Home > Culture > Faith in Politics: Rediscovering the Christian roots of our political values

Faith in Politics: Rediscovering the Christian roots of our political values

By Richard Harries,

Darton, Longman & Todd, 2010,

RRP $36.95

Reviewed by Karyl Davison.

DO WE WANT to leave politics to the politicians?

It seems that in recent years the predominant answer would be “Yes”.

The general public seems to be increasingly disengaged from the political process and increasingly disillusioned with
the motives of our political leaders.

Yet, as Mr Harries reminds us, there have been those in all parties (he is referring to the British political system) who
were inspired to work for them with altruistic motives.

Faith in Politics? arises out of a conviction that the political framework, institutions, ideas and values, which we enjoy at the same time as taking them for granted and being sceptical about, matter very much.

Mr Harries, Gresham Professor of Divinity, argues that the leading political notions of our time derive not from the Enlightenment, but from a Christian understanding of what it is to be a human being in society.

While there are some in the Christian church who argue that politics is no place for Christian involvement, Mr Harries asks, “How can we love our neighbour without being concerned about public policy that affects our neighbours?”

The first chapter examines the basis on which the Church might claim to speak in and to the political arena.

It maps the progress from the early church when people simply wanted to be left alone to worship God, to the powerful relationship of church and state under Constantine to our time, when the State now dominates the provision of education, social welfare, and health.

Fascinating too, given the ever present idealisation of democracy, is Mr Harries’ discussion around the question, “What makes us think God wants democracy?”

This book is an incisive and compelling reminder that we must engage with the debate.