Back in September 2016, I and three other students at Edinburgh University Christian Union founded the first Scottish Politics Network Hub after being encouraged to do so at UCCF’s Forum conference.
We were inspired by UCCF’s vision for Leadership Networks - equipping Christian students to be salt and light and speak truth into worlds where it can be a real challenge to live for Jesus. We felt that having the space for members of the CU to think through how Christianity informs how we approach politics and make connections with those who already serve Christ in those spheres, would serve as an invaluable stepping stone for those who feel called to work in the political world for God’s glory.
It’s fair to say that it was some year to get started! We were barely in the aftermath of the EU Referendum before the US Presidential Election shocked us further. Before we dug into these political earthquakes, we spent a few evenings having dinner together as we all got to know each other more and work out how we would format the Politics Network in Edinburgh. As we got into the swing of things, I and the other leaders of the group hosted discussion and prayer evenings where we worked through both the implications of President Trump’s election and the division of Brexit. These evenings were brilliant for rooting our perspectives back in the truths of the Gospel and how they are inextricably linked to how we do government and politics.
As we consolidated as a core group, we were able to invite along Christians who work in these worlds to ask questions and learn from their experiences. We hosted a wide range of individuals, including a Councillor, an MSP, an MEP, political party staff, and a Christian charity worker. These evenings had the dual benefit of learning how different Christians got involved in politics, and how the Gospel impacts their work in how they strive to witness, evangelise and reflect Jesus in all they do.
Over the three years, I was involved in our Politics Network, we also hosted events that were tailored for different purposes. These included looking at the UK political parties and thinking through how we vote identity politics, and the everyday toxic political and cultural atmosphere (particularly prevalent in the context of Edinburgh), and how being saved by our Creator informs how we approach the environment and climate change.
As a leadership, we never took a particular political view because we acknowledged that there is no explicitly “Christian” way to do politics outside of what the Gospel and Scripture demands of all of us in all aspects of life. We held different views on Brexit, on Scottish independence, and on party support - and this was healthy! It helped us to demonstrate unity in Christ and practice what was so countercultural in 2019 UK political discourse; amicable and respectful disagreement.
From my perspective as someone who intends to pursue a career in these worlds, my experience with the Politics Network helped to equip me in three main ways:
Firstly, I was able to think deeply about, and learn how to apply, the theological truths of the Gospel to how we do politics as Christians. This was through both the teaching I received at Forum and from our various events. These foundations are absolutely critical preparation if we are to serve in government and represent our communities for God’s glory.
Secondly, the networks of Christians we were able to link up with have proved to be an invaluable source of support as I continue the transition into the working world - and I imagine for the rest of my life!
Thirdly, the Politics Network has been crucial in helping me to be a more effective witness for Jesus in these worlds. Politics is inherently divisive, and it requires nuance, conviction, and wisdom to faithfully proclaim the Gospel in a world of competing ideologies and opinions. Especially if we are to represent Christ in this sphere.
As Christians, we know that it is not governments, states, unions, leaders, sovereignty, or power that will ultimately change the world. There is so much work to be done in the UK to tackle poverty, loneliness, and societal divisions and God has gifted us with government and politics to be able to do something about them. But ultimately it is leading and serving in the likeness of Daniel, Esther, Joseph, and Jesus, as those who proclaim the Gospel but also live out the Gospel, in dying to self for the sake of those around us, that will make the lasting difference in our land. It is the eternal salvation offered by our great God in His grace to everyone that will transform lives now and forever. However, until the day comes when Jesus returns and the world is perfectly renewed, our job is to step up, die to self, and serve in love in the administration of our country so as to improve the lives of all and let the Gospel do its work in bringing the deepest of joy and satisfaction to all who respond to it.
So if you are thinking about starting a Politics Network Hub in your CU, sign up for Civitas where you’ll be able to meet up as a national Politics Network group, receive fantastic teaching, and learn how you can start the process of setting up a local group on your campus! For the Gospel changes everything, and it especially changes how we approach government and politics.