bibles, joining up our faith with our politics, and voting for the greater good - because "whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me."

The Revd Eva McIntyre is Vicar of Stourport and Wilden in the diocese of Worcester.

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