It’s the conference season for UK political parties at the moment – so perhaps an opportunity for a more controversial blog post. Controversial because my observation is the majority of Baptist Ministers lean politically towards the Labour party, something I want to question.
Whilst our history and theological roots can be contested perhaps Baptists ought to consider:
1. A belief in small government and a limited role for the state. For a denomination birthed in the belief that it was not the states role to coerce citizens, and by extension the conviction that the state is not intrinsically right we have become remarkably comfortable with the idea that the state can fix things and that it has a role in trying to do so. Or that the state can spend people's money more wisely than they can.
2. A belief in welfare as a safety net rather than a security blanket. We grew out of the reformation and the protestant / Calvinist work ethic, which valued diligent work, perseverance and responsibility. Allied to this affirmation of work, and the encouragement to work hard, was a belief in caring for family and community; but the role of this help was to enable people to work hard and care for themselves.
Of course these things are not straightforward and I'm being deliberately provocative. When dealing with political parties we are not just dealing with principles (or a lack of them), but with policy and its implementation. And if the recent coalition government has shown us anything it is that reasonable policy objectives (eg: reducing the deficit) can get mugged by atrocious implementation (eg: some of the welfare reforms).
I suspect that most Baptists will continue to lean towards Labour, not least because we have an instinctive desire to be on the side of the poor and marginalised, but I believe we need to develop a deeper understanding of policy needs and the macro-economic context.
Many Baptists may take the view that all political parties and governments are suspect; it’s just that while the Labour party might mess it up, at least they have their heart in the right place.
But into this mix perhaps we ought to argue afresh for a smaller state, lower taxation and the growth of mutual societies and localism.