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A Mucky Business: Why Christians should get involved in politics by Tim Farron

10 March 2023

Alan Billings reads a politician’s apologia

THE purpose of this book is to encourage Christians to get involved in the “mucky business” of politics. The author, Tim Farron, is well-placed to write it as a former councillor, a Member of Parliament, and a prominent Christian. Although others assisted, this is a highly personal account and in places something of an apologia pro vita sua, not least for when he was leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The book is in three parts: “Why Christians steer clear of politics”, “Why Christians should engage with politics”, and “How Christians should engage with politics”. In each section, he makes his points with a mix of personal anecdote and appeals to biblical texts. At the end of each chapter, he illustrates his argument further with a “case study”, briefly telling the story of Christians of different denominations who are involved in politics. The case studies are invariably about people whose Christianity causes them to be — as he likes to put it — “counter-cultural”; they stand against the secular Zeitgeist.

Some years ago, I was a parish priest in the Lake District, and Tim Farron became my MP. He exemplified what he writes about: a local man who, with a genuine interest in his fellow citizens and concern for their well-being, decided to get more involved. This, he believes, is the heart of politics for Christians, and it will surely resonate with others.

Although he writes for “every Christian who believes politics is worth struggling with rather than shrugging off”, his main audience will be those in his own conservative Evangelical tradition. Other Christians may not share his stance on abortion, gay relationships, or physician-assisted suicide, and will not be easily persuaded that the ethical issues at stake can be resolved by a simple appeal to biblical texts. Nor will Christians whose politics are liberal or progressive find it easy to reconcile such conservatism with the political ethos of his party — a dissonance that, causing offence as well as bewilderment when he was leader, led to his resignation.

But perhaps the most obvious example of “mucky politics” in recent years was the decision of Farron’s party to abandon key election promises — such as abolishing tuition fees — and go into a coalition with the Conservatives in 2010. Years of austerity and the slow erosion of public services followed. It would have been interesting to have some extended reflection on that from a Christian perspective.

The Revd Dr Alan Billings is the Police and Crime Commissioner for South Yorkshire and a former Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council.


A Mucky Business: Why Christians should get involved in politics
Tim Farron, with Josh Price, Jo Latham, Megan Hills, Micah Parmour, and Daniel Payne
Inter Varsity Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.69

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